Based on Walkabout, Is Civilization Is Mistake?
Like the Moon-landing, World War II, and Organized Religion, civilization has been a massive step for humanity. However, like most massive steps, whether it has been a step forward or backward is being widely debated all around the world. The topic of civilization, along with its implications on humanity, was indirectly and somewhat critically discussed in James Vance Marshall’s Walkabout, in which two very diverse societies crash, through three young children; two “products of the highest strata of humanity’s evolution” (Marshall, 24), and one, primitive.
There are always two sides, two opinions, when it comes to discussing civilization; the first explains how civilization has done nothing but aid humanity in improving and progressing, while the other outlines the ways in which civilization has damaged, abused, or corrupted mankind. Civilization has helped humans in both acquiring knowledge, and passing it on. “Whatever we have been able to learn of the mystery within us, comes to us as a dividend from Civilization, Inc. Whatever more we are able to bequeath to our heirs and assigns will come from Civilization, Inc. (Sproul). Civilization, referred to by Sproul as a business (Civilization, Inc. ), has provided means by which we can get information from countless resources. We have also been given the means to spread said information, and bequeath it to future generations. Thanks to civilization, humans are now able to communicate vast knowledge through the entire planet, something which was previously impossible. When civilization came, we were given the ability to cure cure most diseases, and the ability to provide mental and physical escape from pain and ailment.
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In Walkabout, James Vance Marshall explains how primitive cultures such as the Aboriginals, had members who were “a hundred percent physically fit,” die purely because “ a tribal medicine man has put the death curse on them. ” When civilization came, some ridiculous superstitions and phenomena (for lack of a better word) such as mental euthanasia were almost completely eradicated. The belief that death can be borne of a thought is gone, thanks to civilization. (Marshall, 24) Civilization has made the concept of change more acceptable.
It has removed the belief that all change is bad, and that it, more often than not, leads to bad things happening. Most humans are now, thanks to civilization, open to the possibility of change, and diversification. This openness is a major improvement from the ways of the primitive people, who believed that most change is bad. In Walkabout, the author writes that civilizations such as the Aboriginals, remained in the desert, “unchanged and unchanging, for twenty thousand years. Because of this belief, many cultures have quietly died out, practically unnoticed, simply because they remained obstinate about their harsh ways, their own modus operandi. (Marshall, 24) On the other hand, opposers of civilization have argued that civilization, among other things, has caused humans to become addicted to material objects. We humans have become so addicted to this “drug” that comes in the forms of “money, factory-made goods, oil, and electricity”, that we become helpless without this drug, and now see “any threat to its supply as a threat to our very existence. What’s worse, is that we, like any drug-addicted junky, are willing to commit vile crimes, including murder and theft, to acquire said objects. Material objects have become so important, that humans have forgotten the most important things in life. (Heinberg) One of the biggest fault-points in civilization is that with civilization, came weapons; countless weapons of all shapes and sizes, that are available for practically anyone from a child to a senile 80-year-old. Those weapons have made pointless, callous murder literally one finger twitch away.
Thousands of people are being murdered everyday with something that was only made available with civilization. Pre-civilization, cruel weapons were not so accessible to everybody, and so murder was not very spread. Many people think that “we’d be more civilized if all guns were removed from society. ” (Claudill) Wars, of course, are an exception when it comes to weaponry, but even those were much less numerous before this mass of weapons was at everybody’s disposal. If the human race continues along the same road of destruction, deterioration of humans in number will be faced.
Finally, and most fundamentally, Civilization has made humans forget their origins; who they are. Humans have “climbed a long way up the ladder of progress,” they have climbed so far, in fact, that the have “forgotten how their climb had started. ” Humans have evolved, completely forgetting how they used to live, and what they did with their lives; there is no trace of basic humanity left. Civilization has completely eradicated what humans had, some of what they enjoyed even, in primitivity. It did not just erase the bad; it erased everything. Marshall, 24) There can be no possible answer for whether or not a civilization is a mistake, for it has given humans so much, but also taken so much; it has provided, but it has stolen. There will always be a debate about civilization, both sides keeping their own opinions, and both sides trying to convince, force, or discredit the other. However, as much and as long as civilization is discussed, it seems very improbable, that, if primitiveness were to win the debate, anything can be done to discard of civilization, and just switch back to primitivity.