Skip to comments.The Civilized Savage
Posted on 01/07/2013 5:11:13 AM PST by expat1000
"They hurry like savages to get aboard an iron train/And though it's smoky and crowded they're too civilized to complain."
"Bongo, Bongo, Bongo", Danny Kaye
The difference between the civilized man and the savage is that the civilized man follows the rules and the savage does not. A civilized man is quite capable of killing one, a hundred or even a million, so long as he is first outfitted with a uniform and a set of regulations telling him when and where to kill. A savage kills as he lives, without the need for rules and regulations.
The civilized man is bound by interdependent social compacts that control his survival. The savage does not depend on a social compact for his survival. He depends on himself. Even when his survival derives from the same system as that of the civilized man, he feels no sense of obligation toward that system. He exploits it, the way that he would exploit a honeycomb in the forest or kill the last mammoth without worrying what will happen when it is gone.
The modern civilized man with his giant and tiny screens full of information that tell him not only who won and who lost, and make him laugh and cry, but also update him on the latest social mores so that he can maintain his civilized status by staying in step with the march of progress, has learned to live by the rules. More than that he has learned to believe in the rules. The rules feed him and move him up the ladder where he will be able to buy more giant and tiny screens to stay in step with civilization.
The savage advances much more slowly up the ladder, even when he lives next door to the civilized man, but this is of little concern to him. The civilized man is concerned with advancement while the savage is concerned with sensation. The civilized man wants to better himself. The savage only wants to be himself. For the civilized man there is only the past and the future, but no present, but for the savage there is hardly any past and no future... only the eternal carpe diem moment of the present.
The civilized man builds trains, roads, telegraph poles, skyscrapers, fiber optic lines, satellites and organizations to link together and control his civilization. Faster communications and transportation make it possible to link together larger areas, economically and politically. Civilization expands and grows denser at its centers and increasing amounts of resources are diverted from the tasks of progress to the chores of administering impossibly large territories.
As forward progress slows, the civilized man begins to fidget aboard the iron train. Looking out at the lush jungle, he begins entertaining thoughts of becoming a savage again. For the most part he knows that he cannot actually turn savage. The awareness that he will have to give up his comforts to turn savage is embedded too deep within him. The savage does not understand that going feral takes twenty years off his life expectancy and kills half his children. And even if you explained it to him, he would not care for the savage does not believe in the future, only the present. It is this knowledge of the future that burdens the civilized man who longs to turn savage. It is this knowledge that he is determined to destroy to be able to escape once and for all from the iron train and into the jungle.
There are simple and effective ways of destroying that awareness of the future. The easiest is to use the pull of sensation to bury the mind in the present. Drugs are one way to accomplish this and sensuality is another. Constantly rushing into danger or burying yourself in noise will do it too. So long as your mind is forcibly tethered to some sensation, whether it is the aching receptors of the brain crying out for the new drug of choice that they have bonded with or any other part of the nervous system that is overloaded and whose overload cripples memory and long-term thinking, then you can simulate the state of mind of a savage.
Simulation through stimulation is ineffective. The civilized man does not properly turn into a savage, instead he becomes a hybrid, too civilized to be a savage and too savage to be civilized, with one foot chained to the iron train of progress and the other in the damp earth of the green jungle.
The civilized savage is the dominant figure of the latter quarter of the past century and of this century as well. This creature is a chimera of contradictions. He is a high tech back to nature fellow. He builds entire industries dedicated to harnessing the sun and the wind. He drugs himself with legal and illegal cocktails of chemicals to get in touch with his inner emotions.
Most contradictory of all, he believes that the sum of civilization lies in dismantling the military and industrial infrastructure that makes civilization possible and replacing it with a trillion dollar social organization that will reproduce some natural primitive order, as defined by the proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, a proverb that like the rest of his ersatz savagery he invented himself.
To become truly civilized, the civilized savage believes, one must become a savage, one must learn from the savages how to be civilized, by embracing civilized savagery and leaving behind the civilized savagery of imperialism, nationalism, capitalism and all the armies marching off to war and smokestacks belching smoke.
Social progress, to the civilized savage, is the only progress there is and he associates it with dismantling, what he thinks of as the artificial elevation of capitalism and the middle class, and restoring everyone to savage equality through a vast collection of government agencies. A village employing millions of people just to teach civilized men how to become savages by taking away their responsibility for the future.
In "the village", there are no fathers or mothers, parents do not care for their children and children do not look after their parents. There are no husbands or wives. Everyone is forever young, or pretending to be, and forever keeping it real, in the moment where no one has money and everyone has all they need, where no one works and everyone earns, where there is no past and no future, only right now.
This 20 trillion dollar subsidized fantasy of control freaks who imagine that they want to get in touch with a natural way of living has become the barometer of progress. Progress has come to be defined as the end of civilization.
