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Old November 12th, 2011, 01:58 PM   #1

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Is civilization a good thing? Does society do more bad than good to some people?


I am an advocate for hard work, human progress, and advancement. Yet I often feel that the vast majority of problems are human made, and that is a terrible thing. I give very high worth to human life, so I am disgusted that many people live and die poor, unfulfilled, problematic lives that have more pain and suffering than happiness. I find my beliefs aligning with anarcho-primitivism.

I know this sounds like a fairy tale thought, but isn't the point of living to have a good life, to have more fun and joy than sadness and hardship? Unfortunately, most people can't due to the conditions they were born in. Poverty, hunger, abuse, plague those born poor. So is a society that values hard work, having a job, and contributing to it in some way, shape or form good when it creates stress, poverty, corruption, etc?

I sometimes think that, like anarcho-primitivism, a hunter-gatherer society (if it is a society at all?) would have significantly less problems. It would be easier, more fun, there would be leisure and everyone would have a fair life. Of course, with about 7 billion people alive, it would be practically impossible to sustain ourselves by hunting and gathering, but that's not my point.

So what do you think? How much do you agree with these arguments? Do you think civilization has more cons than pros, gives more problems than happiness, makes us any more advanced or better off than a hunter gatherer society?

Thanks, I would love to hear your opinions.
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Old November 12th, 2011, 02:08 PM   #2

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I don't fancy being a hunter gatherer myself. I am too fond of a settled way of life, and particularly of things like indoor plumbing, central heating, the Internet etc. Civilisation has provided uscwithblots of very agreeable things.
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Old November 12th, 2011, 02:12 PM   #3

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Not all poor people are unhappy and not all rich people are happy.
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Old November 12th, 2011, 02:51 PM   #4

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Is civilisation a good thing?

Do you mean the invention of the city,based on agriculture and animal husbandry? Or the industrial society,such as we enjoy right now?


Ancient cities? Life would have still been nasty and brutish and short,with a life expectancy of about 30.(less for women)

A statistic I've always remembered; In 1848,life expectancy for a male in the US was 48.

THE great personal benefits of civilisation are a much longer life expectancy (largely due to improved diet, germ theory,vaccination,modern medical practice and pharmaceuticals) and better quality of life. Such as universal literacy and numeracy,far more leisure time and the ability to travel purely for pleasure.

Whether civilisation is a good thing for the species long term,or indeed other species is arguable:

A longer life expectancy has meant a population explosion. Like all other animals we are busy breeding towards the point at which we will exhaust available resources.

Regardless of our self defined intelligence,we remain greedy enough and stupid enough to be making our planet uninhabitable for ourselves and many other species.

Without industrial civilisation, our self destruction might have taken a few thousand more years. Instead,my optimistic hope is that things will not have reached the point of unmanageable inconvenience before I die.
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Old November 12th, 2011, 06:07 PM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by EpicHistory360 View Post
I know this sounds like a fairy tale thought, but isn't the point of living to have a good life, to have more fun and joy than sadness and hardship? Unfortunately, most people can't due to the conditions they were born in. Poverty, hunger, abuse, plague those born poor. So is a society that values hard work, having a job, and contributing to it in some way, shape or form good when it creates stress, poverty, corruption, etc?
Society, rather than creating net stress or poverty, mitigates them. However stressful life in society can be, life outside of society is more so. However impoverished you are within the boundaries of society, that poverty will only escalate in isolation.

Take a homeless beggar. He has nothing except perhaps the clothes on his back and perhaps a scant few useful trinkets he's managed to scrounge up. None the less, he still eats most days due to the scant money his begging brings in, in emergency situations he can still likely receive some measure of medical care, and his chances of being attacked and devoured by wild beasts are virtually nil.

Transport him instead into the wilderness of the ancient world, and how does his lot improve? How is he better off without society? No more handouts, no more medical treatment at all, going to sleep every night puts him at risk of being a meal for some wild animal, and if he wants to eat at all it's going to be a constant struggle. Even if he does everything right and somehow manages to create a small farm, a single bad season could result in his death. Even if he becomes a competent hunter-gatherer, he still is reliant largely on luck, and a single bad week could leave him starving to the point where he lacks the strength to go on. And all of this ignores the fact that every water source he drinks from could inflict illness upon him, any wound he suffers from could lead to a fatal infection, eating food that seems perfectly fine could cause food poisoning, and even getting caught in a cold rain could leave him substantially worse for wear. His isolation would probably leave him fairly safe from viral infection, but there's no escape from bacteria.

