Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Civilization--A Primer

I was indulging in one of my favorite media pleasures last night while eating some bedtime yogurt—an Uncommon Knowledge interview, this one with Bruce Thornton, author of The Wages of Appeasement (Yet another book to put on my list to get through this year—my list is getting so heavy, I almost cringe when I hear about another good one; there are too many, and I don’t read fast enough, despite a couple of speed reading courses).

The host, Peter Robinson, began a question with this quote from the book: “The most important factor was the decay of civic virtue. To be free, citizens have to have the character worthy of freedom.” I believe the book probably contains a specific definition of “civic virtue,” but I tend to think in terms of civilization on the Spherical Model, and a citizenry worthy of freedom caught my attention. So, while this may relate to the particular book (which compares the results of appeasement in Ancient Greece, Munich, and Obama’s America) in only some small tangent, I thought today might be a good time to summarize a civilized society.

The Civilized vs. Savage section of the Spherical Model covers the why and how, but this bulleted list spells it out briefly. Note that this describes the ideal; it’s a goal. Adherence to the principles tends to lead to results closer to the ideal.

Civilization Description

  • Families remain intact.
    • Parents raise their own children into adulthood.
    • Parents remain connected and caring throughout their children’s lives.
  • People live peaceably among their neighbors.
    • People help each other rather than taking advantage others.
    • People abide by laws protecting property and safety.
    • People are honest and honorable.
  • Civilized people live in peace with other civilized people.
    • Cultures appreciate each other without fear.
  • Free enterprise thrives.
    • The lowest 10% of wealth, defined as poor, still have comfortable shelter and adequate food and clothing.
    • Class stratification is temporary and essentially meaningless.
      • There is the possibility of rising out of poverty, or at least for future generations to rise.
  • Creativity abounds.
    • Art and literature enlighten and exceed expectations.
  • People are free to make choices:
    • Choice of work
    • Choice of home
    • Choice of religion, friends, associations
  • Law protects society from any who willingly infringe on the rights and safety of others.
    • Minor infractions draw minor punishments (fines, community service, short jail sentence)
    • Major infractions draw heavier punishments (longer jail sentences, service to make amends during sentences, expulsion from the civil society)
    • Capital crimes justify capital punishment.
    • Justice is afforded to all, rather than only to those who can afford the best legal representation.
    • The justice system, from law enforcement through the courts, is swift and accurate and free of corruption.

You might notice that the first three on the list are in order from basic unit (family), then community, and then inter-community. The advantages of civilization spread to larger groups as each unit succeeds in living the principles. Government doesn’t make civilization happen; people who are free to live the principles do. So government is there for essential protection and otherwise gets out of the way.

What are the principles that, when lived, result in civilization? There’s a lot more detail in the two Civilization chapters of the Spherical Model, but in short they are:

  1. Every civilized society is a religious society, where people live the laws of civilization:
    1. Honor God as the creator who granted our inalienable rights.
    2. Honor parents, who gave us life and pass down the laws of civilization to us.
    3. Honor life—do not murder (take innocent life)
    4. Honor family—do not have sex except within the permanent bonds of marriage.
    5. Honor property—do not steal.
    6. Honor truth—do not lie.
    7. Honor differences—do not covet (want what belongs to your neighbor)
  2. The family is the basic unit of society. Whatever threatens the family threatens civilization. So preserving and protecting the family is paramount in laws and social expectations in a civilized society.

While I have compiled this information, I didn’t invent it. This information has been available to, and lived by, every civilized society in history. You might recognize this as essentially the Ten Commandments, with emphasis on the sacredness of family and family relationships. What is surprising is how much civilized progress happens just from making a good attempt. But, while a people’s success at living the rules might not be complete, the effort must be full-hearted. A halfway attempt doesn’t have enough grip on the principles to effect lasting progress.

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