Rollin' Like Sisyphus

To What Do We Owe Civilization, Carthage Said To Rome; Mortar And Concrete, Came The Reply

Posted in The Fail Pail by Huckleberry on June 28, 2013
There's a needle in there somewhere. Thread it.

There’s a needle in there somewhere. Thread it.

Roads and Walls.
Ben Franklin famously said to some nitwit who asked what kind of government he and his ilk were creating that it was “a republic, if you can keep it.” Recent history has borne out that not only can’t we keep it, we don’t seem very troubled at all about wanting to.
Like the Bobs ditching middle-aged software engineers at Innotech, we’re pitching the last remnants of our supposed civilization over the starboard rail not because we have to, not because we even want to, pretty much only because we can. Look at us go. We’re superstars. Ours is a culture that values the past only as kitsch, the present as some unyielding, unending hurdle, and the future as a promise that’ll never be fulfilled.
The heart of any such promise, the core of any explication on the future, examined in the macro sense, is the propagation of civilization. We’ve touched on this here some, I always kind of seem to bounce off the topic at random angles, ruffling around the edges of the subject but not quite diving in.
And I probably won’t do more than toe the water in this instance, either, so sorry to disappoint. Lately a lot of intelligent people have been trying to explain to a lot of dim people what common structural elements are shared by the advanced, mature civilizations in human history. To say the discussion went poorly is the definition of understatement; discussing the finer points of Kant’s epistemological structure with inanimate objects would prove more fruitful.
So what makes civilization advanced enough to be considered worthwhile?
Hell, what makes any group of people a civilization?
The short answer to those questions: I don’t know.
The long answer to those questions:
Civilization isn’t a checklist, and they aren’t equal (or generally even comparable).
The Mayans had a civilization (of sorts), look how it turned out for them.
Beyond that, any self-respecting civilization must have clear physical space with defined boundaries, to allow the talent of that civilization to develop maturity in three key areas:

  • Technology
  • Industry
  • Philosophy
  • Note: the development of these three things; not the appropriation and application of them. Thus, China isn’t currently in the ballclub. Also, for a very long time, Rome wasn’t either. The internal development of each of these three are crucial, for varying reasons, reasons I won’t get into here because they deserve a post of their own. We’ll put them down as markers and see if we circle back.
    So you clear a space. You set up boundaries (walls). You establish industry (roads). You invent the wheel and cogitate on the significance of it. Are you a civilization?
    No.
    The crucial part there that I just sort of skidded over is the catalyst: talent.
    We can go round and round about time preferences, fractional breakdowns of hereditary savagery, and how much cultural and social concerns must mesh to grease the wheels.
    But frankly, any of those points are ultimately moot.
    Nothing happens in a vacuum.
    At any rate, I’ve just completed my third bourbon for the evening, the Dodgers are getting anally violated on regional television to the tune of 15-1, and I’m callin’ it for this evening.
    We’ll pick this up again.

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    4 Responses

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    1. El Borak said, on July 2, 2013 at 08:16

      A republic is too much trouble. Democracy is the ticket, because with democracy we can get whatever we want simply by voting on it – or, more, properly, voting for people who will gather stuff for us.

      That works until it doesn’t. Right now I think we’re about 80% of the way through the “until” in the previous sentence.

    2. rogerunited said, on July 9, 2013 at 11:51

      “Ours is a culture that values the past only as kitsch, the present as some unyielding, unending hurdle, and the future as a promise that’ll never be fulfilled.”

      I listened to an interview with Father Malachi Martin where he said when he grew up (in the 30s and 40s in Ireland) each geberation was “a tintype of the one before” while now we have a “culture of constant change” where each generation disregards what came before (tradition and values) and makes up a completely new culture. No stability.

      El Borak hit it on the head, governments/societies work until they don’t.

    3. kfc said, on July 16, 2013 at 09:53

      I’m scared to even say this, and I will duck momentarily, but Amerika Gots Talent. No really, I don’t mean pop culture (althoug…), I mean innovation and design. Maybe you just need to watch more TedTalks. Ok I’m half serious and also I just ripped my stitches…

    4. kfc said, on July 16, 2013 at 09:54

      I’m scared to even say this, and I will duck momentarily, but Amerika Gots Talent. No really, I don’t mean pop culture (although…), I mean innovation and design. Maybe you just need to watch more TedTalks. Ok I’m half serious and also I just ripped my stitches…


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