Why when you say it do I think of…

Posted: November 20, 2009 in Rants

Gerard Butler?

Heh, oh, he of whom I speak knows of what I speak…

But for the rest of you- it has to do with the word “civilized” and the thought that comes to mind when I say that word.

Especially if I happen to be eating an apple whilst my comrades build a wall out of the slain bodies of our enemies, but that hasn’t happened since May or so…

oh, wait…

Anyway, apparently I have a way of saying “civilized” in a manner which suggests anything but.  Perhaps it is a gift, but I don’t know.  I *personally* tend to think  “civilized” is one of the most over rated and over used words in the English language.  “Civilized” is often a cheap coat of gloss thrown over monstrosity, the smile aimed at your face while a knife heads for your back.

I am no so sure I believe in civilized.  I mean, the word- with a definition, exists and all, but I think often it is a cop-out.  Honest is better.  To the point is better.  Even amicably disagreeable is a step up.

Civilized is stage dressing…and as you all know- dressing is for salad.

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Comments
  1. rootietoot says:

    “I am no so sure I believe in civilized. I mean, the word- with a definition, exists and all, but I think often it is a cop-out.”

    Beer and popcorn vs whiskey and drag racing?

    I picture proper women with their knees together, sitting in the parlor, politely and viciously discussing the affairs of whoever’s not there.

  2. Dead_Vladimir says:

    We’re all still animals. For most people civilization is a thin veneer easily stripped away. What is funny is how many people are blind to that fact despite it’s obivousness (for example look at the behavior in New Orleans during Katrina).

  3. Erik says:

    I am going to defend the value of acting “civilized,” meaning restrained, cultured etc. That sharp-tongued Washingtonian Miss Manners has written devastating critiques of the notion that “honesty” requires the disavowal of the forms of “civlized” behavior. Privileging “honesty” – especially as it is constructed by our self-actualizing, therapized and entitled classes – leads to a culture of ascending irritation.

    Observance of manners, she believes, are necessary to protect the dignity of everyone, especially society’s less powerful members. In my own work with poor communities both here in the US and abroad in the developing world, I have observed that acting civilized and honoring protocols around respect are critical — much more critical than when interacting with affluent Americans.

    As for “civilization” itself – which some of the comments above go to – as opposed to “civilized,” the former really should not imply a moral statement. Civilization refers to a level of social complexity including factors such as agricultural development, occupational specialization, urbanization, trade etc. There is no correlation between social complexity, aka civilization, and moral behavior, including civilized manners.

    • Ren says:

      I disagree, treating people with basic human respect is not the same as “civilized”, “civilized” actually has an air of classim to it really, and in truth, often people who seem the most civilized are the most hateful, barbaric and disrespectful sorts once you scratch the surface.

      • Erik says:

        I think you are equating acting civilized with snobbery. You will not find this in the dictionary definition, but Miss Manners would agree with you that such an equation is frequently made. She resists it, and so do I. In my experience poor people are at least as likely as the affluent to act with politeness, restraint, appropriateness and the other elements of manners. Especially if there is reciprocation.

        Certainly there are people, from all classes and walks of life, who can appear civilized but then act hatefully and barbarously as you say. I would say that such people have only feigned being civilized but that actually they are anything but. Just as some give a convincing imitation of honesty while being deeply dishonest and others fake peacefulness though they are violent at heart.

  4. rootietoot says:

    civ⋅i⋅lize
    –verb (used with object), -lized, -liz⋅ing.
    to bring out of a savage, uneducated, or rude state; make civil; elevate in social and private life; enlighten; refine: Rome civilized the barbarians.

    civ⋅i⋅li⋅za⋅tion
    –noun
    1. an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, industry, and government has been reached.
    2. those people or nations that have reached such a state.
    3. any type of culture, society, etc., of a specific place, time, or group: Greek civilization.
    4. the act or process of civilizing or being civilized: Rome’s civilization of barbaric tribes was admirable.
    5. cultural refinement; refinement of thought and cultural appreciation: The letters of Madame de Sévigné reveal her wit and civilization.
    6. cities or populated areas in general, as opposed to unpopulated or wilderness areas: The plane crashed in the jungle, hundreds of miles from civilization.
    7. modern comforts and conveniences, as made possible by science and technology: After a week in the woods, without television or even running water, the campers looked forward to civilization again.

