Lesson 4: Civilization does not protect us from violence. Civilization is itself violent.
The violent nature of civilization is everywhere around us, if we are willing to look. In the homelessness of people sitting and standing on city streets. In the shootings of Black men by police. In the burning of the Amazon rainforest. In the poisoning of the drinking water in Flint, Michigan. In almost two decades of American occupation of Afghanistan. In the incarceration of 1 in every 140 people in the U.S. In an industrial agriculture system which destroys biodiversity, topsoil, and human health.
We are taught that these are exceptions. But this is the rule of civilization. This really came home to me, oddly enough, while watching a television series, called “Black Sails”, about pirates in the West Indies during the early 18th century. What struck me was how the pirate characters talked about “civilization” as being something oppressive and violent. Though the pirates themselves were very violent, they also had communities and practiced a form of democracy.