Thursday, January 15, 2015

Spreading Civilization

I define civilization differently from—well, differently from practically everyone, although there are many who intuitively know my definition. But I thought it might be a good time, near the beginning of a year, to spell out the goal of civilization in writing.

There are reasons this occurs to me now. I’ve come across a couple of false definitions I’d like to dispel. We refer to the Greeks as a civilization—and they spread by conquering. The Romans as well. But it wasn’t the conquering that made them civilized; it was culture. They had the written word. They had learned scholars who taught in schools. They wrote down what they learned, and passed it on to the next generation. They gathered truth, knowledge, and innovation from the peoples they conquered. And it was a mark of civilization that they granted citizenship to many of the conquered peoples.
They also had a lot of failings as civilizations—which is part of the story of their downfalls. There was a time when seeking truth was important, and the family bond was important. But promiscuity was a mark of decay, and as it spread, so did the disintegration of the family, and along with that the way to perpetuate the civilization. It also spread disease.
A civilization is not an ethnicity. And it is not an empire. It cannot be brought about by conquest.
Glenn Beck's Russian strategy map
from here
This week on Glenn Beck's television program, he’s been showing the historical and current trends in Russia, with the possibility that Putin and others are trying to rebuild the Russian empire—believing, and hoping the world will believe, that the Russian ethnicity is the ultimate civilization, and everywhere this culture has ever been should succumb to it again—and beyond, if the world’s nations know what’s good for them. There’s even some head nodding toward religious superiority, although actually living according to the prescribed orthodoxy is not particularly common. (There are plenty of signs it’s a people in decay.)
Glenn Beck’s 3-part series was the second recent exposure I had to Russian ancient history. I also became acquainted with a YouTube channel of history and social commentary called Caspian Report. Among others, I watched a video on the ancient-to-modern boundaries of the Russian empire, called “Understanding the Russian Mindset,” which offers some rationale behind the overreach into Ukraine. One thing Russia did was plant Russian ethnic people within any territories it conquered. Then it seems to have the claim that all these territories belong to ethnic Russia, and the people there have a claim to their Russian heritage. So the disintegration of the USSR was, to them, simply a tragic but temporary fragmentation. And they want it back.
In case there’s any doubt, let me just state that Putin is not a person to turn to if you want greater freedom, prosperity, andcivilization.
Another, very different, story I was told—probably a conspiracy theory—claims that throughout US history, dating earlier and continuously, a shadow group of elites have arranged leadership—in Europe and the US—in order to keep alive Western, or European, culture, with its enlightened ideas. One evidence is that all US presidents can trace their genealogy back to a particular historical figure, the Plantagenet family, which ruled England for several hundred years beginning with Henry II in 1154.
From Facebook page December 27, 2014
The thing with genealogy, though, is that, the further you go, the more branches. had a graphic recently showing that, if you go back ten generations (about 300 years or so), you’ve got over 4,000 grandparents—and that’s not counting aunts, uncles, and cousins that could show up as branches on the family tree. If you come from the other direction, the numbers get astronomical in a relatively few generations as well. And the odds are very high that some descendants marry other descendants. Especially when you’re looking at a general gene pool from a limited area, such as northern Europe, for example.
Think about how many people you know in the US who can trace ancestry back to the Mayflower, or the founding fathers. There are organizations, such as Daughters of the American Revolution, who associate because of the shared ancestry. There are chapters in every part of the country.
In other words, it isn’t surprising that all our American presidents (who all have white European ancestry, including Obama) can trace their lines to a particular ancestor back a thousand years ago. It probably wouldn’t even be surprising to find that most can trace their lines to the founding fathers, less than 10 generations back. So it doesn’t mean there’s some shadow group arranging who gets power in the US.
However, there is a tendency for people who associate together to intermarry, to support one another, and to continue connecting. Rich and powerful people tend to hang out with other rich and powerful people. So it might look like some conspiracy. And for all I know there may be people who actually do conspire.
If there were some shadowy force, and their goal was to preserve Western culture, going about it by controlling who gets to be their puppet leader is the wrong way.
You don’t get civilization by gaining power over others. You get civilization by having more individual people live the principles of civilization, and then share those common practices with a growing number around them.
Start with families. Grow to communities, eventually cities—although it’s hard to find a whole city that is civilized. And you can grow beyond to states/provinces and nations. But only by having the prevailing belief system chosen by a critical mass of the people align with civilized behavior.
Here’s a review from, The Spherical Model, of what civilization looks like:
In 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.
How do you get to this condition of civilization? Not by conquering. Not by imposing power. Not by oppressing those with less influence. Not by centrally arranging for the positive outcomes listed.
You get there by having a religious society, where people honor God and feel responsible to Him above any earthly entity, because eternity depends on choices made here.
People choose to honor God’s laws, which in simplest form are encapsulated in the Ten Commandments—honoring God, family, life, honesty, and private property.
And then, to perpetuate the civilization, family must be protected and honored as the basic unit of civilization.
Ethnicities, organizations, groups, or nations that seek to exert superiority will never produce civilization. Powerful leaders that seek to conquer do it for the sake of power. And because power mongering is a savage behavior, they produce more tyranny, more poverty, and more savagery.
So there are reasons to fear and resist those who may claim to be spreading their version of civilization. They want power; they want to tyrannize and are pleased to use oppression to do so. They’re willing to create chaos and then step in and say, “Give us power, and we’ll protect you, and all it will cost you is your freedom and prosperity and way of life.”
You can spread domination, expand boundaries through conquest. But civilization comes from free choice in the hearts and minds of good people choosing to live good lives. You spread that by living it, and sharing the example.
We could try preaching civilization. This verse is from the Book of Mormon:
And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.—Alma 31:5

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