    So I think both of you are right, technically. It’s all in the connotation you choose.

    • Ren says:

      heh, gotta watch those Romans EVERY second!

      • Erik says:

        Does anybody else love the opening scene of “Gladiator”? “On my command – unleash hell” and all that. Perhaps I would feel differently if it were not the Germans being “civilized” with extreme prejudice – to quote another favorite film of mine – by the Romans. Probably not so smile-inducing to see the Jews at Masada or the jolly Gauls like Asterix and Obelix under fire from the ballistas.

        • Ren says:

          I think I titled a post on the old blog with that gladiator quote…not sure though.

          And I think the Romans did a whole lot of things with extreme prejudice.

          • rootietoot says:

            well they were Right, right? When you’re Right everything you do is For The Greater Good and that makes it right, no matter what those irritating barbarians think.

            I do love the opening to Gladiator.

  5. sybil disobedience says:

    Civilized tends to = kill anyone not up to our standards until they’re either gone or broken into submission. For their own good.

    See Native Americans for example.

  6. machina says:

    “Why when you say it do I think of… Gerard Butler?”

    Because any excuse will do?

  7. Ernest Greene says:

    Well, stubborn as I tend to be, let me stick up here for civilization, which is not the same thing as civility. The former is what enables us to do things like, say, blog on our computers. At its best, it creates a higher state of organization, not to be confused with order as an end in itself, that frees us to be creative in an atmosphere that rewards creativity and achievement.

    Civility is merely the imitation of the natural response a civilized person has in any social interaction. It’s weak tea at best and at worst just a cover for intentions that are the very oppositie of the the intentions that undergird the civilizing motivation. Not too big a fan of civility for its own sake. The term itself is loaded with implied hypoctrisy.

    Likewise, organization, which is the thing civilization provides, enables everything from scientific exploration to symphonic music. Order merely serves those with the power to impose it.

    Very slippery these slopes. And I say that as someone who has recently been traversing the whole civility thing to no good end whatsoever. If the best thing you can take away from an exchange with any human being is that it was civil at best, it was almost certainly something ugly just beneath the surface.

  8. rootietoot says:

    BEing civiliizes prevents me from crashing my buggy into the ankles of the moron who’s blocking the aisle at the grocery store, or standing up in church and yelling “YOU FAKE!” (because I have aspects of fakery, too). Being civilized is having boundaries, even if they’re pretentious or contrived. It does not, however, prevent me from typing badly.

  9. PS: I attempted a response and actually wrote several, but didn’t post any of them.

    They didn’t seem very interested in listening to dissenters, and that kind of intimidated me too.

  10. see I rate civility higher than civilization

    • Ernest Greene says:

      Hm. I find that civilized people tend to be civil by nature, whereas it’s perfectly possible for profoundly uncivilized people to affect an air of civility just long enough to get within stabbing range.

      • Dead_Vladimir says:

        see I prefer uncivilized people. They know they need to be civil or they offend someone and uncivilized people are not the sort you want to offend. Civilized people think that sicne everyone is civilized it is okay to be uncivil and offensive as they want.

        • rootietoot says:

          So uncivilised people are civil and civilized people are uncivilized, then?

          Strangely, I actually understand that.

          • Dead_Vladimir says:

            well yes i guess that is the gist of my point

            • Ernest Greene says:

              Actually, having grown up in Colorado, I kind of get this. It’s just not the kind of place to go around being rude if you expect to enjoy a long life.

              That awareness did impose a measure of politeness on ordinary encounters with strangers.

              It was kind of hte “Deadwood” style of civilization, though I’m not sure I’d like to see that adopted as a general model.

              Ot

              • Dead_Vladimir says:

                but that’s the truth behind civility. Peopel have forgotten it, and as we can see in our everyday lives, just being civilized doesn’t stop people from being selfish, offensive, and horrible. In fact civilized people do horrible things, they just lie to themselves better. I

  11. Mary says:

    I’m glad to live in a civilized country.To me it means clean water and laws to discourage people from killing me.

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