An academic philosopher has been cancelled for stating that civilisation is for everyone. The idea of ‘civilisation’ has become very sensitive for those who fear that they are not regarded by others as sufficiently civilised. They suspect that others regard them as uncivilised. Oh dear. Soon ‘civilisation’ will join the list of banned words, along with ‘nature’, ‘humanity’, ‘reason’, ‘rationality’, ‘logic’ and ‘debate’. All these banned ideas are linked. To be civilised is to participate in society based on reasonable interactions with others. If we denounce reason and rationality, and resort instead to mob rule, cancelling those with whom we disagree, trying to get them fired, then we denounce civilisation.
Reason, rationality and civilisation are considered embarrassing because of the preponderance of white men who write about these liberal ideals. Given that white men are evil (do keep up) it follows that reason and rationality, their pet themes, must be evil too. This reasoning is back to front, evaluating ideas purely by the racial or gender identity of their proponents.
Start with the idea, not the identity of the speaker. If rationality appeals to you, embrace it. We all think with our brains, not with our gender or our history or the colour of our skin. It follows that we can all be reasonable. We can all read David Hume and discover for ourselves what all the fuss is about. Hume’s Essays Moral, Political, and Literary are available for pennies on the internet or in a public library near you. The cancel mob want David Hume’s name to be erased because he uttered hate-speech at his dinner table, in breach of Scotland’s new hate-speech legislation:
There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation.
No ingenious manufacturer amongst them, no arts, no sciences.
On the other hand, the most rude and barbarous of the Whites, such as the ancient German, the present Tartars, still have something eminent about them, in their valor, form of government, or some other particular.
Such a uniform and constant difference could not happen in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction betwixt these breeds of men.’
David Hume, Essays Moral, Political, and Literary
Well, that wasn’t very polite of Hume was it. Should get into my Tardis and hunt him down, wash his mouth out with soap. It’s not very nice if people think you are unintelligent or uncivilised, but you must persuade them otherwise through reason and through the conduct of your own life not by rioting, hurling missiles, and trying to get everyone cancelled.
Paradoxically, the more you abandon reason for madness, the more people may be tempted to think Hume was right. And you can’t control what people think, even if you cancel them and lock them up and throw away the key. It seems scary to live in a world where people are free to think whatever they want about you, and there’s nothing you can do about it! But that’s humanity, and freedom, and it’s a thing of true beauty when you realise you are free to ignore people you disagree with if you want to. Learn to live, and let live. The real threat comes from the intolerant, who wish to sanitise the world so that the only words ever spoken are words of which they approve.
But it is futile to resort to reason, in attempting to persuade people who have denounced reason itself as evil and who regard ‘persuasion’ as an affectation of privileged white males. Why try to persuade others, when social engineering can be achieved much quicker through rabble rousing and mass riots, doing a bit of looting, a bit of hacking and burning, getting a few people fired along the way, just to make it more fun.
Those who care nothing for reason will care even less that their reasoning is back to front. They are on the warpath, and in no mood to be persuaded about anything. They want their ‘rights’ and they want them now. Working to advance their position would take too long, maybe their lifetime, maybe entire generations of lifetimes, and who wants to wait, when they can man the barricades right now? Patience and sacrifice are for mugs.
No provisional sacrifice can be asked of the man who strives for the acquisition of a privileged position for his own group or even for himself alone; if he were capable of understanding the reason for making the provisional sacrifice, then he would certainly think along liberal lines and not in terms of the demands of those engaged in the scramble for special privileges.
Paradoxically, the more urgent the fight for ‘justice’ becomes, the more its activists abandon reason for madness. They become increasingly irrational, people begin to laugh at them, and so they worry that other people think them ridiculous and uncivilised. It’s a downward spiral. The more they fret about their reputation the more they resort to behaving in an uncivilised manner. Fighting instead of talking. Whining instead of learning. Shouting instead of listening. Trying to get others silenced so that they won’t have to face any criticism or disagreement.
Civilisation is based on reasonable dialogue and the free choice to behave like a grownup rather than a tantruming toddler. It has nothing to do with race or culture. Civilisation arises from the very simple facts of human interaction, cooperation and exchange.
If a number of men work in cooperation in accordance with the principle of division of labor, they will produce (other things being equal) not only as much as the sum of what they would have produced by working as self-sufficient individuals, but considerably more.
All human civilisation is founded on this fact. It is by virtue of the division of labor that man is distinguished from the animals.
Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism.
Civilisation reflects man’s innate desire to achieve, to make progress, to live better, to do more. To be at peace with his fellow man by wishing only to live, and let live, and not to destroy. To be human, is to strive towards civilisation.
In this age of environmentalism some people think that human beings are all wrong. Productivity is evil, economies should grind to a halt, and technological progress should be banned. We should all live like noble animals, so as not to steal St Greta’s childhood. We should emulate the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air. You don’t see foxes installing central heating and air conditioning into their holes, or badgers installing plumbing into their setts, or cows firing up the barbecue. These innocent animals show us the way to live in the New Normal.
It is true that civilisation is the outcome of people who believe that being human is pretty cool and who therefore take pride in being human. That’s an essential starting point. There will never be any ideological agreement between those who believe that it sucks to be human, and those who are striving to live the best life humanly possible in the time given to them on this beautiful earth.
There is in man, in so far as he is a thinking being, an inherent desire for the improvement of his material condition. This impulse cannot be eradicated; it is the motive power of all human action.
von Mises, Liberalism.
It is true also that civilisations rise and fall, and many people think we will soon see the fall of western civilisation. Obviously some people believe that it would be brilliant to see this civilisation fall, due to all the slavers and colonisers from long ago, so we can build back better. We could live like the good people of the innocent Middle Ages, before warfare and modern technology were invented. Get rid of all the guilty white men too, so we can do social justice better.
Now our civilisation is beginning to scent a whiff of death in the air. Dilettantes loudly proclaim that all civilisations, including our own, must perish: this is an inexorable law. Europe’s final hour has come, warn these prophets of doom, and they find credence. An autumnal mood is perceptibly beginning to set in everywhere.
But modern civilisation will not perish unless it does so by its own act of self-destruction.
von Mises, Liberalism.
Perhaps it is an act of self-destruction, when our own academic institutions regard David Hume as a symbol of evil, and the idea of civilisation as the worst form of insult. But in the end, the greatest strength of western civilisation lies not in this or that white man who was rich or famous, or had friends who were slavers, or wrote bad words about other races in his private correspondence shame on him. The strength of western civilisation lies in the idea of liberty, cooperation, free trade, keeping the peace, the whole peace and nothing but the peace. As long as there remains a taste for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, there is hope.
Reprinted with the author’s permission.