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Is Civilization Just A Thin Veneer Between Civility And Civil Breakdown?


The thin veneer of civilized society

The veneer of civilization truly is thin. You might say it’s layered. When the thin veneer layers are peeled back, it’s not a pretty sight. In fact it can be downright ugly.

What is civilization?

The root of the word ‘Civilization’ is ‘Civ’ which comes from the Latin civis (CITIZEN).

‘Civil’, which is also derived from the same latin word, relates to citizens that are ‘trained’, ‘refined’. It is considered the cultural development of man from barbarism.

Are we as humans, naturally civilized? No, we are ‘trained’ to be civil.

“Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work.”

— Aldous Huxley (Brave New World)

Civilization is a Formula by Design

Is civilized society but a formula by design – of what we are supposed to be? (A thin veneer wrapped around us and held in place by training, indoctrination, and fear of punishment?)

Is the bigger picture and construct of our modern civilization actually an imposition by a smaller authority who understands how to posses the systemic means to power?

How many would behave badly?

If you look closely, the veneer of civilization appears to be remarkably thin.

How many would behave badly if they thought there would be no penalties for bad behavior? Would the ugly side of human nature emerge?

Are there triggers of man’s potentially ‘savage’ nature that could cause a breakout of this thin veneer, wicked and barbaric as ever?

How quickly might we transition from civil to barbaric, and what events could cause it?

Triggers of civil breakdown

The normalcy bias of a ‘civilized’ people results in the assumption that things (life) will always remain civilized. However civil breakdown is never far around the corner…

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Modern humans, modern civilization (society), rely on today’s incredible distribution systems as well as human creature comforts, entertainment, and distractions.

When life gets difficult, people get cranky.

If these things (services) were to be removed, this itself would likely be enough to trigger civil breakdown to an extent, or even much further.

Systems and Distribution

There is a higher risk of civil breakdown when the vast majority are so extremely dependent upon external systems for survival. Why? because systems do break down, sometimes catastrophically.

For example if systems of distribution were to disrupt, it would hamper the means to easily acquire food, consumables, and other ‘necessities’ – and would result in a peeling away of civilization’s veneer.

Bubble Economics

Most of you are also fully aware of today’s ‘bubble’ economic climate and the mathematical certainty that it WILL break down or maybe even  collapse. When this happens there will quite certainly be civil breakdown to an extent – and a major change in ‘life as we know it’.

The economy might feel fine right now, however I have learned over the years that the big economy or especially your own personal economy, can “turn on a dime” (quickly)…

Very opposing political ideals

We’re living in a time here in the USA of incredible differences in opinion regarding who we are as a people, where we should be going (as a people), and how we should be governed as a people. Tensions have been extreme at times and have flared into sporadic civil breakdown.

Given the forces at play, I see this situation escalating as time goes on. Though I hope civil breakdown can be averted, I’m not so sure how this eventually plays out.

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Is it just a thin veneer?

What are your thoughts on the so called, ‘thin veneer of civilization’?

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