How on Earth is he better off? And this is someone literally at the bottom of society with no further down to go. As we creep up the social ladder, our hypothetical anarcho-primitive convert has more and more to lose, yet nothing more to gain. No matter where you are on the social ladder, you're probably happier, healthier, and better off there than you would be alone in the wilderness, and if for some reason that isn't so, well, wilderness still exists! That's the most important aspect of civilization: ultimately, it's simply providing you with an option. There are still places on this planet where one can live in near total isolation. There's a reason, however, that people aren't rushing off to those areas, and it's because society is highly beneficial to the achievement of our needs and wants.

Quote:
Originally Posted by EpicHistory360 View Post
I sometimes think that, like anarcho-primitivism, a hunter-gatherer society (if it is a society at all?) would have significantly less problems. It would be easier, more fun, there would be leisure and everyone would have a fair life.
Easier? Every day would be a struggle that could very possibly end in messy death. Physical labor would be your only option, and your participation in it would be perpetual.

More fun? Anything you can do for fun in this hypothetical anarcho-primitive lifestyle, you can do now; I don't see how reducing options increases entertainment. What are you going to be doing with your time? Read poems you yourself wrote on tree bark? Make up songs? Gather some colored clays and muds and paint crude pictures on rocks? I'm not saying I don't see any appeal in this kind of thing, but I can do all of that now if the mood takes me.

More leisure? Right now 2 days out of every 7 are devoted purely to leisure in the most first world nations, and that ignores numerous holidays and vacations, and even the fact that a fair portion of our working days are also spent at ease. Living an anarcho-primitive lifestyle would leave you with almost no genuine leisure time; any time you have to spare would be time you could be devoting towards making your constantly insecure life a bit more secure, and once the sun goes down it's difficult to even do that. Anyone living such a lifestyle who took it as easy as we do in modern society would probably die in fairly short order.

It almost sounds like you're thinking about Thoreau or something when you write this, but it's worth remembering that in Thoreau's time at Walden Pond, he still relied upon civilization to live. He worked part of the year on a farm, he traded, he used tools made in civilization, wore clothing made in civilization, benefited from civilization purging the land of predators, and so forth. He was able to live so reasonably well in his minimalist lifestyle because he wasn't really living like an anarcho-primitive at all, but rather, simply went on an extended camping trip (which he eventually returned from).

---------------------------

When you suggest that the point of living is to have a good life, I agree with you completely. That good life can be far more easily achieved, though, within the confines of civilization. Within civilization you can achieve the kind of security needed to indulge in self-fulfillment. I have to admit that sometimes I've had the same kind of fancies that you seem to express in your post, but a deep consideration of the issue usually sets me right. That's not to say you don't make some good points though! In our pursuit of the good life in civilization, we often lose sight of the things that constitute the genuine substance of human happiness (positive interaction with our fellow man, the formation of a beautiful partnership bond, the enrichment of the mind, and so forth), and instead treat what should merely be means to these ends as ends in themselves (things like material wealth, career advancement, and social status). When we do this, we understandably become stressed and unfulfilled, but it's not society that causes this. Rather, it is our own bad choices.
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Old November 13th, 2011, 11:38 AM   #6

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Well really the original post was all said with large doses of raw romanticism towards a kind of life most people would love to escape from. There is a reason civilization exists; humans prefer it's comfort and predictability and can still engage in classically primitive behavior on occasions.

Let's also remember that most of the things that modern society has grown to hate, social inequality, rampant hunger, machismo, rape, and constant warfare are all part and parcel of primitive life; it's not a difference in culture, it's a series of incentives that occurs natively in primitivistic circumstances.

If one wants to go camping for a weekend, be my guest, it'll probably be lots of fun, but reversion to a society in which survival is in entirely different means will cause a huge equivalent change in human behavior. You can't expect the kind modern man to remain modern in the wild.
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Old July 18th, 2015, 12:43 PM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fox View Post
Society, rather than creating net stress or poverty, mitigates them. However stressful life in society can be, life outside of society is more so. However impoverished you are within the boundaries of society, that poverty will only escalate in isolation.

Take a homeless beggar. He has nothing except perhaps the clothes on his back and perhaps a scant few useful trinkets he's managed to scrounge up. None the less, he still eats most days due to the scant money his begging brings in, in emergency situations he can still likely receive some measure of medical care, and his chances of being attacked and devoured by wild beasts are virtually nil.

