A Mature Civilisation

What makes us humans different from other living creatures? Is it community? No, ants live in communities too. Is it agriculture? I dont think so. Some species of ants also do some sort of harvesting of their own. Is it tools and technology? Well, for all their real usefulness, I think, there are orangutangs and chimpanzees who are equally adept with tools used for their own survival. Is it our ability to subjugate other species? Think about it, there\’s always been someone at the top of the food chain. So if it hadn\’t been us, it would\’ve been some other carnivore. We are just slight improvements over them. Ok, then it is love? Yes, I can say love, in its unique human form, makes us different. But then all animals have their own way of showing love towards their mates and children. Moreover, love is quite chemical, instinctive and inexplicable. Our highly evolved brain is indeed remarkable, but it is not different. What is really different is what we have thought out of it.

Human communities are indeed unique but they can still be called improvements over animal communities of chimps, gorillas, lions, elephants, ants etc. But somehow, as a community, we have grown faster and larger than any other animal. Is that because we are clever? No.

Darwin\’s \’survival of the fittest\’ is a law that is strictly adhered to by every living species on this planet, except humans. Here lies our uniqueness.

Every species is eventually preyed upon by some other species, or is robbed off its food by its own. Animals kill each other and kill plants. Its their instinct. Pre-historic humans were perhaps similarly instinctive – hunting in packs – and if required, killing one of their own to snatch food or a mate. Groups of humans must have fought each other over limited resources. Serenditipity gave us a superior brain and we used it to advance our tools and technology. But we were still quite tribal and nomadic. Perhaps what prevented these tribes from becoming villages, towns and civilisations was conflict of interests. Limited resources, compulsions of survival and barbaric laws were reasons for these conflicts.

I feel it was a brilliant spark of an idea in some tribal chief\’s mind that propelled us into the era of civilisations. And that brilliant idea is called \’Compromise\’. He must have thought, \”Why cant we live together? Why cant we share everything? Lets compromise!\” Thence came the words \’negotiate\’ and \’dialogue\’. These words seem common today, but they must have seemed truly \’out of the box\’ and revolutionary in those days. But believe me, compromise, as a tool for conflict resolution, is today as uncommon as common sense. Thanks to that ancient tribal chief, human beings started to share resources, common land, started to put their heads together to solve their problems, developed a sense of security and leap frogged into the era of civilisations.

Everyone knows thats the greatest developments in science, arts and society ocurred during the times of peace and calm. Wars were fought for consolidation of resources and staving off competition. But the actual development happened only during the peace that follows great and devastating wars. It was, and still is, a great price to pay for good art. Human beings want peace more than art. They want security more than freedom. But we still fight – someone somewhere always finds an excuse. Civilisations taking centuries to build up are wiped off within a few decades. Simply because the new chiefs of human civilisation have forgotten the magic words – \’compromise\’, \’negotiate\’ and \’dialogue\’.

What makes humans different is not technology; or even civilisation. It is our ability to resolve conflicts in a consensual manner. Consensus, as a feature of human decision making, cannot be over-emphasised. It is the consensus of the majority that brings about stability, peace and calm. The measure of maturity of a civilisation is its ability to resolve its greatest conflicts through dialogue and non-violence. Conflict resolution is the best use we have made of our brains. Violence is a short cut, but violence is also exactly what we\’re running away from. Violence begets more violence. Violence is also infectious. People witnessing it get conditioned in it. It pushes them into further violence; or it lies dormant in their blood to explode out at some other time. Violence really spreads around like a sneaky virus. Violence is instinctive, brainless, base, animalistic ad totally illogical. If force has to be used, the best case would be to stop violence, not to crush it. But anyway, there is always a more intelligent and non violent means to end violence. How much and where you can compromise will tell you how much you can control violence. Non violence as a tool of resistance is almost forgotten today. To most people it seems more illogical than violence! What does that say about our civilisation? It tells us that either we\’re regressing, or we are nearing the end of our civilisation cycle, and a great catastrophe is waiting to happen that will wipe off most of us. We are no longer a mature civilisation.

JFK said, \”Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.\” Which of the current world leaders follows this guiding principle? We are rabidly scared of negotiating, not because we might fail, but because we might be seen as being weak. Since when have dialogue and negotiation become signs of weakness? Since we\’ve had intellectual dwarfs and cowards for our leaders. We, the people, are to blame because we let them be. Its our laziness and lack of responsibility. I believe that fear to negotiate is the biggest sign of weakness of a leader. Considering negotiation a sign of weakness is nothing but false pride, pseudo egotism.

How evolved or mature a civilisation is, is denoted by how much of its biggest problems it can solve through peaceful conflict resolution. By that standard, I think we are far from being a mature civilisation. If only our current tribal chiefs would sit down and talk it out…

Published by Anupam Choudhury

I'm a writer, editor, and blogger from New Delhi, India.

One thought on “A Mature Civilisation

  1. Anupam, it’s a strange situation that we are all in but I think mature civilization is the level of artistic accomplishment achieved by its peoples. That is what makes us different; we have the ability to make moral decisions. While animals choose based on their physical surroundings. Mature civilization is not to waste power in an empty space. Though it allows people to make the wrong choices and makes them strong enough to cope with negative consequences.

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