Barbarians in the 21st Century

What is evolution? Evolution is the gradual accumulation of improvement to an end point, it is not to be confused with Revolution which means a recurring change. Evolution can occur both biologically and culturally.Theoretically speaking, evolution only occur if organisms can improve their adaptability to enhance their survival, thus our biology and culture would both lead us to adopt trends that would benefit us.

Has evolution stopped? Perhaps it is staggered? No, not entirely, let’s look at it through two lens: The evolution of technology and the evolution of culture.


 

Technology is a collection of knowledge that enables us to improve out production of goods or services. Technology has been rapidly improved in the past few centuries to enhance our daily lives, yet this material comfort we have received from the our technological evolution is being despised by the barbarians. Take a look at few few quotes from Return of the Primitive:

An Asian peasant who labors through all of his waking hours, with tools created in Biblical times—a South American aborigine who is devoured by piranha in a jungle stream—an African who is bitten by the tsetse fly—an Arab whose teeth are green with decay in his mouth—these do live with their “natural environment,” but are scarcely able to appreciate its beauty. Try to tell a Chinese mother, whose child is dying of cholera: “Should one do everything one can? Of course not.” Try to tell a Russian housewife, who trudges miles on foot in sub-zero weather in order to spend hours standing in line at a state store dispensing food rations, that America is defiled by shopping centers, expressways and family cars.

 

Without machines and technology, the task of mere survival is a terrible, mind-and-body-wrecking ordeal. In “nature,” the struggle for food, clothing and shelter consumes all of a man’s energy and spirit; it is a losing struggle—the winner is any flood, earthquake or swarm of locusts. (Consider the 500,000 bodies left in the wake of a single flood in Pakistan; they had been men who lived without technology.) To work only for bare necessities is a luxury that mankind cannot afford.

But this is what the barbarians wanted, for men to suffer for his existence by not permitting him to transform his labour to produce higher revenue. However, this is completely an act for show, they still enjoyed all the luxury produced by advanced technology. Taking more flights than othersrenting luxury yachtlittering. The list goes on but we know one thing for sure, they don’t want to live but they want us to die.

City smog and filthy rivers are not good for men (though they are not the kind of danger that the ecological panic-mongers proclaim them to be). This is a scientific,technological problem—not a political one—and it can be solved only by technology. Even if smog were a risk to human life, we must remember that life in nature, without technology, is wholesale death.

Culture could be defined as the sum of individual achievement of men, more specifically, for a given group of people in a region.Though culture is the dominant idea, there lies dissenters who may digress. Culture is not to be confused as tradition, which is a set of belief passed on by a group of people to represent the past. Thomas Sowell wrote extensively on the subject of different cultures and why one is successful and one isn’t, for instance the different geographical condition such as having certain farming animals like ox helped to advance agriculture in Europe and Asia, having horses allowed for ease of transport,etc.

Culture is also used to adapt to the environment such as the case of cuisine where Korean food is generally spicy to help deal with the harsh winter or Thai food being sour and spicy to remove humidity and improve appetite. We can debunk the basic logical fallacy of cultural relativism which is a belief that different cultures are justified given the cultural context; A more extensive version of this fallacy is cultural moral relativism which expanded on the idea of relativism (reality is relative) to ethics (what is right or wrong) therefore horrendous acts not acceptable in one culture may be considered acceptable because of the different morality.

The Europeans spent years as barbarians when Ancient Romans considered them no more than “mercenaries” or “servants”. But they were able to recognise their backwardness and absorb the advanced technology when they were slaves to began a civilisation while others are still struggling for mere survival. Two modern examples of the adaptation to better cultures are Scotland and Japan.

Scotland was one of the most backward nations at the fringe of civilization in the early centuries (with Ireland being behind Scotland). As the Anglo Saxon conquered Scotland (both low land and high lands), resistance was common among the Scots. Until the 18th century, when the rising intellectuals (such as Adam Smith or David Hume) urged the population to adopt the English ways, Scotland’s advance in medicine eventually surpassed England (Checkland & Checkland, 1989).

Japan has a similar story. Before Japan was Westernised, it was a backward nation insulated from foreign ideas and resolved to constant warfare amongst themselves. When Japan was finally unified, the ruler also imposed the same rule of sealing from foreign influences (sakoku). When commodore Matthew C. Perry ventured into Japan and created the convention of Kanagawa in 1854, Japan became the forefront of technology. Japan is still the leading nation on technological advance even till today.

A different story of cultural conflict is between the Czechs and Germans. Despite being minorities in the Czechoslovakia, Germans were the primary occupiers of the upper class. After the second world war, Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia, the German skills and experiences were also expelled from a nation of primarily peasantry.


 

This is also the sad truth of the barbarians in the 21st century. The growing nihilism about the history is shocking, anyone who admires mathematics over numerology, biology over voodoo, astronomy over astrology is considered as a “euro-centrist”. But their attack on “open-mindedness” is solely aimed at one target, the value of rationality. But what if rationality is in fact better than blind whims? How can this oppressive culture provide sufficient food for people? How can this oppressive culture cure diseases? They have no answers.

Culture has evolved from collectivism of mere survival to individualism of enjoyment, but some are stuck in the mindset of barbarianism, which is evident in today’s college students who are dominated by the morality of the savagery. Rousseau’s noble savage is continually plaguing the ignorant with romanticised ideas about our objective reality. To address the original question about whether we are evolving? I would say yes as more and more people are able to reject the backward ideas proposed by the barbarians

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

 

Reference:

Checkland, O.,& Checkland, S.. (1989). Industry and Ethos: Scotland 1832-1914. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Further Reading:

Why Humans Might Help Strangers


 

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