A Wordscape On Civilization - II

Is what we get worth what we pay?

Before we throw out our chests, snap our suspenders, and boast about the benefits of our modern civilization, let’s step back to take a broader look at what we are accepting as normal. Are we really better off or do we just think that we are?


Voltaie (1694-1778), nom de plume of Franois-Marie Arouet, French Enlightenment writer, essayist, and philosopher
Voltaie (1694-1778), nom de plume of Franois-Marie Arouet, French Enlightenment writer, essayist, and philosopher

“Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death, they have no theologians to instruct them, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills.” (~Voltaire, letter to Count Schomberg, 31 August 1769)

Mark Twain (1835-1910) nom de plume of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, American author and humorist
Mark Twain (1835-1910) nom de plume of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, American author and humorist


“There are many humorous things in the world, among them the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.”(~Mark Twain, Following the Equator, 1897)


 

Henry Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) British sexologist, physician, and social reformer
Henry Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) British sexologist, physician, and social reformer




“What we call progress is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance.” (~Henry Havelock Ellis)



Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) Russian writer and essayist
Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) Russian writer and essayist


 

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons” (~Fyodor Dostoyevsky)


James Ramsey Ullman (1907-1971) American writer and mountaineer
James Ramsey Ullman (1907-1971) American writer and mountaineer

“We are so clothed in rationalization and dissemblance that we can recognize but dimly the deep primal impulses that motivate us.” (~James Ramsey Ullman)

William James (1842-1910) American psychologist and philosopher
William James (1842-1910) American psychologist and philosopher

“The prevalent fear of poverty among the educated classes is the worst moral disease from which our civilization suffers.” (~William James)

What is the purpose of civilization?

There were so many throughout history who have shared their ideas about civilization, what it is, and how it began. They provide a glimpse, however brief,  at how far we have come, the tolls paid along the way, and at some of the benefits gained. But, does civilization have some purpose? Does it have more than one? Richard P.Feynman sees one.

Richard Phillips Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
Richard Phillips Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist

“We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.” (~Richard P. Feynman)

Novelist Ayn Rand clearly believed that civilization, as a whole, should serve its members in ways unique to each of them. Such zeal for liberty would have prevented The Patriot Act of 2001 had our country not been suffering the trauma of 9/11.

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter
Ayn Rand (1905-1982) Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter



“Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.” (~Ayn Rand)



Colonel Robert Ingersoll paints a new face on the old adage “Do unto others” when he charges civilization with this awesome responsibility.

Colonel Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) Civil War veteran, American political leader, and orator
Colonel Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) Civil War veteran, American political leader, and orator



“The true civilization is where every man gives to every other every right that he claims for himself.” (~Robert Green Ingersoll)





William Jennings Bryan did not monkey around with the constitution nor with rights and liberties it guarantees.

William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) American lawyer, US Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson, Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States in 1896, 1900 and 1908
William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) American lawyer, US Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson, Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States in 1896, 1900 and 1908

“Anglo-Saxon civilization has taught the individual to protect his own rights; American civilization will teach him to respect the rights of others.” (~William Jennings Bryan)

America, during its very short existence, has had an extraordinary impact on the path and progress of civilization. Yet many of its tenets are struggling to survive. For this, its elected officials must be held responsible. For they have allowed themselves to be distracted by less noble ideals. 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) 32nd President of the United States
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) 32nd President of the United States

“Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships - the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world, at peace” (~Franklin D. Roosevelt)

Man's intellect uses knowledge to advance civilization and all of its advantages. Let us not forget that of the two intellect is the more important.  

“We know next to nothing about virtually everything. It is not necessary to know the origin of the universe; it is necessary to want to know. Civilization depends not on any particular knowledge, but on the disposition to crave knowledge.” (~Unknown)

Coach Lombardi was recognized for his skill at harnessing the potential energy derived from collaborating individuals. 

Vincent Thomas Lombardi (1913-1970) American football coach
Vincent Thomas Lombardi (1913-1970) American football coach

“Individual commitment to a group effort -- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” (~Vince Lombardi)


Is Mankind better off?


Has time and civilization made the world a better place to live? Perhaps the best answer came from the most widely read Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom.

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom
Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom

“I stood on a tower in the wet,
And New Year and Old Year met,
And winds were roaring and blowing:
And I said, "O years, that meet in tears,
Have ye aught that is worth the knowing?
Science enough and exploring,
Wanderers coming and going,
Matter enough for deploring,
But aught that is worth the knowing?"

(~Alfred Tennyson)

All civilizations, it seems, are graded by their spirituality. John Muir gave civilization in his day a rather poor mark.

John Muir (1838-1914) Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of United States wilderness
John Muir (1838-1914) Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of United States wilderness



“The gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual.” (~John Muir, letter to J.B. McChesney, 19 September 1871)






George Orwell saw civilization in his time differently and he offered his own counterpoint.

