Monday, August 15, 2005

Who is civilized?

A visitor from Mars could easily pick out the civilized nations. They have the best implements of war.
- Herbert V. Prochnow, banker (1897-1998)

As a child I used to wonder what the markers were of a "civilized" country. In those days, school lessons seemed to suggest that those who did not live in tribal societies were civilized. I came to believe that peoples whose cultures stressed peace more than war, who sought to live in harmony with others rather than to subdue them, were the most civilized.

Now, it seems, powerful implements of war, the ability to threaten war and the ability to launch a war in the clear belief of inevitable success are markers of civilization.

To me, as a child, "civilization" was a powerful word. Today, we had best stick with the definition given the word by anthropologists, people living together in urban groups.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems', striving to redefine civilization as the ability to live together in harmony and to seek compromise rather than conflict.
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