Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Social Order / Civilization /
Mission: to make us aware of the negative artificiality of civilization
The more important it is to define a term the less cooperation one will get from vested interests: God, truth, liberty, love … And we all have vested interests. Such terms elicit reflexive responses more than analytical thought. Civilization is such a term: in spades.
1998 11 28 I have to insert a comment before I have time to blend it with the mere beginning already in place [@ K. 1998]: my piece on duality shows a way of charting dualities, ambiguities, and so forth. Consider that there is a dual nature to civilization: that civilization is both “good” and “bad”, has both progressive and regressive features … There is the civilization which steals from the commons, wastes the theft, then steals more (typically through a “state”). Given time it will destroy everything. Then there is the civilization which would exercise knowledge and judgment to live, rather than chase chimeras into oblivion. There is the civilization in which all human organization is tyranny, whatever the vocabulary of its brainwashing; then there are also, and have always been, elements which would resist this, elements which are tolerant to a point, elements not purely chauvinist. The first is a malignant tumor on the biosphere. It must be defeated at any cost or all will be lost. That is, the biosphere as we have known, loved, and abused it will be changed irrevocably: degraded irremediably. The other is the civilization which must come into dominance. It too might be a tumor of sorts: we are, after all, large predators; but at best, it, we, could be a benign tumor.
Once upon a time I saw the expansion of highways as progress,
something we were owed for our excellence.
Now I see my seeing that as akin to a devil’s beholding his tail
and cloven hoof as sure signs of superiority.
To many, civilization means order, justice, culture, manners … It’s the antonym of savagery, barbarism, anarchy …
And so it was to me for first half of my life. In the mid-’50s, the Village of Rockville Center widened, repaved, and installed new lights along its section of Long Island’s Sunrise Highway. I first saw it complete while walking with a high school classmate at twilight. I offered heartfelt thanks and praise to the Deity. The first moment I touched the tires of my mother’s Chevy to that still nearly virginal pavement I felt the kind of chill you feel when sure that erotic ecstasy will swiftly follow. For an in-class English theme, I improvised a prose paean to civilization. I praised the might of cities and sang of highways ribboning the coasts to human bounty.
Now Highlands County is widening, repaving, and installing new lights along Route 27 from Sebring to Avon Park. I hate it.
Traffic has displaced … mobility.
What happened? I’ve studied anthropology and history on my own. I resist the comfort of acritical denial in my studies of ecology.
The monstrous fraud of civilization glared stark before his eyes; he saw it as a vast lunatic growth, producing a deepening torrent of savagery below, and above ever more flimsy gentility and silly wastefulness
H. G. Wells
I see more boats on the lake. The weeds of my favorite blue gills breeding areas are festooned with rusted hooks and abandoned monofilament. The spatterdock lily leaves are tattered before my own popper makes its first rip. You go to the water to find what’s left of nature but your vision is filled with junked tires and cracked porcelain toilets.
Month by month the roads smelled more strongly of petrol, and were more difficult to cross, and human beings heard each other with greater difficulty, breathed less of the air, saw less of the sky.
Now I mean something very specific by civilization and it’s all negative.
the subtracting of commons into property
the desertification of the land from salinization as a result of irrigation
feeding back into more and more and more of the above
dishonest and hypocritical institutions crooning lies
to a similarly dishonest and hypocritical population,
hypnotizing itself with superstitions,
deluding itself that no one notices the shell-game switch of cant for meaning.
the ratification of the fraudulent over the genuine
Civilized man is a danger to himself and to all else
What should we do about it?
Nothing. Leave it alone: it will fix itself.
Never interfere with your enemy
when he is in the midst of destroying himself
|1999 01 16 We must develop a more precise vocabulary for this and other issues. We need a new word for the civilization that must come to be: Civilization II? Sivilization? Civil-ization? Something trans-national, trans-political, trans-human chauvinist … Something that would respect life; not just property owners and other successful thieves.||
Rent and interest
We need it to be responsibly defined. Then we need to protect the definition from the Jesuitical dicing of lawyers and legislators.
Were I smitten by any of the above suggestions, I’d just start using it and hope you follow suit. As it is … any suggestions?
1999 08 15 Got one. The perfect one. Kleptocracy. We get it from Jared Diamond. He didn’t volunteer it to me — I only wish he knew this home page that I now know so parallels his own work — some publisher (can’t be like any of the publishers I know) has helped him volunteer it to the world.
Property is theft.
1999 07 25 We’ve all heard the mot: property is theft. Well, civilization is property. N’est c’ pas?
Therefore (N’est c’ pas?), civilization is theft. Therefore, our justice system is constituted not for justice, but to maintain injustice. Not just Socrates, not just Jesus: Sutter found out what happens to those who are too thoroughly in the right.
US drove the Lakota off their territories. Too squeamish to finish the genocide, US determined the most worthless land and “gave” it to them. That land included the Lakota sacred Black Hills. Trash. Let ’em have it. Then gold was found there. Whoops. US authorized Custer to do whatever was necessary to steal it a second time.
Imagine a Lakota somehow managing to find all the relevant US documents. They’d still do him little good. He’d have to know all the little procedures designed to keep the law in the family (the family of thieves). No lawyer would consider it. Thievery won’t get you disbarred: a little too much truth and you won’t just get debarred; you’ll get defenestrated. Worse: they’d snub you at your club.
