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The Barracks For stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else. Members can retire from the serious discussions elsewhere on the forums...and relax here.

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  #1  
Old 27 Nov 17, 14:14
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Civilization is Overrated

Why a leading political theorist thinks civilization is overrated

A new book challenges how we think about human progress.

EXCERPT:

Is civilization good for us? Has it made us any happier?

The takeaway from a new book by James Scott, a professor of political science and anthropology at Yale University, is that the answer to the first question is yes but it’s complicated, while the answer to the second question is, well, even more complicated.

In Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, Scott explores why human beings decided to shift from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a more sedentary, agrarian lifestyle roughly 12,000 years ago. The accepted narrative is that humans abandoned hunting and gathering as soon they discovered agricultural technology, because it made life easier and safer.

But Scott argues that this is not quite right. Humans, he says, spent thousands of years trying to preserve their hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Sure, settling down in agrarian societies provided the basis for the modern state by allowing large numbers of people to live in one place for extended periods of time, but it also led to the spread of diseases and forced people to give up the freedom of an itinerant lifestyle for the affluence of a modern one.
...
https://www.vox.com/conversations/20...ory-technology

Somehow I suspect that if this guy ran into the woods with just his birthday suit, he wouldn't last long at the hunter-gatherer thing.
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Last edited by G David Bock; 27 Nov 17 at 14:27..
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  #2  
Old 27 Nov 17, 15:27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by G David Bock View Post
Why a leading political theorist thinks civilization is overrated

A new book challenges how we think about human progress.

EXCERPT:

Is civilization good for us? Has it made us any happier?

The takeaway from a new book by James Scott, a professor of political science and anthropology at Yale University, is that the answer to the first question is yes but it’s complicated, while the answer to the second question is, well, even more complicated.

In Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, Scott explores why human beings decided to shift from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a more sedentary, agrarian lifestyle roughly 12,000 years ago. The accepted narrative is that humans abandoned hunting and gathering as soon they discovered agricultural technology, because it made life easier and safer.

But Scott argues that this is not quite right. Humans, he says, spent thousands of years trying to preserve their hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Sure, settling down in agrarian societies provided the basis for the modern state by allowing large numbers of people to live in one place for extended periods of time, but it also led to the spread of diseases and forced people to give up the freedom of an itinerant lifestyle for the affluence of a modern one.
...
https://www.vox.com/conversations/20...ory-technology

Somehow I suspect that if this guy ran into the woods with just his birthday suit, he wouldn't last long at the hunter-gatherer thing.
He isn't stating anything particularly erroneous.

Early farmers would have been in horrendous health compared to a hunter gatherers.

Just look at the health of the 7th Cavalry at the Little Bighorn, examinations of skeletal remains show that the vast majority were sickly, stunted toothless men.
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  #3  
Old 27 Nov 17, 16:10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paddybhoy View Post
He isn't stating anything particularly erroneous.

Early farmers would have been in horrendous health compared to a hunter gatherers.

Just look at the health of the 7th Cavalry at the Little Bighorn, examinations of skeletal remains show that the vast majority were sickly, stunted toothless men.
If it wasn't for the benefits of civilization I would have died of meningitis when I was 11. Had I by some miracle survived i would be starving now too feeble to hunt. No one would have had the leisure to develop writing and all the benefits of stored and passed on knowledge. As it was once put life would be "nasty, brutish and short"
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  #4  
Old 27 Nov 17, 17:42
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The garden of Eden was paradise not by standard of living but because their was no consciousness of nakedness.

Some hunter gathers seem to be fairly happy, say in the Amazon rainforest. Perhaps even some of the arctic groups. Where there are unusually confluence of resources and relative peaceful isolation combined with a lack of exposure to materially wealthier groups some level of contentment seems possible in primitive conditions.

The origin story in Genesis combined with the story of Cain and Abel is a great study in the causes of unnecessary suffering. Our instincts, feelings, emotions did not evolve to make us happy. In fact if we were happy all the time we would sit in our bliss until we died. From an evolutionary perspective Cain was more fit than Abel. The children of Cain seem numerous but he was a miserable murderous creature.

