Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"Progress" v. Civilization

[Referring to early post-Roman Britain] David Howlett demonstrates - through the apparent existence of a most intricate, allusive, Christian Latin culture apparent in Insular writings (including, now, inscribed stones) - that people whose lives were passed in archaeologically rough and simple settings were, intellectually, anything but rough and simple.
(Charles Thomas, Celtic Britain (1986) p. 20)

The precarious state of our civilization has grown with our control over nature, though we were promised an opposite result. We have assembled a vast warehouse of machinery which would, it was hoped, if not minister directly to the civilizing spirit, at least free other forces for that ministration. Yet this spirit shows signs of failing - the signs were in evidence before the World Wars - and everywhere crassness, moral obtuseness, and degradation are on the increase....

The painful truth is now beginning to emerge that a flourishing technology may make civilization more rather than less difficult of attainment. It leads to mobilization of external forces; it creates enormous concentrations of irresponsible power; through an inexorable standardization it destroys refinement and individuality.
(Richard Weaver, The Southern Tradition at Bay (published posthumously in 1968, though written in 1943) pp. 31-2)

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