Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What is Civilization

Civilization is basically the art of living in a city.

When you live all alone, you can do whatever you want - burp, fart, scratch, drink, crap, pee, kill, eat, etc. anywhere without rules.

But when you have two or more people living together, you need basic rules - as all college room-mates discover rather quickly.

The more of us you put together in one location, the more rules we need.   If you live in a city, you tend to have more rules about noise and pollution, then if you live in a rural area. 

The thing is, those rules are not impartial.  They are designed to benefit some people more than others.  Rules against rape generally benefit women more than men.  Rules about money tend to benefit those that have it more than those that don't.  Rules preventing fighting benefit the weak, rules allowing certain kinds of fighting tend to benefit the strong.

Some cultures have more rules that benefit those in power, while others have more protections for the powerless.

In all cases, the rules of a culture are strongly tied to the values of that culture.   That is, if the culture respects the elderly, then the rules benefit the elderly.   Note that cause and effect go both ways here - if you want to convince the next generation to value the elderly, then you can create certain rules that will encourage that kind of behavior - but similarly if your culture already respects the elderly, then it will already have those kinds of rules.


America has a culture that values non-violent dissent.   Hence Freedom of Speech.   As a result, we have more non-violent dissent that other countries.  But we discourage violent dissent, hence lots of laws.

 Why do we do that?  Because we have found that dissent itself can not be destroyed, it can only be repressed.  If something is repressed to much, it will burst forth.  We decided better to let the dissent out peacefully rather than bottle it up till it violently escapes. That is our intent - to what extent it works, is up for debate.

You see, some rules work better than others.  And certain rules only work in certain situations.   Rules such as 'no cannibalism' work great in societies that have enough or even almost enough food.  But when food becomes scarce, it can destroy a society.

But certain rules work in all situations.  Among other things, there has to be some reason to trust the rules.  You won't live by the rules if you think other people are exempt from the rules.  Among other things, that means the judges have to abide by their own rules. 

All of this applies from the lowliest rule about which fork to use, to the most sacred rules about who you can kill and which people are absolutely not valid sex partners.

Now, sometimes cultures have differences in civilization rules.  One might value burping the other may consider it an insult.   To an ignorant member of one of those cultures, it would appear as if the entire other culture was 'uncivilized', 'barbaric', or 'savage'.   Eventually most people figured out the truth, but often this is only after stereotypes are created.

But not everyone figures out the truth.  That is why stereotypes  continue to be believed.  I am not just talking about stereotypes about foreigners and races - but also stereotypes about liberals, conservatives, northerners, southerners, mid westerners, etc.

People need to recognize that certain rules are not founded in truth, but in values - values that are not laws.  They also need to recognize that their own personal values are NOT the values of the rest of the country.

You may consider sodomy evil, but most of the country does not.  You may consider abortion to be murder, but most of the country does not.   When you say back to traditional values, you are attacking the rest of the countries current values.  That is not a good thing, nor even reasonable.


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