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Those Who Unmake Civilization

I've been listening to crazy people saying things like "someone isn't entitled to the presumption of innocence" and an accusation that is not only unproven but unprovable is "corroborated" in growing alarm. What goes through my mind is that this is the way you un-make civilization.

Part of the problem is that our civilization – arguably, at least in terms of keeping the most people alive and in relative comfort – is not normal in the history of the world.

This strange idea that each individual has rights, that the rights are inherent to them, that they deserve to be given due process and not simply destroyed because someone – anyone, or one of their betters – accused them of something is not only bizarre in terms of historical societies. It’s also something that took a long time to work itself through.

And ever since it’s been created there have been attempts to take it back to “normal human society.”

The attempts are usually the result of people who don’t understand the full horror that society used to be. People who think that society without all these “ridiculous” protections for normal individuals will be somehow better. Or people who understand how horrible it will be but think they will emerge on top and be able to make things serve a greater good somehow.

Part of the problem is that those people who are romantic – in the old sense, having little to do with couple dynamics – and read older books tend to read about the deeds of the nobility and therefore think that “noble” means good. Heck, our very language is corrupted that way so that “noble” means not of a certain birth and possessed of power, but full of great ideals. Because for a long time noblemen had power and thought that way, till language served their needs.

But there is a reason that not only in our long history but in the history of other peoples – Chinese, Indian, who never fully conceptualized “individual rights" —  there was no society wealthy enough or peaceful enough that the common individual lived as well as the kings of the past.

There is a reason that in Europe, where notions of class of birth remain (even when denied), the comfort of the common man is of so much less importance that their actual lifestyle lags behind that of the U.S. (Don’t argue with me. I’ve experienced both. Sure, if you’re very wealthy in either society your lifestyle will be comparable. But the great unwashed multitudes? Or anyone who has to interact with public spaces? Everything will be less comfortable, and this will be disguised as Americans being “weaker” and “needing” more comfort. It’s not true. It’s rather that the society in Europe never got their head around wooing the common man for his business, and instead approaches it top-down, telling the masses what’s good for them and what they don’t “need.” Our big business is getting that way too, publishing and tech most notably.)