“Many of us have been convinced that we carry the darkness within us, in our selfish genes. “It is simply human nature,” we’re told, “to rape and kill and enslave—and anyone who thinks otherwise is a foolish romantic.” This messaging not only offends our decency and dignity, it insults our intelligence. The depiction of human nature embedded in the narrative of perpetual progress isn’t science; it’s a marketing campaign for the status quo.” – Civilized to Death (Christopher Ryan)
‘Civilized to Death’ counters the idea that progress is inherently good. Chris Ryian argues that the “progress” defining our age is analogous to an advancing disease, but he does not deny the benefit from specific achievements. For example, child mortality has decreased dramatically. However, already in ancient times people lived well into their seventies once they surpassed the age of fifteen.
The ones constantly striving for more (as defined by our socio-economic system) and the so-considered wealthy and happy ones carry like all of us the same burden of perpetual dissatisfaction from the unhealthy structures and related human estrangement. Connections make people happy, and status and wealth often even come with isolation. Maybe due to the Corona measures put on us, the system favors the rich again in this aspect, as the resources and space available allow them to maintain a social environment more easily. The people told to stay in their tiny homes and away from their workplaces and closed public recreational opportunities can’t.
Nevertheless, this book is very timely, fair, and balanced. It does not ignore the signs of civilization heading towards a culmination point of destroying itself (as all high cultures have in the past). On the other hand, the author encourages a positive outlook that appreciates every individual’s humanity. Unfortunately, the capitalist system cannot successfully support us in living up to our potential and a truly vibrant life.
‘Civilized to Death’ does not only rely on a vast collection of scientific study results but convinces through well-illustrated arguments and impressive observations. By comparing ours to pre-historic life, the picture favors the genuine and content foraging societies. In contrast, the life our ancestors have preferred over hundreds of thousands of years (and still did/do when being offered/forced into civilization), contemporary men appear like disturbed creatures living in a self-designed zoo. If people don’t hoard and possess and instead have free access to natural resources (because these are not yet misappropriated and made scarce by the economic system, there is no reason to fight wars.
While we have learned to see the world from a scarcity point of view where we protect our feeling of never having enough, foragers felt rich given the abundance they saw available around them. Of course, their consumption was much less (and so was obesity and related diseases). Therefore, today’s high world population isn’t the issue at hand. Also, the small forager communities did not concentrate in cities and nations. They were characterized by inclusive, appreciative, and egalitarian structures that met their desire for anti-authoritarian co-living, collaboration, and mutual help.
The book offers many eye-opening findings and logical explanations for why progress in the wrong direction is not the gift that is sold to us. The tremendous amount of money in this world wants to grow, and personal growth seems to be coupled with such an understanding of richness. That’s why people accept being sold countless myths (not to say ‘lies’) and buy into the narrative of perpetual progress.
If we are interested in living a conscious life that respects us holistically as fully, healthily functioning, and enjoying human beings, then this is a fantastic read. The book connects the dots in an interdisciplinary way, and it courageously clarifies what many of us feel in our guts. There is hope for chances to correct the history of wars. We must look back far enough and learn from the times before the spread of our all-consuming civilization that constantly tries to fix its self-created problems with commercially driven symptom fighting. I hope you enjoy this enormous treasure trove of healthier alternatives attainable for everyone, society, and the future of all humanity and the planet.
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