Thoughts On Civilization


Man found that he was faced with the acceptance of “spiritual” forces, that is to say such forces as cannot be comprehended by the senses, particularly not by sight, and yet having undoubted, even extremely strong, effects. If we may trust to language, it was the movement of the air that provided the image of spirituality, since the spirit borrows its name from the breath of wind (animus, spiritus, Hebrew: ruach = smoke). The idea of the soul was thus born as the spiritual principle in the individual … Now the realm of spirits had opened for man, and he was ready to endow everything in nature with the soul he had discovered in himself.

Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism.

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Two viddy’s.  Well not viddys exactly,  the screen for the most of these viddys is simply a blank screen. The viddys are portions of a book, read as an audiobook, by Sigmund Freud, titled “Reflections on War and Death”  It happens to be about my favorite audiobook at the moment. Enjoy.

The original videos were removed by the user.  This 3 minute snippet is a portion of the same. (3/14/11)

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You think that a wall as solid as the earth separates civilization from barbarism. I tell you the division is a thread, a sheet of glass. A touch here, a push there, and you bring back the reign of Saturn.

John Buchan

Break the skin of civilization and you find the ape, roaring and red-handed.

Robert E. Howard

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Civilization is not a beautiful thing.  It has a weakening influence on the heart and mind of mankind. If it were that great would we have the problems we have? Most of the biggest issues we have in this world; war, crime, political intrigue, business catastrophes, are a direct result of our need to live within our civilization. 

But what else can we do?  To deconstruct the artifice would bring about a chaos that at once would be worse than the disease it thinks to eradicate.  The evils of civilization are, for all that has been stated, simply the evils of individuals grown to fit the world they exist in. 

And what about that artifice? The veneer of civilization was created to make the world an easier place to live in, and it does do that on some level, but the complaints about the world show very much where that veneer has failed each individual, and to my knowledge there aren’t any individuals who have no complaints about the world in which we live in general and the way things are.

And yet…

What is the artifice of civilization? A level of outward politeness and goodness and positive action to enforce social norms to make life easier to live.  Why is it necessary?  To  those who think it is, it is to fight the evil that exists in the hearts and minds of all mankind.  How much worse would we act, if that veneer didn’t exist, how much more violent a world would we live in.  How much worse would the world be, if we caved in to the more violent thoughts in our minds, and did what we merely claim to want to do?

How many times have you really been angry enough to hurt someone?  How many times have you bypassed it?  That is the effect of civilization on you.  But the problem is, to my mind, that it works on the concept of social fear to work its positive magic, and that negativity has drawbacks, and serious ones at that. You need punishment as a source to stop you from doing what seems right sometimes. Thou shalt Not kill, and laws against violence of all kinds are a prohibition that is necessary, because the urge to harm others can be an intensely strong one.

How many violent felons are in prison right now? How much do you hear news every day of violent crime? That is what happens when the thin veneer of civilization is stripped away.  It is only fear of social retribution, fear of prison, of being seen by others as doing wrong, that keeps most people from choking the crap out of their bosses, or  t-boning the guy who cut you off in traffic, or punching the person who bumped into you while commuting in the face, or spewing hate at the world because it isn’t giving you just what you want when you want it.

Yes, not falling for the more violent tendencies we can fall prey to has much to do with growing up emotionally, and making allowances for other people, but I conjecture that no one is that emotionally in control all the time, and that’s where this argument about civilization comes into play, and the talk of social fear as the basis of civilization comes into play.

But does that social fear make the world a better place to live outside of those particular and highly emotionally charged circumstances?

Just thinking out loud, exploring thoughts.  More on this later, perhaps.

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Some relaxed music to end today’s article.  Andres Segovia playing Edvard Greig.  Enjoy!

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