Wayne Holland: Nothing in Particular


Barbarism

—bringin' it on ...

 

A favorite movie (and book) genre is sci-fi, especially the apocalyptic variety. The cinematic visions of the world after the decimation of civilization are somehow irresistibly alluring.

The radical notion of completely reverting to barbarism thus grows increasingly attractive.

Civilization has a way of bringing out the worst in people, from their deceitful and conniving ways to their apparent helplessness in the matter of managing themselves, whether it is in the matter of sustainable populations or sharing the resources.

It is civilization that is ultimately responsible for the fact that there is currently a population of some 7-billion human souls swarming the earth. There is little doubt that the earth itself would be much better off with a much smaller contingent of humanoid creatures trampling about its mountains, prairies and deserts, spoiling its waterways and so on.

It would also be a more enjoyable world for the human beings who continued to live on the planet if they did not have to contend with so many others of their species. It is generally agreed that a total population of a half-billion humans would be close to ideal for planet Earth.

We essentially have no control in the modern world. It is true, from one perspective, we never have control, even from the very beginning. None of us has asked to be here. None of us made a choice about being born.

But it is one thing to lack control over the most fundamental features of our existence, and quite another to be overwhelmed by trivial abstractions.

Paleolithic Man had no control of his basic existence either, but it is doubtful that he was as fenced in by the day-to-day activities of his life as we are, which means that he wielded a certain command of his circumstances that we do not. In short, he had liberties that we can only dream about.

Consider his movements. Barbaric peoples were at much greater liberty than we are to move about and explore. Compare this to our present situation, where there is not a single square inch of land in the entire North American continent that is not owned by someone. How much real liberty do we truly have to rove about? Virtually none.

The very idea of owning land was incomprehensible to primitive peoples. Ownership (of anything) is a purely abstract notion, and the ability of our distant ancestors to engage in such subtle abstractions was not nearly as developed as ours.

It is very likely that our obsession with abstractions lies at the root of all our modern problems. By contrast, Paleolithic Man was more driven by the real than the abstract.

One of the most compelling abstractions that seems forever to be goading us is undoubtedly the one that is so obsessed with the notions of right and wrong, good and evil, inventions that form the foundation of our so-called laws. Barbarians could truly echo the words of Judge Dredd on this matter (albeit from a totally different perspective): I am the law!

March 31, 2008


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