Two Stones

Foundation Stones of Civilization

Civilization cannot exist without two foundation stones: one real, the other imaginary, both essential. The real foundation stone is privilege: all things may be equal in nature, but not in civilization. The imaginary foundation stone is rhetorical: it concerns ideas, ideas which cannot be rationally demonstrated: ideas such as “law,” “justice” … In other words civilization exists only where privileged persons explain to unprivileged persons why they have to go to school, why they have to pay taxes, why the state is necessary, why they have to call this person a criminal, and why they have to jail or execute that person: to be fair.

People existed for a long time without civilization, without government, without human-concocted laws … People lived in groups. The groups had customs, beliefs, taboos … But then a group imagining only some among many consequences subtracted land from what was common among species so that humans could grow wheat on it: or rice, corn, beans.

Once upon a time anyone and her mate and her children and her neighbors could snare a bird on that land or follow a migrating animal, take a nap, or get eaten by wolves. Once the wheat had fed so many so that there were so many more, then he and his family and his cronies had to chase the bird, kill the animal, disperse the nappers: all to grow more and more wheat (rice, corn, beans … engine blocks, transistors … social networks …

Who gave the wheat growers this land? Why, God did, of course. God appeared fairly early in the rhetoric. God gives rules for the rhetoric, God gives laws for the governed. God gives rhetoric such as law to the privileged.

But: if you can build a bomb, and kill the law makers, the rhetoricians, then God gave you the rhetoric, the law, the privileges: and the wheat, the bird, the animal … and all the slaves.

Social Semantics

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
This entry was posted in pk Teaching, sentience semiotics, social epistemology, society. Bookmark the permalink.

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