George Orwell (1903-1950) nom de plume of Eric Arthur Blair,English novelist and journalist
George Orwell (1903-1950) nom de plume of Eric Arthur Blair,English novelist and journalist

“(Mankind) is not likely to salvage civilization unless he can evolve a system of good and evil which is independent of heaven and hell” (~George Orwell)




Never a fan of hypocisy, Theodore Roosevelt had a reputation for attacking the political complacency of his times.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) 26th President of the United States
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) 26th President of the United States

“No people is fully civilized where a distinction is drawn between stealing an office and stealing a purse” (~Theodore Roosevelt)

With a noticeable absence of wit, Mark Twain critiques a civilization that he found laced with unpleasantness.  

Mark Twain (1835-1910) nom de plume of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, American author and humorist
Mark Twain (1835-1910) nom de plume of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, American author and humorist

“My idea of our civilization is that it is a shoddy, poor thing and full of cruelties, vanities, arrogances, meannesses and hypocrisies.”(~Mark Twain)

But Will Rogers, on the other hand, rarely suppressed his sense of humor even when dealing with the most serious of subjects. 

William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers (1879-1935) Cherokee cowboy, comedian, humorist, social commentator, vaudeville performer and actor
William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers (1879-1935) Cherokee cowboy, comedian, humorist, social commentator, vaudeville performer and actor

“You can't say civilization don't advance... in every war they kill you in a new way.” (~Will Rogers)

The needs of both men and civilization are connected in this comment from Samuel Johnson. 

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer



“A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.” (~Samuel Johnson)







Enlightenment is often found in a fortune cookie or on a Snapple bottle cap. And to prove that wisdom can come with ketchup and a pickle, just consider this



“Modern man is just ancient man... with way better electronics.”
(~Author unknown, "A Short History of Breakfast," from a Jack in the Box tray liner, 2006)



How will it end?


Here we are, at last, considering the very end of civilization. So many great minds have dared to predict the future of civilization and its ultimate demise.  After all of the predictions that I have read so far, I can only hope I will never live to see if any come true.

Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. He was among the first to comprehend the awesome destructive power of atomic energy. It is his vision in the past that makes his view of the future so disturbing.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) theoretical physicist, philosopher and author
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) theoretical physicist, philosopher and author



“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
(~Albert Einstein)





Awareness of the self-destructive potential of civilization is common even among poets like Mr. Emerson.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, philosopher, and poet
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, philosopher, and poet



“The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”(~Ralph Waldo Emerson)






The greatest folly of civilization may be the belief that it can not be destroyed by its own choices.

Sir Alfred Charles Bernard Lovell (1913- ) English physicist and radio astronomer
Sir Alfred Charles Bernard Lovell (1913- ) English physicist and radio astronomer

“The fate of human civilization will depend on whether the rockets of the future carry the astronomer's telescope or a hydrogen bomb.” (~Bernard Lovell)

In the end, the authority civilization wields over us may, in fact, be the only force that holds civilization together. Hannah Arendt made the point a long time ago.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German political theorist
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German political theorist

“The defiance of established authority, religious and secular, social and political, as a world-wide phenomenon may well one day be accounted the outstanding event of the last decade” (~Hannah Arendt)

Not all predictions are gloom and doom. There will always be those who believe love will one day conquer all adversaries. Richard Bach is one.

Richard Bach (1936- ) American author
Richard Bach (1936- ) American author

“Evolution made civilization steward of this planet. A hundred thousand years later, the steward stood before evolution not helper but destroyer, not healer but parasite. So evolution withdrew its gift, passed civilization by, rescued the planet from intelligence and handed it to love.” (~Richard Bach)

In the final analysis, civilization as we know it, with all of its shortcomings, is the only one we have. While we can hope for more, or yearn for less, there is still no one out there to respond to our call, “Stop the world, I want to get off.” 

Q.
Q.



Endnotes:

[1] Paraglider, There is no such thing as Civilisation, dropoutnation.blogspot.com, 2010
[2] Quilligrapher, The Art Of Civilized Persuasion, Hubpages.com, 2010.

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8 comments

Lee B profile image

Lee B 6 years ago from New Mexico

I'll be bookmarking this hub. Love the quotes!


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

I enjoyed reading this article and " A Wordscape On Civilization - I " too - thought provoking reads


SparklingJewel profile image

SparklingJewel 6 years ago from upper midwest

most enjoyable! thanks Q


Quilligrapher profile image

Quilligrapher 6 years ago from New York Author

@Lee B: Be my guest. Thank you.

@Coolmon: I appreciate your stopping by for a read.

@Sparky: You are very welcome.

Q.


Dale Mazurek profile image

Dale Mazurek 6 years ago from Canada

What a terrific read. The entire two part series kept me interested all the way through.

I am glad to have this hub listed on my blog now

Cheers

Dale


Davorunner profile image

Davorunner 5 years ago from Australia

woa some very good and interesting quotes here. A very well assembled collections of ideas on civilization. Quite good for something that 'doesn't exist'!


Quilligrapher profile image

Quilligrapher 5 years ago from New York Author

Thank you, Davorunner. May I quote you? ;^)


chrisdjudge 4 years ago

lol yeah these are some pretty good quotes

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