For most of us, growing up with the conventional paradigm of history, civilisation is something peculiarly human.
We learn about the dawn of agriculture and the rise of the nation-state as if these things are incontrovertible facts, not open for discussion. We are enculturated to believe that human civilisation – in particular, western civilisation – is something good, something to be proud of, something we humans can point to with a glow of satisfaction. Something ours. It sets us apart from the animals. And the plants, mycophites, bacteria, insects and viruses, too. Many of us really believe that human ingenuity, backed by human technology within the ordered structure of hierarchical civilisation, can truly set us free.
But who is this us? For civilisation as practised by homo sapiens not only expressly excludes, but also enslaves and murders non-human species in a breathtaking sweep of greed and consumerism, which sees the human being caught in the act of destroying the very planet which produced her..there’s nowhere to run, when we’ve trashed, poisoned and made sterile or toxic the whole earth, with all her bio-systems.
So I was thinking – and this is just me at the very start of a good old ponder – is civilisation, or the control system to use another symbol-set, the product of human beings, or are we the product of civilisation?
Stay with me a minute. What I’m asking, as preposterous as it may seem at first, is this: did we create the system, or did the system take us over? Is Civ in fact some non-physical meta-entity which requires a conscious species to live off and which is possessing us, even unto our utter destruction?
Odd though the question is, I would really like to give it some head room over the next few days.
Is Civilisation Ours, or are We Civilisation’s?