blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What is civilisation (or civilization)?

We had a philosophical discussion at our house yesterday evening. One of the eight people here said that for him, civilisation (civilization, if you prefer) simply meant the exploration of science and the deployment of technology --- our "ability to use machines" --- to control our environment and enable us to survive. He is a physicist. Somebody else said that the dinosaurs survived for longer than humans have, so far, but the rebuttal to that was that the dinosaurs had no way of predicting the meteor that wiped them out, nor the technology to do anything about it. I said nothing at this point because I was still reeling, with my mouth open, from the definition of "civilisation" I had just heard. To me, civilisation has to include Bach's 'St. Matthew Passion' and Rembrandt's self portraits. And someone else said, what about the ethical aspects of "civilisation"?

The following day, I asked my Facebook friends, "What do you think? How would you define civilisation?"

My sister: By definition, i.e. etymology, living in cities.

Gianluca: I would define real civilization the ability of a community to strike a balance, using whatever tools are available and developed, that gives people good quality of life, a safe environment, freedom and respect, and the ability to express themselves artistically and through innovation. It's not just science, or arts. The caring from a social point of view is necessary, and that (to me) is the ethical part that you mentioned. Based on this, I think history shows different attempts to achieve true civilization. We are not in very bad shape, but not quite there yet.

 Mel: That's socialism.

Gianluca: Nope. It's not socialism to me. I don't know what i am talking about. I just make stuff up. So, just to clarify. I don't think that socialism is equal to civilization, in my attempted definition. However, I do believe that a certain degree of socialism is a necessary component to achieve civilization.

Mel: Civilisation: an unstable by-product of Triticum dicoccum.

Civilisation is the process by which a society stratifies, following the onset of an agricultural economy. The accumulation of a plentiful, reliable and tradeable, food source generates a growing requirement for land cultivation; in its turn, this gives rise to violent competition for land ownership, initially within a society and, subsequently, between societies. These factors, acting together, are the engines of stratification, that usually leads to three or four distinct social classes of citizens within a civilisation. These are: the warrior class; the priests; craftspeople and traders; and peasants. A common feature of a civilisation is a settlement pattern based on a fortified town surrounded by cultivated land. Significant ownership of land is usually initially restricted to the ruling class and to the priestly class. As a civilisation matures, additional classes may emerge (often from the priestly class) of artists, poets and musicians, scholars. These are frequently maintained by the warrior class, at least at first. The peasant class, meanwhile, remains the most populous and least prosperous stratum of society. As a rule, civilisations tend towards decay, either through becoming moribund within, for example, as a result of over-exploitation of one stratum by another, or through destruction from without, when one civilisation is over-run by another.

Me: So you think it all began with the cultivation of wheat? Which class do the scientists and engineers belong to?

Mel: Scholars. My daughter: I'm a physicist and an artist and a musician and I live in a city. But sometimes I rebel against being civilised for a little while. ... But given I'm having Earl Grey Tea in Richmond Upon Thames's Marks and Spencer's at the moment, this isn't one of my rebellious moments.

Jannette: Civilisation versus Culture.... In my opinion Civilisation is more about socail caring for eachother whereas culture is more about Bach's Matheus Passion and Rembrandt's selfportraits.

Susan R.: Given that we speak approvingly of someone or something as being very civilized, and disapprovingly of the opposite, I would say that the word also connotes a striving for decency and beauty, harmony and growth, order and compassion - I see no separation between civilization and culture, but a huge gulf between civilization and Trump. Oh sorry, stupid autocorrect, the word I meant to type was ignorance.

Martin: Interesting thoughts... I've always considered group of people as citizens in some defined order; that being their ability to be civil. Being civil means they cooperate, they negotiate, they create, they share and they act for the general good of the group. This is what I think civilization is about. Dinosaurs were not civil or civilized.

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