Civilisation?Progress? What does it mean?

    By Tarek Ali Hassan
    Friday, August 02, 2002

without researching continuously and dynamically the concept of progress we are in great danger of causing harm when we mean to help others develop and progress.

Apparently allpowerful victorious Western society, is overloaded with crisis points which need resolution and yet it has for long exported flawed or unworkable models clothing them in hyper-sell wrappings presenting them as the solve-all secret of peace, happiness and fulfillment. One of the results is mounting delayed disillusionment.

Civilisation must be tied to the art of surviving and thriving without violence to self, to others , to nature or to the environment.

Are we civilised?

Civilisation and progress? What does that mean?

What is the yardstick for progress ?

Is it appropriate to export the Euro-american conceptual matrix as panacea for all problems and as the one and only yardstick for civilisation and progress?

The temptation for the powerful, the materially rich and the victorious to without further thought, assume themselves as the automatic and only reference point in terms of concepts of civilisation and models for progress, is a very great temptation indeed. In so doing they are not only imposing harm to others whose concepts, needs, models and potentials for growth, development and non-violent survival are different, but they also harm themselves in denying the potential contributions that these others, who are ignored and marginalised, can make to the resolution of many real crises within the winning and powerful camp.

Many people and agencies defeat pluralism and development while, perhaps sincerely, believing that they are working and supporting both.

It is of interest to trace some of the concepts of civilisation and of being civilised and of civilised behaviour exported by us as these are experienced from various parts of of the world, other than us, during the past decades.

Examples of a typical post second world war onslaught on the consciousness and the culture of a country like Egypt, inform society about what is progress thus:

Breast feeding your children is uncivilised and civilisation and beauty is in feeding them with dried milk powder !

Manual work is a sign of backwardness

Bread eating is a sign of backwardness so is bread baking at home

The whiter the bread, the whiter the sugar and the purer the salt the more civilised the nation

Using refuse, agricultural waste or dung as fuel is a sign of backwardness, what is more it is disgusting

Cigarette smoking for men amplifies and completes their manhood, for women proves their independence and emanicipation

More exported signs of backwardness and explicit or implicit indicators of progress, civilisation and culture according to effectively exported values supported by the unstoppable onslaught of mass media open our eyes to how self supporting, ecologically balanced communities were permanently disrupted:

Intimate relations with animals: a sign of backwardness unless of course these are pets to be pampered and cared for and spoilt with lavish expenditure and consumption

the extended family is a sign of backwardness

Free relation with the human body in nature without guilt and without division including walking barefoot even when it is climactically and environmentally natural to do so, is demeaning, uncivilised and backward

Communality is backward and uncivilised while the nuclear family and insularity is.

The ecologically balanced self dependent non-consumerist way of life of the farmer with his extended family and intimate interactive relations with his body with the environment, with nature, with plant, river and animals is considered as a sign of backwardness, that must be destroyed and replaced with Western insular and consumerist models.

Using river transport and depending on natural forces and or/energies for propulsion is slow. inefficient, unreliable and is a sure sign of backwardness

How much you buy and consume in manufactured goods indicates how civilised and advanced you are

Advancement in agriculture is to be measured by :

how mechanised it is, how much artificial chemical fertiliser and pesticides you use. In general greater use and consumption of the manufactured, the artificial, the chemical, the mechanical and lesser use of the natural eco-cycle harmonious, is an indicator of civilisation and progress.

The electrically driven or fossil fuel driven was sold via hard-sell, to nations and cultures that respected nature, animals and human endeavour. They were reconditioned to believe this is far more advanced and civilised than the natural, the manual and the man/animal/nature interactive.

The concept of appropriate technology was neglected in supposedly development interventions overwhelming balanced ways of life, These interventions were practiced without the slightest regard for life or long term well-being of communities. Wizardries were sold that soon were unmanageable and unmaintainable and unsustainable. Dependencies were created, ancient skills and know-how supplanted while the recipients were finally left more impoverished and more helpless than before they received this development aid they were supposed to be so lucky to receive. The donors wonder about the ingratitude of the recipients, while little attention is devoted to appropriate and inappropriate interventions because we see everything through our own eyes which we are certain are absolutely right. Echos of the techniques of the sellers of addictive hard drugs.

The final straw comes with the exported value and hardware of modern progress weaponry as:
Fighting with clubs and spears and bare hands is seen as a sure sign of backwardness and primitiveness and missing out on progress. We have helped create the paradox that the most underdeveloped countries and peoples are armed with the most deadly and sophisticated weaponry exported by the advanced ,civilised and leader Countries
and have expectedly evolved ruthless military dictatorships
as they had not yet evolved into the maturity of excluding weapons from socio-political process.

