Since the November election, I have spent more time on civilization than on political and economic freedom. Of the three, it is the most essential. You can’t have self-governance is you don’t have people who can and do govern themselves. Nor can you have a thriving economy without people who have a strong work ethic and honesty about earnings in exchange for labor (replacing the uncivilized desire to get something for nothing). And that starts with individual families, regardless of what sort of regime the family is subject to, to pass along the behavior required of civilized people.
A critical mass of healthy, civilized families leads to strong communities, then outward to cities, then states, then nations. Going north on all three overlapping spheres starts with going north on the Civilization Sphere.
Here are the two basic premises for the Civilization Sphere (covered in detail in two parts at Spherical Model, here and here):
1. Not all religious societies are civilized (according to my definition, which differs from the archaeological definition—see below in “What does civilization look like”), but every civilized society is a religious society. This absolutely does not mean state-sponsored religion or lack of religious freedom; in fact, the opposite is true. Freedom of religion is essential, and the flourishing of religion in general must be encouraged.
2. The family is the basic unit of civilized society. Whatever threatens the family threatens civilization. So preserving and protecting the family is paramount in laws and social expectations in a civilized society.
Sometimes people claim to be conservative on economic issues, but not on social issues. They are misguided; it isn’t possible to successfully follow free market principles and get economic prosperity in a decaying civilization. It likewise isn’t possible to talk about the rights guaranteed us in the US Constitution, and the philosophical concept of ultimate good the Constitution is based on, without acknowledging the giver of those inalienable rights: God.
I just finished reading Hugh Hewitt’s latest book, Talking with Pagans, a collection of debates, mostly from his radio show, collected over the past several years. One section was with Christopher Hitchens, who believed he had deflected the pro-religious argument by insisting that he did believe in ultimate good and ultimate standards of right and wrong. He simply believed the sense of ultimate good we have, in anyone choosing to be ethical and good, is the result of Darwinian natural selection. I’m glad that worked for him; being around people who are good and ethical is always better than being around the savage opposite. But it is capricious, since the ultimate arbiter of right is the person himself, with no higher authority (other than just civil law) to contradict his opinion.
Hitchens, along with some of the others on the atheist side, claimed that there’s a lot of disagreement among religious people on the code of living righteously. Almost without fail these debaters take as evidence the relatively rare fanatics, a few of whom in history have been violent, claiming to act in the name of their god(s). They choose to cherry pick, however, leaving out the savage atrocities of anti-religious tyrants such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, just to cover the past century.
In fact, over the centuries there has been a great deal of consensus about how to live a basically moral life. The primary list is the Ten Commandments, which outline our requirements to honor God, the giver of life, liberty, and free will, along with limitations that show respect for those very rights in those around us. No community ever progressed to civilization while simultaneously allowing murder, theft, and promiscuity. In fact, you will find life, family, and property rights valued in any community that can be construed to be truly civilized.
In addition, there are refinements, positive behaviors to develop, many listed in the New Testament. (See The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12, plus the definition of charity in I Corinthians 13, and Paul’s admonition on seeking virtue in Philippians 4:8. I keep returning to the BoyScout Oath and Law as well.)
What does civilization look like? This description is from the Spherical Model:
In the northern circle that is the goal—Civilization—families typically remain intact, and children are raised in loving homes, with caring parents who guide their education and training, dedicating somewhere between 18 and 25 years for that child to reach adulthood, and who then remain interested in their children’s success for the rest of their lives.
Civilized people live peaceably among their neighbors, helping rather than taking advantage of one another, abiding by laws enacted to protect property and safety—with honesty and honor. Civilized people live in peace with other civilized people; countries and cultures coexist in appreciation, without fear.
There is a thriving free-enterprise economy. Poverty is meaningless; even though there will always be a lowest earning 10% defined as poor, in a civilized society these lowest earners have comfortable shelter and adequate food and clothing—and there’s the possibility of rising, or at least for future generations to rise.
Creativity abounds; enlightening arts and literature exceed expectations. Architecture and infrastructure improve; innovation and invention are the rule.
People feel free to choose their work, their home, their family practices, their friendships and associations. And they generally self-restrain before they infringe on the rights and freedoms of others. Where there are questions about those limits, laws are in place to help clarify boundaries of civilized behavior. When someone willingly infringes on the rights or safety of another, the law functions to protect that victim as well as society from further uncivilized behavior from the offender.
I haven’t spent a lot of time writing about what savagery looks like; I prefer looking at the positive goal. However, I’m concerned that we may be missing the signs of the savagery we’re suffering. It’s like the problem abuse victims have with their thinking: “I’m surviving this; it’s not that bad. I’m just glad it’s not worse.” Only when they get out and get some perspective can they recognize how wrong it was for them to submit themselves to so much abuse.
So I’d like to continue this series with one more post, on Friday, to look at where we are—not so we can feel miserable about it, but so that we can take that first step of recognition that must come before doing something about it.