Example Of Crisis Of Civilization Essay
Every generation has its crisis, be it ridiculously large and involved or smaller and less impactful upon society. Civilization, since its inception into the human experience, has always experienced highs and lows that define an age, give it the unique, unforgettable feel that is not soon forgotten, and also stamp it somehow into history. From a geological standpoint there will always be crises that are just on the horizon, disasters both natural and manufactured that are waiting to be realized. Civilization, humanity, is often its own undoing, and in effect remains the unspoken crisis for which there are no ready solutions.
In the documentary The Crisis of Civilization, Dr. Nafeez Ahmed goes on to say that in order to solve the mounting energy crisis throughout the world that population will have to decline. (Ahmed, 2013) This is not to state that the mortality rate worldwide should be raised, but rather to state that at this current time, the sustainability of the world’s population and its energy consumption is not possible to maintain without a severe drop in population growth. In his words those living in the more industrialized areas of the world are using the greatest amount of energy while those living in underdeveloped countries are using only minimal energy use.
Population is perhaps one of the greatest crises to affect civilization and industrialization as it is one of the few factors within human society that cannot be so severely regulated without impugning upon human rights. While those in less developed countries are having more children, the act of forcing birth control, or controlling fertility in one manner or another, violates the right of procreation that allows couples to decided when, how many, and how far apart their children are in age. (Center for Reproductive Rights, 2009) This is an internationally recognized right that leans towards both procreation and human dignity and is vigorously defended by several different organizations, including the World Health Organization.
The reason for arguing on the behalf of humanity is simple: humanity is its own self-centering crisis. Before the industrial age there were still crises that began and ended with humanity, and before that, the same. No matter what age we live in, humanity is its own downfall, and its own hope. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “That which does kill us makes us stronger.” (Nietzsche, 1889) This quote has been handed down throughout the generations since as a small piece of entertainment as well as a widely debated ideal that has been proved and disproved from one argument to the next. The true question that remains is whether or not it is true.
Such things as have been claimed to be the cause of breakdown in civilization such as terrorism, ecological disaster, financial meltdown, food shortages, and even dwindling oil reserves are very real problems, but in this day and age, they are not the worst thing that could happen. Humanity was not built upon the luxuries and conveniences we have today, in fact in third-world countries life is as close to the beginning as it could ever be, and as hard as life is in its simplistic form, it is still survivable. There is no doubt that without electricity, which relies heavily upon the dwindling oil reserves, or the proper medical treatments and medicines, many upon many individuals would perish without the proper, needed care. The mortality rate throughout the world would rise in such numbers as have not been seen in a very long time.
Food shortages would factor into the equation quite naturally as well, as less food would further weaken already starving civilizations and therefore increase the mortality rate. Ecological disasters are something that humans have little if any real control over. Whatever control is imagined is that which falls under humanity’s need to control our surroundings, which in all honesty is not entirely possible. Nature will often balance itself, either quietly and in a way that is highly beneficial, or violently and in a manner most devastating to most if not all species.
The idea of financial meltdown is at first hard to equate with the more basic needs of humanity, but when one thinks over it carefully the world of the current age is highly dependent upon currency and what it can bring those who have the means to pay for what they need. So dependent has the world become upon money in all its forms that a meltdown of this type would likely bankrupt entire nations and thereby force them to lean harder on their people or otherwise find another, less pacifistic solution to their monetary problems.
On a broader scope this world has been undergoing change, both violent and passive, since before mankind ever became aware of themselves. In a purely “big picture” sense, humanity has only been here for the blink of an eye on an ecological scale, and has no true idea of what true crisis is like other than that which is made by our own hand. While it does not do to downplay the plight that we as human beings must face from day to day, it is a measuring stick that reminds us as a species that we’ve seen very little in the way of any true disaster. Of course, granting that our way of life is what is truly under attack, the problem becomes a bit more personal and thus far more dire within the narrow scope in which most humans operate.
A much more dire and moral and ethical issue that can be seen as a true threat to civilization is the ongoing threats of terrorism around the globe. While there are some locations that are affected far more by the constant threat to their way of life, the entire world suffers when terrorist tactics are utilized to garner fear, suffering a blow to both human dignity and the very core of what a civilization is supposed to represent. More than that, terrorism has another decidedly negative effect; that of creating paranoia and mistrust among civilizations where personal freedoms and rights are generally taken for granted.