1999 07 22 After decades of entreaty and appeal, sometimes poetic, sometimes rant, with little visible result. I find a kindred spirit: one apparently respected, actually published!, actually selling! Jared Diamond. I get my views from careful readings of Sir James Frazer and the great contemporary synthesizers of science: Nigel Calder, for example. Do you want to see these things well argued by a scientist, not just a rhetorician? Check out his writings. I write this note immediately upon finishing Agriculture’s Mixed Blessings, Part III, Chapter 10, of The Third Chimpanzee [Harper, NY, 1992].
Diamond has explanations, as well supported as they are unprecedented, coming out of his ears. All right on the money. No, no: not money! Right on the sense: the closest we can come to truth. He jumps straight to third place in my list of great teachers, right behind Prigogine and Bateson.
(The note above wasn’t my first discovery of Diamond: it reflects my discover of his word kleptocracy. Time as well as thought shows in these pages and paragraphs.)
Archangel Michael comes to visit St. Peter at the Gate. Peter is frazzled. Souls are standing all over the lawn. Peter’s gofers are tizzied, sweating, running in circles.
“Everything’s going wrong,” Peter complains. “We’re half way through the morning and we don’t even have all the names and addresses. At this rate we’ll still be at it at midnight and in no shape for tomorrow’s lot.”
Michael says he hopes he can make himself useful then. Here. Peter. Take a rest. Go lie down. Have a soda. Relax with a cherubim. Just first: give me a quick run down on what you do here so I can fill in for you.
“Well, first we ask them their name. Then we ask them where they come from. Then we ask them what they did for a living. Then … I don’t know: the gofers do that part. Anyway, then we let them through the gate … Damn gate! Half off its hinge. Won’t even open all that way. It was bad yesterday and it’s worse today.”
Go take it easy. I think I know how to speed this up. Don’t worry about a thing.
Peter takes a nap but comes back after lunch. Whole place is transformed. The lawn is empty of souls except for a trio of guys and just a few isolated stragglers. “Wow. Thanks, Michael. This is a miracle. But wha’ djya do?”
I analyzed the situation and quality re-engineered it. You were asking for name and address. I went out onto the lawn and asked all the doctors to step forward. Then I said who’s from the north, who’s from the south? Then who’s from New York, who’s from New Jersey. Then the same with the lawyers and so forth. Each platoon I brought up to the gate had questions three and two already answered. We batched the paper work. Bingo. All the major professions are already processed. You finish these couple of independents and go play golf.
“Oh, man,” Peter says. “I’ll be playing golf every afternoon from now on. I feel great. I’ll take these three guys myself.”
Answer three, Michael says, is: they’re all contractors. The skinny guy is from Mexico City but worked out of Sheboygan. The Italian guy worked out of Fort Lee. The Jew had an office in Manhattan.
Paper work’s half done, Boss, pipes a gofer.
“Great. I’ll take it from here. This is a tickle. I don’t usually see them after the first two questions. So: tell me guys: what’s a contractor?
You want something beeld, I beeld, says the Mexican. You want something feex, I feex.
Oh, it’s more than that, says the Italian. Say you want a driveway put in, a bigger patio around the pool … you gotta …
“No, wait a minute. You’re saying you fix things?”
All three chorus that that’s right.
“Take a look at this gate,” Peter says. Could you fix something like that?”
Si. Yes. And so forth.
“This is very interesting to me. Fascinating,” Peter confesses. “The fact is that this gate really does need to be fixed. Show me the steps. How you I get you to fix it?”
You let us give you an estimate, says the Italian. Then you hire the offer that sounds right to you.
Three t’ousan’ dolla, says the Mexican. I feex.
“Fascinating,” repeats Peter. “You just look at it and just like that you know a price? What made you say that price?”
Furs’ they’s materials need: welding torch, solder, rivets, paint. T’ousan’ dollar right there. They’s labor, help, someone hold the ladda’ … ‘nodda t’ousan’. ‘N I beesniss man. T’ousan’ to do beesniss.
May I talk to you in confidence? the Italian asks St. Peter. Don’t listen to the Mexican. It’ll work for a week or so and you’ll need it fixed again next month. He got his license in a flea market. He uses cheap foreign labor …
“How much would you estimate the job for?” Peter asks.
Six thousand dollars and I guarantee the work. Good as new. Carefree for years.
“And how did you come up with that price?”
Materials, labor, and business, just like the Mexican said. But I use only the best materials. I hire only quality labor: union. 100% Italian. We’ve been fixing things for thousands of years. And business: I’ve got administrative costs … and I’ve gotta make a profit. I don’t work for nothin’.
“And what do you say?” St. Peter asks the Jew who’s said little and is just standing there, smiling and looking at him pityingly.
The Jew takes St. Peter’s arm and guides him aside. One hand he leaves on his arm, the other he puts on his shoulder.
Nine thousand dollars. I guarantee you like it better than new.
“Just like that?” Peter asks. “No pencil and paper? Nine thousand dollars? All figured in your head? How did you arrive at that figure?”
It’s simple: three thousand for me, three thousand for you, and three thousand for the Spick to do the work.
The Hilton Head architect who told me that joke guaranteed that it was the quintessential contractor joke. I received it as the quintessential business joke. I repeat it to you as the quintessential civilization joke.
Cheating is OK so long as you’re in on it
The joke works for communism every bit as well as it does for capitalism. Every form of kleptocracy. I don’t think a native in the Kalahari Desert would get it. God bless him.
… Neatness, decision, and obedience, virtues of the second rank, no doubt,
but have have formed our civilization.