The real question isn't if civilized or settled people are happier than hunter gathers but if they have the potential to be happier. Happiness is an acquired skill that requires discipline, knowledge, training and perseverance. While I wouldn't suggest everyone needs to join a Buddhist monastery to find happiness it is clear that material well being isn't a sufficient condition.
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  #5  
Old 27 Nov 17, 18:36
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Were it not for civilization, there would be no money to pay for professors of political science and anthropology at Yale University.

Hmm, maybe he has a point.
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  #6  
Old 27 Nov 17, 18:46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Work_permit View Post
Were it not for civilization, there would be no money to pay for professors of political science and anthropology at Yale University.

Hmm, maybe he has a point.
You are forgetting that hunter gathers had their charlatans as well. Witch doctors and humanity professors have a lot in common.
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Old 27 Nov 17, 19:12
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You are forgetting that hunter gathers had their charlatans as well. Witch doctors and humanity professors have a lot in common.
Good Point.
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Old 28 Nov 17, 00:39
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A maxim of my own creation-

Being happy is the easiest thing in the world. All you have to do is put your Common Sense ahead of your Pride. *

And IMHO, it has nothing to do with how civilized you are, or not. I think that all being civilized does for this subject (and so many others) is that it facilitates navel-gazing.


*Yup, copyrighted
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Old 28 Nov 17, 09:01
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Cool

The first thing that looked a bit askew was the guy's shingle - PolySci and Anthro - ? What? Not that the two are mutually exclusive but aside from a few common areas, either/or should have been his path. It also seems that had never considered Charles Darwin's life's work. Man/civilization are in constant flux he and to nail down a few theories as ironclad just makes a person look rather two dimensional.
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Old 28 Nov 17, 10:24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfhnd View Post
The garden of Eden was paradise not by standard of living but because their was no consciousness of nakedness.

Some hunter gathers seem to be fairly happy, say in the Amazon rainforest. Perhaps even some of the arctic groups. Where there are unusually confluence of resources and relative peaceful isolation combined with a lack of exposure to materially wealthier groups some level of contentment seems possible in primitive conditions.
Provided that you can be content with a high infant mortality rate, significant numbers of women dying in childbirth and a life expectancy of about 35. But if you know no better ! One should also take a look at some of the parasitic illnesses that are harboured in the rain forests. May not kill but can make staying alive miserable. The happy noble savage is a myth and a rather silly one at that.
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Old 28 Nov 17, 15:16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkV View Post
Provided that you can be content with a high infant mortality rate, significant numbers of women dying in childbirth and a life expectancy of about 35. But if you know no better ! One should also take a look at some of the parasitic illnesses that are harboured in the rain forests. May not kill but can make staying alive miserable. The happy noble savage is a myth and a rather silly one at that.
"If you know no better" makes the reference to the garden of Eden relevant. They are "happy" if they are isolated but contact with wealthy cultures makes them miserable.
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Old 28 Nov 17, 18:52
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Civilization is not overrated. Most of us would not be posting here if it were.
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Old 29 Nov 17, 11:40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfhnd View Post
"If you know no better" makes the reference to the garden of Eden relevant. They are "happy" if they are isolated but contact with wealthy cultures makes them miserable.
Pain and discomfort also make people miserable, Food shortages and disease likewise even if they have nothing to compare their experiences with.
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Old 29 Nov 17, 12:38
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Civilization is not overrated. Most of us would not be posting here if it were.
Two different statements arriving at an unrelated and unsubstantiated conclusion. A does not equal B.

You begin by assuming, despite all historical evidence to the contrary, that our form of civilization is all that there is or ever will be. If it weren't here, we would have a different system, and there is no reason to believe that the internet would not be part of that system since it is already present throughout the world.

Furthermore, allow me to point out that our presence on this internet is more proof of lack of civilization, than proof that there is. There is nothing at all "civilized" about our actions.
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Old 29 Nov 17, 16:44
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This thread brings to mind Aldous Huxley
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