Symptoms of a Sick Culture and The Start of Curing Them

17 Nov

This post is in celebration of World Philosophy Day.

“The practice of philosophy is a process benefitting the whole of society. It helps to build bridges between peoples and cultures and heightens demand for quality education for all. Philosophy encourages respect for cultural diversity, exchanging opinions and sharing the benefits of science, which are the conditions for genuine debate. This 17 November, let us rally together to harness the incredibly transformative potential of philosophy.”
Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO Message on World Philosophy Day 17 November 2011

I’m taking a passage of my All Time Favorite Book in the world.  Yeah grandiose tagging, because I mean it. I’ve read this book quite a number of times.  I would highly recommend this author to everyone I know and perhaps discuss sometime over any beverage of your choice.

The scene is set at the most dramatic event of the story.  If you want a spoiler, again, search engines are your friend for the eBook version (I’m still not getting the hang of those, but perhaps because I haven’t got a Kindle yet).

Or you are most welcome to borrow my travelling physical copy (scanned cover below).  I just need you to promise to send it back because it doesn’t want to be gathering dust on some stupid shelf on a weirdo’s place.  It needs to get around.

What are the marks of a sick culture?

It is a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group. A racial group. Or a religion. Or a language. Anything, as long as it isn’t the whole population.

A very bad sign. Particularism. It was once considered a Spanish vice but any country can fall sick with it. Dominance of males over females seems to be one of the symptoms.

Before a revolution can take place, the population must lose faith in both the police and the courts.

High taxation is important and so is inflation of the currency and the ratio of the productive to those on the public payroll. But that’s old hat; everybody knows that a country is on the skids when its income and outgo get out of balance and stay that way – even though there are always endless attempts to wish it way by legislation. But I started looking for little signs and what some call silly-season symptoms.

I want to mention one of the obvious symptoms: Violence. Muggings. Sniping. Arson. Bombing. Terrorism of any sort. Riots of course – but I suspect that little incidents of violence, pecking way at people day after day, damage a culture even more than riots that flare up and then die down. Oh, conscription and slavery and arbitrary compulsion of all sorts and imprisonment without bail and without speedy trial – but those things are obvious; all the histories list them.

I think you have missed the most alarming symptom of all. This one I shall tell you. But go back and search for it. Examine it. Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms as you have named… But a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than a riot.

This symptom is especially serious in that an individual displaying it never thinks of it as a sign of ill health but as proof of his/her strength. Look for it. Study it. It is too late to save this culture – this worldwide culture, not just the freak show here in California. Therefore we must now prepare the monasteries for the coming Dark Age. Electronic records are too fragile; we must again have books, of stable inks and resistant paper.

Dr. Kettle Belly Baldwin

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