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Altherion

Are the best years of our civilization still to come?

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Posted (edited)

Historians argue validly that the high point of 'civilization' for "Europe" came in Rome's Later Antiquity, in the mid-late 300's, earlier 400's.  For the class that could afford it of course, need we say?  A primary marker of this civilization was those who could afford the leisure for it, concern for and practice of literacy and literary matters, both past and present, were signatures. Along with this another primary signature was the holding of high administrative office.

However, very rapidly this transformed into a culture where the signatures were military prowess and rank and all that goes with it, i.e. even the predominate sartorial style changed from togate to military.  Important fellows (ya, mostly men indeed), instead of learning Greek and philosophy and writing poetry and history and keeping a voluminous correspondence, were trained in weaponry, and instead of the pen, one carried a sword. This intensified very quickly. Literacy collaterally become nearly confined to the religious.

It took many, many centuries before the learned gentleman elite signature -- i.e. civilization -- returned in Europe, arguably not until the Renaissance. 

This doesn't mean the entire world though.  For certainly there was brilliant civilization being practiced, shall we say? in Muslim and Asian nations at the same time that the 'West' was immured in epidemics, famine and war, particularly in the later 500's > 700s.  Even Charlemagne, who did enthusiastically sponsor poets and bards and literacy, particularly to enhance his reputation and write the history, was a military figure, constantly at war.

It's tempting to draft this template of the past upon our future ... except for the environmental catastrophe that is now in effect.

Edited by Zorral

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Criteria of literacy, practice of literature and the other arts, practice of history as an occupation, travel for learning, the viewpoint that an urban life was superior to a rural one, an interest in learning about and consuming new foods, a toleration for religious practices not one's own (it has been noticed by historians that what came to be thought of as the Dark Ages, arrived along with Christianity becoming a part of the Roman state -- the toleration provided the Christians, with the greater power they rapidly accumulated, the less toleration there was for anything but what they decreed), without being a fanatic about one's own spiritual preference, the belief in 'style' and elegance in personal presentation, a strong belief in the real good a fine education was to one's personal satisfaction, and that of one's class, one's community, one's nation, etc. etc. etc.

Those above are among what Romans who considered civilization declared were civilization.  From very early on they prized the urban life -- Rome, the City of City -- as the mark of themselves as civilized.  Which is why figures such as Ovid were so shattered to be exiled from the city, where everything that matters, where everyone who matters, lives.

You can see a great deal of this reflected in Chinese writing by its own dynasties' civilized classes.

As for the Great Cultures of pre-Columbian America -- it's always been very difficult for outsiders to see those that practice human sacrifice deliberately as civilized, as in the way Europeans have defined civilized.

In the end maybe what is 'civilized' is decided by whomever is quantifying the criteria? Most certainly in Rome of those periods, China of those periods, and Europe -- and the US -- more recently, it's been pretty difficult to divorce the practice of civilization from the possession of wealth = leisure.  I.e. the difference in classification between the sung courtly romances and folk songs, for instance.

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Posted (edited)

Not when the wealthy leisure class is so utterly and completely ignorant of anything except playing the market and destroying its enabling nation's own government and even nationhood. The education of these ilks is nothing to what the roughly (very roughly) equivalent Romans of the third century commanded.  Or even the experience many of them possessed, from leaving Rome and administering provinces, in which their command of more than one language,  which made extracting resources from those provinces for the gain of Rome and themselves, more efficient.  Among many other caveats that show 'we' are not in any way more civilized than Romans of that era.

Unless you wish to argue dentistry?  But dentistry came late as we know it, very VERY late, and arguably is technology, which, as you know, technology does not in very many ways = civilized.  See: social media.

Edited by Zorral

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Depends on the time table here. In the next 10-20 years? Almost certainly not. In the next 50? Very Doubtful, but you never know. In the next 500? Probably things will get better. Of course, we probably won't be alive to see things get better, and it's very debatable at what point it stops being our civilization (and just what's this "our civilization" anyway?).

