Tuesday, October 15, 2013


There is much contention on the topic of civilization. Some support it. Some militantly oppose it. Some see it as inescapable. But what is civilization?

Indeed, much of the debate between pro and anti-civ comes down to definitions. On the anti-civ side, some define it as "mass society" which has always expressed itself in the form of some sort of empire with internal hierarchies. Some see urban planning and division of labor as key to it. On the pro-civ side, some see it as the combination of all human activity. Some see it as everything beyond the advent of agriculture. Some see it as society with at least one ceremonial center, a system of writing, and at least one city.

But are any of them right? Civilization was, originally, used by Europeans to set themselves apart from the "barbaric" rest of the world. In a sense, it is still used that way. When we talk of civilization, we talk of something above "barbarism" and "primitive" cultures. We talk of land that haven't been invaded by the Western Civilization™, such as deep in the Amazon.

But what sets us apart from the "barbaric" or "primitive" cultures? Many anti-civ proponents would say states, but were there not miniature states in some, though not all, so called primitive cultures? Many pro-civ proponents would say technology, but this is laughable. Spears are technology. As is fire. As is clothes. Are those not things that the cultures outside of civilization have?

So what does set us apart? That's simple: Nothing. "Civilization" is just a term used by a culture to declare itself above all the rest. But they aren't. Civilization is not fundamentally different from "barbaric" or "primitive" cultures. That is to say, there is no such thing as civilization.

So I'm not pro-civ. I'm not anti-civ. I'm a civilization denier.

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