The structure or pattern of civilization has divided western civilization into separate parts that benefit by separateness and profit from conflict. The result is a typical example of a self-destroying life style struggling through an impasse from which there is no escape save through a third fratricidal war.
Today civilization is a bad buy, especially for young people starting out in life. Civilization still has its advantages for those who have lived actively, achieved many of their material objectives and retired to spend their declining years in a well-feathered nest. For some privileged young people, willing to settle for comfort and conformity, civilization offers the leisure to learn, and an opportunity to test themselves out against a big field of ardent competitors. But for energetic, forward-looking, idealistic young people, the opportunities offered by western civilization are deemed inconsequential, trivial and in the long run, inadequate. For them, the game is not worth the candle.
Today civilization is a bad buy for two reasons. The first is that antisocial, predatory, exploitive and parasitic elements are unfortunately and unnecessarily prominent in the lives of all civilized peoples, including the present West. The second reason is the arrogant, self-righteous, peremptory, bragging, bullying, dictatorial approaches adopted by civilized people in their dealings with those who live on the fringes or outside the pale of civilization. The first reason is an inescapable consequence of the political, economic, ideological and sociological assumptions of the civilizing process. The second reason is inherent in the methods used by civilized peoples in their dealing with the uncivilized majority of humanity.
Steps Beyond Civilization
TEN BUILDING BLOCKS FOR A NEW WORLD
In the previous chapter I argued that we are marking time in a fool’s paradise while western civilization slips backward and downward toward dissolution and oblivion. Like many of its predecessors, our civilization seems to have exhausted its capacity to create, progress, advance. Instead it is disintegrating and breaking up in our current time of troubles.
In an earlier epoch of human history civilization helped to bridge the wide gap between man the victim and plaything of nature, and man as the user, director and, to a limited degree, the coordinator of natural forces. Today questions of our demise or our survival and advance are pressing and urgent.
Civilization has played an important role in the social history of mankind during the several thousand years when segments of the human family have turned their backs on barbarism, regrouped their forces, revamped their patterns of association and experimented with the more complicated, specialized and integrated life pattern of civilization. These experiments have paralleled or followed one another, separated by shorter or longer ages of rest and recuperation. Each epoch of civilization has contributed ideas, artifacts and institutions to the sum total of human culture. This has been the case with past civilizations. It is true of western civilization.