Barring some drastic, world-changing innovations in technology, most of the world will likely stay the same or worse in the next decades- climate change, declining populations (in developed countries), increase in political extremism, massive amounts of debt, etc, because none of those are crisis with short-term solutions, if at all.

 

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We can take bets: Which country will first be occupied due to „security reasons“ and „peacebringing“? Mexico by the US or Ukraine by Russia? 

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Neither one would have any use for the capital. A much more militarized US border I could see. 

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On 8/28/2021 at 4:59 PM, Altherion said:

This topic is inspired by @Arakan's post in the current US Politics thread which I thought deserves its own topic. Do people think that on the whole things are still getting better and, despite the obvious setback that is the coronavirus, the world will improve in the next few decades? I can see arguments for both possibilities and any answer is of course a guess or a feeling (unless you have a time machine), but it would be interesting to see how people feel about this now.

I can see arguments for both sides, but my personal view is that despite the climate issue and the widespread incompetence of our leaders, the world will continue to get better for most people simply because there are many very intelligent people everywhere working on practically every problem facing humanity. What do you think?

The answer is yes and no. I think our current civilization is screwed. If by civilisation we mean the current corrupt cesspool of a mashup of corporate capitalism, money grubbing democracy, neoliberal economics and various authoritiarian regimes on the fringes (or at the center in the case of China). It's going to collapse, and spectacularly so. But human civilisation will recover and endure, better, stronger, faster. It'll be like the 6 million dollar man (hey that was a lot of money back in the 70s).

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3 hours ago, Darzin said:

Neither one would have any use for the capital. A much more militarized US border I could see. 

I feel this won’t be enough. A lot of industrial production for the North American market is in Mexico. I have a feeling that many underestimate the danger of Mexico finally collapsing. Or maybe people are just desensitized due to the daily carnage in the country. 350.000 deaths since 2006 due to the „drug war“. Basically the same number of casualties as the Syrian Civil War. Pemex was the one thing providing the government with steady income and providing enough cash to fill the hungry corrupt mouths. Pemex is in terminal decline due to decreasing reserves. From 120 billion USD revenue in 2012 to 75 billion in 2019 to 50 billion in 2020 (granted Corona). Mexico has the potential to explode. 

A pity. It’s an awesome country with great people and mentality. 

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On 8/28/2021 at 10:13 AM, Rippounet said:

They pretend to - if it suits their purposes.

Sure, for about five minutes when they need to explain why men of a certain ethnic group are terrible.

Then it’s back to their standard misogyny.

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Posted (edited)
On 8/28/2021 at 5:03 PM, Zorral said:

You know I've always believed in climate change because of overpopulation > the earth's carrying capacity for ever expanding manufacture and carbon emissions was obviously being reached when I was a kid.  This is why I have never had children and never owned a car, and own hardly anything material beyond books and boots -- and while I have no television, do I ever have computers. I have other digital devices, a/c, space heaters, travel a lot, or did, and much of it, if not most of it, via air, and / or rental cars. My waste output has shot up enormously too in these pandemic years of living my entire life just about within this small space.  Also I eat meat.  Ok, so not every day, sometimes without any for month, whatever -- yet I do consume a lot of diary. So I'm quite a sinner all on my own.  And I'm just one person who is doing all this, while there are billions who are doing far, far, FAR more in terms of going over the limit of what is sustainable. 

There is so much going on all at the same time in the environment to everything that humanity has depended upon for its entire existence.  Here's a single instance: the Gulf Stream Current, on which so much of the earth's weather patterns, seasons and marine life -- not to mention shipping -- have depended for thousands of years is slowing way down.  How do we reverse that?  And if it could be possible, how many centuries would it take? 