Transport him instead into the wilderness of the ancient world, and how does his lot improve? How is he better off without society? No more handouts, no more medical treatment at all, going to sleep every night puts him at risk of being a meal for some wild animal, and if he wants to eat at all it's going to be a constant struggle. Even if he does everything right and somehow manages to create a small farm, a single bad season could result in his death. Even if he becomes a competent hunter-gatherer, he still is reliant largely on luck, and a single bad week could leave him starving to the point where he lacks the strength to go on. And all of this ignores the fact that every water source he drinks from could inflict illness upon him, any wound he suffers from could lead to a fatal infection, eating food that seems perfectly fine could cause food poisoning, and even getting caught in a cold rain could leave him substantially worse for wear. His isolation would probably leave him fairly safe from viral infection, but there's no escape from bacteria.

How on Earth is he better off? And this is someone literally at the bottom of society with no further down to go. As we creep up the social ladder, our hypothetical anarcho-primitive convert has more and more to lose, yet nothing more to gain. No matter where you are on the social ladder, you're probably happier, healthier, and better off there than you would be alone in the wilderness, and if for some reason that isn't so, well, wilderness still exists! That's the most important aspect of civilization: ultimately, it's simply providing you with an option. There are still places on this planet where one can live in near total isolation. There's a reason, however, that people aren't rushing off to those areas, and it's because society is highly beneficial to the achievement of our needs and wants.



Easier? Every day would be a struggle that could very possibly end in messy death. Physical labor would be your only option, and your participation in it would be perpetual.

More fun? Anything you can do for fun in this hypothetical anarcho-primitive lifestyle, you can do now; I don't see how reducing options increases entertainment. What are you going to be doing with your time? Read poems you yourself wrote on tree bark? Make up songs? Gather some colored clays and muds and paint crude pictures on rocks? I'm not saying I don't see any appeal in this kind of thing, but I can do all of that now if the mood takes me.

More leisure? Right now 2 days out of every 7 are devoted purely to leisure in the most first world nations, and that ignores numerous holidays and vacations, and even the fact that a fair portion of our working days are also spent at ease. Living an anarcho-primitive lifestyle would leave you with almost no genuine leisure time; any time you have to spare would be time you could be devoting towards making your constantly insecure life a bit more secure, and once the sun goes down it's difficult to even do that. Anyone living such a lifestyle who took it as easy as we do in modern society would probably die in fairly short order.

It almost sounds like you're thinking about Thoreau or something when you write this, but it's worth remembering that in Thoreau's time at Walden Pond, he still relied upon civilization to live. He worked part of the year on a farm, he traded, he used tools made in civilization, wore clothing made in civilization, benefited from civilization purging the land of predators, and so forth. He was able to live so reasonably well in his minimalist lifestyle because he wasn't really living like an anarcho-primitive at all, but rather, simply went on an extended camping trip (which he eventually returned from).

---------------------------

When you suggest that the point of living is to have a good life, I agree with you completely. That good life can be far more easily achieved, though, within the confines of civilization. Within civilization you can achieve the kind of security needed to indulge in self-fulfillment. I have to admit that sometimes I've had the same kind of fancies that you seem to express in your post, but a deep consideration of the issue usually sets me right. That's not to say you don't make some good points though! In our pursuit of the good life in civilization, we often lose sight of the things that constitute the genuine substance of human happiness (positive interaction with our fellow man, the formation of a beautiful partnership bond, the enrichment of the mind, and so forth), and instead treat what should merely be means to these ends as ends in themselves (things like material wealth, career advancement, and social status). When we do this, we understandably become stressed and unfulfilled, but it's not society that causes this. Rather, it is our own bad choices.
Fox, your posts are so darn cool.....I wish you'd post more.

I agree with you. But, what do you say to the folks who claim that primitive man, or hunter-gatherers, had about the same amount of leisure time that us modern day, "civilized" folk do?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_affluent_society
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Old July 18th, 2015, 12:50 PM   #8

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Civilization? Great idea. Um, when we gonna get one?
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Old July 18th, 2015, 12:56 PM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by EpicHistory360 View Post
I sometimes think that, like anarcho-primitivism, a hunter-gatherer society (if it is a society at all?) would have significantly less problems. It would be easier, more fun, there would be leisure and everyone would have a fair life.
yes, until you have the pleasure to meet the neighbour group of people, wich had a bad year, their gather was small or they simply were lazy, so they decided to come to your village with weapons to plunder, kill the men, rape the women and take the childrens as slaves, end of the fun for the hippy anarcho primitive community.
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Old July 18th, 2015, 01:04 PM   #10

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A hunter gatherer society wouldn't be a bed of roses. While many of the stresses of the modern world would be gone, you'd now need to worry about where your next meal is coming from in ways that most modern people don't. You could be at the mercy of changes in climate or the season migrations of animal herds. You also wouldn't have the benefit of modern medicine and diseases easily cured on a trip to the doctor today could be fatal. Parasites like tapeworm and roundworms would make a come back. Infant mortality would also be high.
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