The greatest lie we live with is actually a chain of lies or misconceptions generated by the idea that civilisation is something inherently good.
This lie is easy to detect and unmask. If we want to subvert the system and make the foundations of civilisation’s so-called unquestionably benign existence start to crumble, all we need is to affirm any of one of the many irrefutable axioms such as all civilisations have erected themselves on the backs of enslaved or over-exploited human beings …
… Ah yes, if only reality’s truths were so easily rationalised; those who have tried, know fully well that any criticism of systemic reality is rendered mute by the mere fact that the system is reality, and that makes any interrogation of it seem impertinent. And even if such criticisms were able to force a confession out of the system, civilisation has an enormous bag of counterarguments to defend, albeit apologetically, its own dogmas. We might be told that civilisation is an evolutionary phenomenon, in which moral standards are in a constant process of development and that, because of this, we should not judge past civilisations with our own present standards; or that the ends (the sublime complexity of civilisation and the benefits that such complexity has to offer) justify the means (the blood and iron process of the enslaving and exploitation of the billions of individuals who have had to suffer incredible hardships, torture or death in order to establish the great benefits of civilisation’s complexity that some few freely enjoy today).
To make matters worse, any attempts to find a truly humanistic escape from the exploitive nature of civilisation, have been gelded by the problems and failures of the most effective trials so far, the communist revolutions. Communism was right in pointing out the tyranny of Wealth embedded in the system, but wrong in throwing humanity out of the window in order to promote a class war. For the nature of the system to be changed in favour of humanity, it is humanity itself that needs to make and control the change.
To unmask the truth about the system we need to analyse it, dissect it, and put it on trial. And to judge civilisation, we need to know its purpose. Only then can we estimate how well it has been able to serve and develop that purpose, or, more importantly whether such a purpose is universally desirable for those who are experiencing the realities which the existence of civilisation creates. Once we have begun such an unveiling of prime objectives, we immediately start to see how well the inherently abusive phenomenon of civilisation has been able to disguise itself behind a mask of something good.
Civilisation is a form of organisation, and the good argument will say that it is an organisation geared toward the creation of wealth and prosperity, by which a positive thinker would assume wealth and prosperity for all. In truth, all civilisations have built their wealth via a massive exploitation of labour. Whether real slaves, under-paid sweatshop workers, or other paid workers enslaved by commitments to abusive mortgages or loans, the result is the same: a malevolent exploitation of humanity.
The defining clause of wealth and prosperity for all cannot be applied therefore without creating a huge misconception about what civilisations are. The fact that civilisation as we experience it today has a deeper divide between rich and poor than ever before, only reinforces that civilisation is most definitely not designed for the wealth and prosperity of all human beings.
Once humanity is brought into the equation, all civilisations sadly fail. Humanity as a measure of things, seriously questions all of our positive conceptions about civilisation, making them quite obviously misconceptions. Through the prism of humanity, the light of civilisation has a very dark hue, emitting a list of absurd acts perpetrated over and over again by all civilisations which are anti-human and, ergo, uncivilised.
To judge a civilisation fairly we cannot obliterate the idea of for all, for it is embedded in our moral preconceptions of what a civilisation should be for. That civilisations have not progressed in favour of humanity, demonstrates a lack of real progress in civilisation itself. Yes, there has been technological progress that all of humanity today are able to benefit from, but at the same time, we are also suffering the consequences of such technology which are, in a fundamentally exploitive system called civilisation, designed to exploit the human component of that civilisation to the full.
That technological progress would have been impossible without civilisation is a powerful argument in favour of civilisation. Primitive people, like the Australian aboriginal cultures, never conceptualised the use of the wheel, but then again neither did the advanced civilisations of the Incas or the Aztecs. Organisation helps progress, but the idea of civilisation goes beyond simple organisation, it is organisation with a purpose, a purpose which should be to benefit humanity, yet this has rarely been the case with any civilisation. For a civilisation to be good for humanity, it needs to be explicitly and pragmatically good for humanity, and that has never been the case. It has never really been benign to humanity because its real purposes have no intention of doing such a thing, because its real purposes are always for the benefit of power-wielding groups. Humanity demands democracy, but civilisation has always fed its population with some form of oligarchy.
What this indicates is that our relationship to the term civilisation is not an authentic one because we constantly misinterpret the meaning of the term. How beautiful and impressive would civilisations have become if they had really developed in an authentic way, for humanity rather than for the privileged few.
Things are not the way they are because they have to be that way. If things should be a different way, then they should be a different way until they are: but the should be will only ever become the way it is when we understand the authentic human purpose of all things human.
At the moment civilisation is a term bestowing Wealth with a legitimacy to remain. Civilisation, in its pragmatic sense, is a message endorsing the necessary endurance of the presence of Wealth. It is a nexus between wealth and us that allows Wealth to perpetuate itself and become ever and ever stronger.
But for civilisation to really exist, it has to be everyone, and the outsiders can no longer be seen as barbarians nor the slaves as labourers. It has to be democratic in an idealistic way: anti-oligarchical and anti-plutocratical. Under the mask of benign terms like civilisation and democracy, Wealth is able to obtain a stable, enduring presence. Whenever threatened it can conjure up the image of barbarians or infidels, civilisation’s age-old enemies, and rally the polis around its flag to save the civilised world once again.
The civilisation of Wealth has always promoted itself, in whatever form it takes, as the only possible form of organisation, seeing itself as the necessary space: that which needs to exist before any meaningful architecture can take place. This, of course, is a misconception. Civilisation is a mode of organisation and is a result of organisation. Organisation is the primary principle and civilisation is the answer to the question of purpose tagged on to the organisational process. Civilisation is always a response to the what for of the organisation. Quite clearly there can be no singular answer to that question. However, for civilisation to progress and evolve the answer has to be for humanity.
Civilisation should be an enabling power in itself for all human beings, instead of a masking tool for the interests of Wealth. In its present state, civilisation is lacking, it lacks humanity, because it is not truly at humanity’s disposal.
As a term then, civilisation is our greatest hope, but it is also our most miserable perdition. We think we have it, but really it has us. It entwines our lives in a complex web of relationships that enslave us to the purposes of Wealth. It is the greatest lie.