The idea of what we can each do on this is so weird... on a "starfish problem" level we can do a lot, but the big drivers of climate change need to be dealt with too.  On some level this does come down to demand, social pressures, and personal responsibility (without massive changes in personal habits nothing is going to change) but this goes hand in hand with top down changes and action on the part of governments reigning in-- and probably drastically changing-- how corporations are treated worldwide, or it's all for nothing.  

Edited by larrytheimp

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Posted (edited)
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Not when the wealthy leisure class is so utterly and completely ignorant of anything except playing the market and destroying its enabling nation's own government and even nationhood. The education of these ilks is nothing to what the roughly (very roughly) equivalent Romans of the third century commanded.  Or even the experience many of them possessed, from leaving Rome and administering provinces, in which their command of more than one language,  which made extracting resources from those provinces for the gain of Rome and themselves, more efficient.  Among many other caveats that show 'we' are not in any way more civilized than Romans of that era.

I'm sorry, Zorral, but, regardless of the misdemeanors of the wealthy leisure class, I basically don't agree with any of your points.

Now I don't pretend to be a classicist, but...

Literacy: All children nowadays are sent to school for a minimum of ten years, where they are taught language, maths, history, etc. A wealthy Roman child would have had a greek tutor to learn his letters, a poor child going to school nowadays has a bunch of university graduates to teach him several subjects. We are far more literate nowadays than in time of the Romans.

Practice of literature and the other arts: Loads of people write nowadays, from tons of published novels to academic papers to blogs or posts on message boards. Simply the amount of published books nowadays compared with a civilization that didn't even know of the printing press makes this claim preposterous. We have loads of musical genres, from classical to rap, art styles as diverse as film, computer game design... We beat the Romans hands down.

Practice of history as an occupation: We have universities that train academics in history (as a far more advanced soft science than existed in the Roman times). The Romans had none of that. It's hard to know exactly how many people took up history as an occupation back then, but it seems impossible it was more than now.

Travel for learning: the current availability of easy means of transportation and existence of academic institutions which celebrate symposiums, student exchange programs, etc. makes this claim unlikely to impossible.

The viewpoint that an urban life was superior to a rural one: That seems a matter of taste and preference rather than an indicative of civilization to me...

An interest in learning about and consuming new foods: Again, the widespread availability of all kind of restaurants and cookery books (or YouTube videos) makes this exceedingly unlikely. I have Tikka Masala, Tinga de Puerca and Pasta Amattriciana in my cooking repertoire, and I'm a humble civil servant.

A toleration for religious practices not one's own without being a fanatic about one's own spiritual preference: To me widespread laicism is a far better mark of civilization...

The belief in 'style' and elegance in personal presentation: Again, I'm sure our fashion is far more diverse and elaborate now than in time of the Romans. We have skin creams, far better make-up, better and more diverse clothes, hairdressers and nail salons galore...

A strong belief in the real good a fine education was to one's personal satisfaction, and that of one's class, one's community, one's nation: We have free public education for all, a middle class that widely attends university or some other kind of higher education...

 

We also own no slaves, grant equal legal status to men and women, have curbed our imperialistic tendencies, etc. etc. etc. We are superior to the Romans in any measurable way. Not because we're 'better' than the Romans, but because we sit upon the shoulders of far larger giants.

Edited by Mentat
Misspost

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Posted (edited)

If you believe all this stuff, particularly your conclusion:

1 hour ago, Mentat said:

We also own no slaves, grant equal legal status to men and women, have curbed our imperialistic tendencies, etc. etc. etc.

one does not believe your handle reflects your knowledge of facts of the condition of the known world.  :rofl:

Edited by Zorral

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1 hour ago, Mentat said:

I'm sorry, Zorral, but, regardless of the misdemeanors of the wealthy leisure class, I basically don't agree with any of your points.

Now I don't pretend to be a classicist, but...

