How Can We Have Civilization If We Are Not Civilized?

Japanese LanternsI recently found myself recovering at home after having spent the better part of a night in gastrointestinal distress of the worst kind. I wish I could say I had been out partying or something exciting but I didn’t even have a mimosa with my brunch earlier in the day. Nada. My system simply decided to rebel against the accepted order of digestion for no apparent reason, at approximately 12:30 am.

Still feeling quite ill, I found myself resigned to spend the next day on the sofa. On the up side, I saw several movies I am quite pleased with and the cats were overjoyed for the company.

God Bless America” is about a middle aged man named Frank (that caught our eye) who gets a terminal diagnosis and then decides that he’s had it with reality TV and the general lack of manners and common decency in this country and proceeds to go on a rampage. Along the way he picks up a sidekick, a teenager named Roxy, who reminded us of the Pumpkin in a few years, complete with ADHD. The story is a little absurd but when we were listening to the dialogue we couldn’t help but be happy that someone else out there sees how ridiculous things have gotten.

Which brings me to the quote, “How can we have civilization if we are not civilized?” Civilization is one of those words that you think you know but when you look up the actual meaning, like ironic, it doesn’t exactly mean what you thought it meant. I certainly don’t want to blog in error so I always check these things. Civilization isn’t exactly a straightforward word like cat or lasagna. It’s mushy and subject to interpretation.

Webster’s defines civilization as such:

  1. “a relatively high level of cultural and technological development; specifically : the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of written records is attained,” and
  2. “the culture characteristic of a particular time or place.”

Then I ventured to Wikipedia where things got really complicated. My take on all this is, as messed up as I perceive things to be, technically things are still civilized. We write, we farm, we live in stable communities, we’re civilized. If our society decides that it’s acceptable to trash public education, destroy the environment, rack up gobs of debt, elevate badly behaving people to popular culture idol status, and doesn’t even question how screwed up all this is, then this is the new civilization and we had better just get used to it.

But I can’t. Sure, I plod along but every now and then I get really pissed off. I want to relocate to places where at least a few things make more sense. Typically where education and hard work are important and people are generally happy and care about the general welfare of the country as a whole. Where success is not synonymous with excess, My short list is:

  • Canada, specifically Quebec
  • Finland
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • England

Ideally, it would be nice if there was more civility in our civilization. More manners, more education, more art, more technological advances, more safe food, more renewable resources, more kindness, more peace… Less glorification of irresponsible behavior, less acceptance of cruelty, less priority on acquiring material goods in excess, less violence…


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