The civilized savage is searching for authenticity under every plastic bush and ceramic turtle. He is all about keeping it real in an air conditioned studio surrounded by four kinds of flavored water. He wants to cut loose with a designated driver, hold an orgy with protection and build an artist's colony with social security benefits. Too stupid to be civilized and too smart to be a savage, he lacks the survival skills of either group. He cannot make it in the jungle,and on the iron train his only function is contributing creativity to the leisure of a mechanistic culture. Without the middle class that the civilized savage does his best to stomp out, he would quickly become as extinct as the mammoth.
What the civilized savage lacks in useful skills, he more than makes up for in creativity. Straddling the boundary between the immediacy of the savage and the foresight of the civilized man, he is able to blend both, combining ego and technique, emotion and rational order, to be a talented performer, a charismatic speaker, an ingenious artist, an evocative writer and a startling poet. In addition to this he is capable of starting all sorts of businesses, so long as those businesses involve finding a new way of catering to the leisure needs of the public or cashing in on government social spending. When the train grinds to a halt, then the passengers need to be fed and entertained, and so these are among the few growth areas of a society that is otherwise stuttering to a halt, bringing wealth comes his way.
The civilized savage sabotages the train and then opens up a snack food stand by the side of the road serving soylent green. He unionizes the railway workers, convinces them to spend the next month on strike, throws together three films about the dangers of rail travel, contributes the profits to a special fund to enable the victims of motion sickness to sue the railway and then runs for office on a platform of making the trains run on time, when what he really means is making sure that the trains never end up running at all.
Civilized men don't know what to make of the civilized savage. He is at once a repulsive and appealing figure to many. And even when the civilized savage oppresses them, they do not rise up against him, because they are too civilized to complain. Riding the train is a privilege of the social compact and they will keep riding it, mostly in silence, so long as they believe that the social compact of their civilization provides them with a measure of security. While the savages kill and riot, their civilized brothers clutch guns and wait silently hoping that tomorrow the track will be fixed and the trains will run again.
The rise of the civilized savage is a harbinger of the end of a civilization. But there is such a thing as the natural rise of a civilized savage, which is the sort of thing that took place in Rome, and his unnatural rise due to the careful plotting and planning of an entire ideology which found it useful to promote decay by empowering the civilized savages who were naturally drawn to it. And while the natural rise of the civilized savage may not be averted, the unnatural rise does not represent a national moral failing, but the outcome of a plan.
The Western civilized savage has hijacked civilization to serve the ends of savagery. The longer this state of affairs goes on, the more difficult it will be to get the train going again. But getting the train going again is the best way to shake off the savage appeal of the jungle. It is only when people see that true social progress is possible by harnessing the forces of industry and culture to move forward, that the claims that the civilized savage makes about social progress come to seem as ridiculous and antiquated as Soviet propaganda posters.
There is no way to defeat cultural defeatism but through success. The trains must run or the jungle awaits.
Sultan just keeps nailin' it day after day after day !
Truly gifted . . .
The more concise version, from Rudyard Kipling, a century ago:
AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
Thanks for that, Duncan.
What a gifted writer. This is the best piece I have read in a long time. It is both artful and insightful.
I am now pondering the prescription at the end. Does the neo-savage need to be challenged? Does he need to be forced to decide between savagery and civilized behavior in a way that he meaningfully feels? A way that challenges whether his life goes on in either a comfortable or stressed manner? That choice, I suggest, would result in him shrinking from his regressive ways and choosing to trudge along toward civilized behavior, if somewhat reluctantly, despite his inner romance with savagery. I doubt he is so stupid as to choose to permanently live as a savage.
Or maybe I am wrong.
I was reading through the Sultan’s piece, and almost line-by-line up comes Kipling.
I’m reminded also of one of the original Star Trek episodes which had a parallel universe, with an evil-twin Enterprise, and a transporter malfunction put the two Captains Kirk on the wrong ships.
“It’s easier for a civilized man to pretend to be a barbarian than for a barbarian to pretend to be a civilized man.”
Bill Whittle on the PJTV website does a wonderful recitation replacing "the gods of the copybook headings" with "the gods of wisdom and virtue" and replacing "the gods of the marketplace" with "the gods of the here and the now".
Really added to the poignancy for my 23-year-old daughter.
A must see (and hear).
Damn that was good. Brilliant.
Vachel Lindsey explored the issue of Savagery in his “The Congo”. It is still an accurate,evocative and provocative work today. It speaks to the savagery of today’s Urban Feral as it did the Jungle Feral’s behavior in Africa. Indeed, it can be said to describe the ultimate Urban Jungle which Germany created with the Third Reich.
We forget Lindsey’s prediction at our own peril, as savagery is in the nature of Man, whether black Congo savage of Nazi savage.
“Be careful what you do,
Or Mumbo-Jumbo, God of the Congo,
And all of the other
Gods of the Congo,
Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you,
Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you,
Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you.
Mumbo-Jumbo is in the White Mosque as I type.
Pournelle has been using that for a good while now to illustrate that current events are not “new” and that the Gods still hold sway. In particular regarding the deficit/fiscal cliff issue and the push for gun control in the wake of Newtown.
Very insightful question. We are all wondering too.
Resonates with deSouza's "anti-colonialist" theory. Soros' little project is well underway.
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