The power and weight of nations in the international arena and on the negotiating table is still measured in terms of material wealth and military strength, hence the devastating weight of the interests of the powerful in international dialogue or more aptly international non-dialogue.

Inspite of protestations to the contrary, Justice, Fairness, Equity, play a very limited role in the International dynamics shaping the gobal village into which we are all sucked as prime movers or as helpless and disempowered victims.

What is meant by civilisation and being civilised ?
What will a bird?s eye view of the twentieth century tell about us being civilised or not ?

The meaning behind such slogans as development, progress, wealth, success, and power, must always be questioned and challenged and questioned again. Alternatives need to be explored and respected for all our sakes, for our safety and well-being.

Still the basic problems of violence and of life and death and of happiness and meaning remain unanswered. The unresolved catastrophy of three World Wars, (1914-1918, 1939-1945, 1945-1991) with hundreds of milions of innocent victims, represents yet another of the undying question marks over our civilisation. These questions need to be answered and to be answered anew. They of course need to be asked and asked anew. What is civilisation and progress? Are we civilised?

What is civilisation and progress ?
the state of being civilised ? What is that ?

Eating with a fork and knife ?
Not making a sound while you chew your food?
Wearing western clothes ?

Wearing shoes ?
Wearing European clothes?

Speaking a European language ?

Industry as opposed to agriculture or vice versa ?

Mamoth economic forces and production centres, trans-national and multi-national, as opposed to the small self sufficient communities with the small producer, financier. Is small beautiful or backward?

Using massive mechanisation, mass production, massive quantities of insecticides pesticides or less ambitious natural farming ?

Transport by 747, Concorde, rockets or by horse and carriage or donkey or camel ? or river transport ?

Consuming beyond your needs ?
Using cosmetics ?
Using drugs ?
Having plastic surgery ?
Depending on TV and other electronic screens for information ?

Smaller intimate societies or massive impersonal sky-scraper mega- cities ?

Civilisation in the end must be tied to the ability to thrive and flourish without violence to self, to others, to nature or to the environment. Using that guideline we must have spiralled somehow into one of the least civilised phases of human social evolution. Many questions need to be asked. Many questions need to be answered, and then questions need to be asked anew.

A little pertinent poem: (from volume II of collected poems)

and then i shall break
and that which is not love shall be love to me
and kindness shall be love
and tolerance shall be love
and charity shall be love
and success shall be love
and riches shall be love

i shall break and that which is untrue i shall think it true

i shall make it true rest...

and my thirst shall be so terrifying that that which is not water
i shall think it water

...and rest...

and i shall be
not the plant that thirsted for water
not the flower that yearned for love
but i shall be that that i thought rest...

i shall be that that i think
..and rest..

and i shall drown myself in imaginary water
synthetic water
and i shall drown myself in imaginary love
synthetic love
love that i think it love
water that i think it water rest..
and i shall make worlds of lies

synthetic worlds
imitation worlds
substitute worlds

and i shall build them higher ...and higher ..and higher

and i shall make them stronger ..and stronger ..and stronger

..and i shall raise this world of lies above all things

for not to know the horror of my thirst

..and i shall protect it
preserve it
cherish it
above all things

for not to know the horror of my thirst..

and i shall drown myself in this mountain of synthetic worlds

for to forget my thirst
deeper deeper deeper deeper
higher higher higher higher
more more more more more more
further further further further
greater greater greater greater
faster faster faster faster faster
more more more more more more

faster faster faster faster faster

for not to know the horror of my thirst

..and the plant
..and the flower
that thirsted for love
shall sing
shall cry
shall convulse
and scream
shall wither
shall dry
shall die

and i shall not see
or hear
or feel

i shall not know the horror of this thirst
for i am drowned in synthetic worlds..
escaping worlds..
for i man seeming so free
am now but a slave

for to rest..

for i man am now

...a broken man.....

for not to know the horror of this thirst

deeper, faster, higher
faster faster faster
higher higher higher
more more more more more

hurrah for me!

i shall die in synthetic peace
and i shall be quenched in synthetic waters
and i shall smile a synthetic smile
of gratitude
of approval

....and i die of thirst...

deeper, faster, higher
faster faster faster
higher higher higher
more more more more more

faster higher faster higher faster faster faster faster more



  home    articles    top