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What is Civilization? March 23, 2020

Posted by Peter Varhol in travel, Uncategorized.
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I never thought I would have to have an answer to that question before today.  To be fair, I’m not a particularly deep thinker, so I mostly see civilization as a gradual but extended run of increasing concern and action for our fellow human beings.

Today I learned otherwise.  Our collective response to coronavirus has severely shaken that.  Young Germans spitting on older people, shouting “Corona!”  French citizens who openly flout attempts to bring order to the chaos.  And of course, worst in my mind, American college students on spring break who don’t care who they may be infecting.  Of course they became infected.  The big question then becomes who might else they infect?

Because there seems to be a rather large segment of our population, in the US certainly but also worldwide, that views civilization as a form of, well, hedonism.  Civilization exists to benefit the individual, personally, in a large way.  They don’t care about what happens to anyone else, but they need to get something out of it, an advantage.  And if I have to step on some other people to do so, so be it.

I realize that it isn’t probably a majority of the population, but based on the last several weeks, it seems to be significant.

I am greatly troubled by this trend.  I had a somewhat personal involvement in 9/11.  After 9/11, it seemed that many people pulled together to help one another.  What has changed so much over the last twenty years?  I regret that I don’t know the answer to that, but even if I did, I couldn’t change the tsunami of time.

I am not a curmudgeon in the sense that I think that subsequent generations are inferior.  Quite the opposite.  Throughout my adult life, I have strongly believed that those younger than me would be in a civilized sense better than me.  It’s disheartening to think that the exact opposite has happened.

So, pray tell, what has happened?

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