Civilization Cure Or Disease Essay, Research Paper
Upon flipping to the business section of the New York Times an Ohio University student saw a startling headline glaring back at her American Corporations Suspected In Millions of Third World Deaths. As she read the article it became apparent that international corporations many of which were based in the United States exploit the poorest of the poor. These companies paid workers extremely low wages and exposed them to hazardous materials with out any protection. Working conditions were unsafe and often lead to health problems. It appeared that slavery was alive and well in the name of Global Industrialization. Even more shocking was the fact that this new form of slavery was also present within our own borders. Migrant workers and illegal aliens were becoming an increasing percentage of America s labor force. These workers were paid well below minimum wage for jobs, which often put their health if not their life in jeopardy.
It appeared that America s industrial empire was built upon the exploitation of the poor throughout the world. Often women and children were the victims of the Global Market Economy. The article stated that millions of goods were produced by children as young as 6 in third world and developing nations. Companies producing these goods claimed that it was not slave labor they claimed it was the efficient use of human resources for production. It seemed that companies in their desire of progress and profit were oppressing the world s poorest nations and their citizens.
This is not a new phenomenon it has gone on through history; the strong oppress the weak. What is amazing though is the fact that industrialized nations all consider themselves to be the most civilized societies in the world. Industrial powers view less developed nations as backwards which is a synonym for barbarous. But are the societies of industrially advanced nations truly the most civil? This is the question Montaigne raised over 400 years ago in his paper entitled Of Cannibals.
Throughout history it seems that the most technologically advanced societies are the most powerful. And the most powerful nations view themselves as the most civilized people in the world. But what exactly are the defining attributes of a civilized society? According to Webster s Third International Dictionary a civilization is: an ideal state of human culture, characterized by complete absence of barbarism and non-rational behavior, optimum utilization of physical, cultural, spiritual, and human resources, and perfect adjustment of the individual within the social framework. By this definition it is clear that no powerful nation is civilized.
While America does not meet the definition of civilization, we are technically civilizing other countries. In other words we are forcing a particular foreign cultural pattern on other populations. Few would argue that many nations and cultures are going through a process of Americanization through the use of our massive media and advertising empires. This is also not a new development powerful empires often try to spread their culture, Alexander the Great instituted Hellenization around 330 BCE. But not on the level that is taking place today.
This attempt to change foreign cultures into our culture is proof that we believe it is the best culture currently available. Going back in history we can see that in the days of Alexander the Great s empire foreign cultures were viewed as Barbaric. Today we prefer the words: backwards, underdeveloped, or classify them as the third world. The term third world is extremely interesting if they are the third world industrial nations we must be the first world. Them term third world blatantly declares our belief that our society is the best. But is Western society the best form of a civilization the world has to offer?
Montaigne asked this same question over 400 years ago. In his paper Of cannibals he discusses the difference between European society and a newly discovered society of the native people in present day Brazil. At the time of his writing this new culture was considered to be savage and barbaric. It is common to describe foreign cultures as barbarian since as Montaigne points out each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practice (77). He explains this further by stating It seems we have no other test of truth and reason than the example and pattern of opinions and customs of the country we live in (77). Montaigne was the first philosopher to question the assumption we use while judging various cultures. That assumption is that our society and culture is the best and therefore the most civilized.
This assumption that our culture and society is the standard to judge all others by is preposterous. How can western society, which has killed millions of people in the name of progress, believe that we live the most civil lives? Western society has produced most of the problems currently affecting the human experience. Montaigne opened the doors of critical self-judgement. Through this doorway we can see that we too have flaws. While it is incredibly easy to point out the flaws of others it is extremely difficult to point out what flaws we collectively possess as a society.
The amount of constraint placed on one s own perception of the world by one s culture and social upbringing is enormous. Western society stresses the importance of the individual and being an individual so much that often we lose sight of the universal essence of being a human being. Our perceptions have become so egocentric and focused on ourselves that often we are unaware of the effects of our actions on others. The native people of Brazil in 1557 had a greater sense of civility than western society has probably ever possessed.
Western society believes that we must continue to progress in order to realize a truly civil society. The assumption is that at some point in the future we will possess enough technology and knowledge that a truly civil society will emerge. With all the advances made in the 20th century we must be getting close. If the assumption that progress leads to civility is true why is western, especially American society, falling into chaos? Maybe our society s assumption that progress leads to civility is wrong. Our technology and knowledge is so advanced but we are no longer civil we have become a society of slaves. We are slaves to progress and one of the oldest vices of humankind greed. Although greed is no longer looked down upon it s praised as status and ambition. If Montaigne were alive today chances are he would agree.