One good example of this is the Bill C-51, which has been proposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This bill is designed to stamp out terror within the provinces of Canada, but also puts forth that the threshold concerning the suspicion of terrorist acts will be significantly lowered so that police officers may act solely on the presumption that something is about to happen, not the assurance that it will. (Roach, Forcese, 2015) In other words, privacy for Canadian citizens would be greatly reduced, as nearly every word, every communication, and every act committed be it benign or suspicious, would be up for interpretation.
As a mere example this bill is a good representation of one aspect of an imploding society. At the root of everything, every last wall that humanity can see crashing down upon them is fear. Fear of what might come next, or what might not. Fear that our people will not last into the next millennium to harvest the fruits we so desperately sow with each passing generation. That is the true collapse of civilization, but one that cannot be fought against like any other. Fear is a byproduct of emotional response that is caused by the presence or appearance of a situation that cannot be controlled. It is not an illusion, but it is a mental approach to a problem that can topple any civilization if it is followed closely by those who see no other options left to them.
Another issue that can strike at anyone and give no warning is the sudden collapse of a viable job market, which could easily result in a massive increase in not only the unemployment rate but also the amount of homeless that can be seen upon the streets, in the shelters, and elsewhere, perhaps holding signs asking for money on the street corner. Many would seek to either help or ignore such folk, though will gladly ignore that the poverty issue that has driven people to this level is yet another risk factor to civilization that must be addressed.
True poverty is seen in two differing ways, absolute poverty and relative poverty. While absolute poverty means that an individual or family cannot meet their needs, relative poverty is simply the lowering of a lifestyle by stripping away all luxuries and even a few necessities if needed. (Tepperman and Curtis, 2011) Those who find themselves relegated to this life rarely ever choose such, but in hard times it is likely that they will be seen either begging for change or else seeking to simply survive.
The advent of hardship in the lives of any civilization is nothing new. As a society people rise and fall within the many varying subsystems that exist in any civilization. What affects one smaller system will seem less of a true crisis than it might if viewed by another set. To say that crises that affect the world will be viewed the same by every last society and every last subsystem is a bit naïve, though it is understandable as the issues that have been put forth affect every last person in one way or another.
As mentioned above, fear is what drives the heart of any worthwhile crisis, the fear that something, or anything, might elude the carefully laid control that is exerted by laws, by civilized edicts, and enforced by those who are charged with keeping those laws intact. Terrorism is perhaps the only true use of fear that cannot be fully controlled, falling short of an ecological disaster but still remaining high on the list for the sheer virtue that it is unpredictable, irrational, and based upon opinion and emotion. Terrorism is fear in one of its most malleable forms, as it is often used to demean or degrade a target civilization or society. (Altheide, 2006)
The idea that civilization as a whole is in crisis is not too farfetched to be believed, but at this time it is a bit early to panic. Within any system that exists in this world it is possible to reform, rejuvenate, and eventually rebuild what was, or else improve upon it. Essentially what begins the process of bringing down any civilization is the society that runs it and is the major part of it. Social issues are the undermining factor in any humanity-run organization, and therefore the eroding factor that can come in many different forms such as religion, culture, ethnicity, and host of other means by which a society can fall and thus begin the ruination of a civilization. Social issues and the studies that seek to understand them are just as old as the practice of sociology itself. (Tepperman and Curtis, 2011)
Dr. Ahmed is not too far off-point when he describes how civilization is in very real danger of crumbling at times, but again it is a fear, not yet a concrete fact. That the great nations of the world will one day wither and fade is not a breathtaking analysis, nor even an earth-shattering revelation. Even the mighty Rome fell despite its size and influence, and America and other nations are little different. (Goldsworthy, 2009) As a matter of opinion, and from the models of past civilizations, it is almost a foregone conclusion, but not yet.
The panic and paranoia that go hand in hand with such bold predictions as this tend to only make matters worse, and hardly ever bring true resolution to the problem as they point fingers and otherwise hypothesize endlessly without any true idea of what must be done or how to do it. When the time comes that civilization faces a crisis that it cannot rise from, then Dr. Ahmed’s words will be credible and capable of being believed and taken as scripture. Until then however, the world is as it has been since long before our current civilizations existed, and will very likely remain that way until change, as it always does, becomes necessary.
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Nietzsche, Friedrich. (1889). Twilight of The Idols. Germany: Oxford University Press.
Reproductive Rights are Human Rights. (2009). New York, NY: Center for Reproductive Rights.
Roach, Kent; Forcese, Craig. (2015). Bill C-51 Backgrounder #1: The New Advocating or
Promoting Terrorism Offence. Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from http://ssrn.com/abstract=2560006 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.25600
Tepperman, Lorne, Curtis, James. (2011). Social Problems: A Canadian Perspective, 3rd Edition.
Toronto: Oxford University Press.