Base Camp is where visitors go to relax, unwind, and look up posts and articles from the years past.

The Perils Of Over-Civilization

Political correctness

There can be too much of a good thing. Liberalism for example, when taken to the extreme, can be as ominous and destructive as religious fundamentalism.

No empire is forever. No culture is immune to time. All societies, however advanced and “civilized,” have an expiration date, by which time they either have to morph, reinventing themselves, or perish altogether.

We rarely focus on the advanced societies and how it is their extreme sophistication and civility, not their bluntness, that eventually brings them down

We have heard everything there is to hear about the unfit and disorganized societies; about how they fail to make the grade, play the game, or keep up with the pace of progress at their own detriment. But we rarely focus on the advanced societies and how it is their extreme sophistication and civility, not their bluntness, that eventually brings them down.

Let us explore the subject a little further. Prod into the quagmire of civilization.

Take Rome, the template for Western Civilization. When Rome fell, she was the world’s most advanced society by many standards, whose sophistication could in theory match the force of the goths and other barbarians knocking at the gates. But she fell all the same.

The reason behind Rome’s downfall was her distraction by increasingly trivial and meaningless topics of conversation, which allowed those in power to abuse Roman wealth while her people and representatives were busy fighting over inanities.

As a result, Rome eventually crumbled under the weight of her ineptitude, which her enemies exploited patiently.

I have a word for this condition: ‘over-civilization’; a process whereby the downturn comes about from being too civil i.e. more preoccupied with propriety than outcome. People become engrossed with variety rather than functionality, with what exists rather than with what works. They fret over every single point of view out there in the name of multiplicity. They become obsessed with all the anomalies in the system, which they deem insightful (many of them are, true), but they do so to such as extent that they lose their sense of direction, heading in every which way. Soon, what works is swamped by what doesn’t, all in the name of variety and pluralism, and for a moment (see generations in terms of history) everything drowns in a deluge of mis-information.

Let us not kid ourselves. Corruption and graft, and cultural fatigue, play a major role in the decadence of cultures, no doubt about it. But over-civilization crunches things up, or makes them spin on the spot. A culture can only deal with so many viewpoints at any given time. If consensus cannot be readily achieved, order gives way to the hit-and-miss nature of chaos.

Julius Caesar would never have imagined that the majesty of Rome’s sophisticated system would be reduced to banter over self-serving trivialities (image source: www.teachers.saschina.org)

See, civilization is not an antidote to chaos. Things can still be in tatters even under the most auspicious circumstances. With civilization they’re simply more presentable and palatable.

Admittedly, it takes time for things to break down completely in over-civilized societies. But break down they do, with each unwarranted display of empathy and with each misplaced exercise of democracy. Too many cooks spoil the food. Too many guardians screw up the child. It’s that uncomplicated.

Whoever grows too strong in any field, be it physical or abstract, will inevitably crash and burn, making way for something fresh, improved and exciting

Irony yet again. Civilization, the cause of a culture’s downfall? How superbly crafted. The scriptwriter of life on Earth, be it God, a simulation programmer, or sheer time, is wicked. And smart. The dynamic is loaded with an anti-hubris algorithm, making sure that whoever grows too strong in any field, be it physical or abstract, will inevitably crash and burn, making way for something fresh, improved and exciting.

Goodness is no exception to the rule. There can be too much of a good thing, too liberal a thing, too empathic a dynamic. Cross the line and down everything comes, displacing abstract and self-righteous morality in favor of something more rooted in common sense.

And there you have it. The common ground between overzealous liberalism and radical religion. They are both self-serving, unreasonable and counterproductive.

Sorry, uber-liberal friends. Your number was up.

Eyes open, mind sharp.

PS – Voltaire didn’t voice the quote in the top image. A man by the name of Kevin Alfred Strom did, in so many words. But the image spoke wonders, so I chose to run with it.

Leave a Comment