Literacy: All children nowadays are sent to school for a minimum of ten years, where they are taught language, maths, history, etc. A wealthy Roman child would have had a greek tutor to learn his letters, a poor child going to school nowadays has a bunch of university graduates to teach him several subjects. We are far more literate nowadays than in time of the Romans.

Practice of literature and the other arts: Loads of people write nowadays, from tons of published novels to academic papers to blogs or posts on message boards. Simply the amount of published books nowadays compared with a civilization that didn't even know of the printing press makes this claim preposterous. We have loads of musical genres, from classical to rap, art styles as diverse as film, computer game design... We beat the Romans hands down.

Practice of history as an occupation: We have universities that train academics in history (as a far more advanced soft science than existed in the Roman times). The Romans had none of that. It's hard to know exactly how many people took up history as an occupation back then, but it seems impossible it was more than now.

Travel for learning: the current availability of easy means of transportation and existence of academic institutions which celebrate symposiums, student exchange programs, etc. makes this claim unlikely to impossible.

The viewpoint that an urban life was superior to a rural one: That seems a matter of taste and preference rather than an indicative of civilization to me...

An interest in learning about and consuming new foods: Again, the widespread availability of all kind of restaurants and cookery books (or YouTube videos) makes this exceedingly unlikely. I have Tikka Masala, Tinga de Puerca and Pasta Amattriciana in my cooking repertoire, and I'm a humble civil servant.

A toleration for religious practices not one's own without being a fanatic about one's own spiritual preference: To me widespread laicism is a far better mark of civilization...

The belief in 'style' and elegance in personal presentation: Again, I'm sure our fashion is far more diverse and elaborate now than in time of the Romans. We have skin creams, far better make-up, better and more diverse clothes, hairdressers and nail salons galore...

A strong belief in the real good a fine education was to one's personal satisfaction, and that of one's class, one's community, one's nation: We have free public education for all, a middle class that widely attends university or some other kind of higher education...

 

We also own no slaves, grant equal legal status to men and women, have curbed our imperialistic tendencies, etc. etc. etc. We are superior to the Romans in any measurable way. Not because we're 'better' than the Romans, but because we sit upon the shoulders of far larger giants.

When we have a substantial number of people refusing vaccination in favour of a deworming compound, I seriously doubt that as a species we are at any type of a pinnacle of development. 

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20 minutes ago, maarsen said:

When we have a substantial number of people refusing vaccination in favour of a deworming compound, I seriously doubt that as a species we are at any type of a pinnacle of development. 

But this is USA. Even though stupid people exist everywhere one cannot extrapolate from an US level. 

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19 minutes ago, Zorral said:

If you believe all this stuff

I kind of do, so either I made my point very poorly, I'm very stupid despite my choice of user name, or you are not as clever as you think you are.

15 minutes ago, maarsen said:

When we have a substantial number of people refusing vaccination in favour of a deworming compound, I seriously doubt that as a species we are at any type of a pinnacle of development. 

A vaccine was developed within a year and millions have been vaccinated. Though I do believe we have the chance to progress as a civilization, I would ask you to tell me if at any point in the past we would have done any better.

Regardless, an anecdotal example of extreme stupidity proves very little. We could find one in any point in history where we cared to look.

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Just now, Arakan said:

But this is USA. Even though stupid people exist everywhere one cannot extrapolate from an US level. 

Not really. We have the same idiocy in Canada. Wait long enough and this will spread. Look at Britain and Brexit. No idea is so bad that it doesn't spread. 

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Just now, Arakan said:

But this is USA. Even though stupid people exist everywhere one cannot extrapolate from an US level. 

It's not though. Calls and requests for the dewormer have gone up exponentially in Canada as well, and like many other countries we have our own national brand of 'Trumpsters'. I've seen this statement here a few times, and over and over on Twitter-- but this uncaring, unsympathetic, anti-science bent that Trump somehow emboldened in the US is not limited to the US. These people, they're not embarrassed anymore. They're proud of it. And the fuckers are everywhere.    

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