Thursday, March 25, 2010


Can one refer to an Islamic civilization or a Western civilization? According to some definitions you can, implying a high level of homogeneity. Societies are often defined as having 'low' or 'high' levels of civilization.
And, how would one define ‘a high level of culture’ or, what would be a ‘low level’ ?Or, would you agree with another definition which equates civilization with modernity?
Who is called 'civilized' ? This introduces value judgments bound by political motivations and ideology. For example, the Romans said that the Gauls were barbaric. In fact, historians have discovered the Gauls had advanced cultures. Why then did the Romans call them barbaric and justified their conquest in order to ‘civilize’ them? Because, archeologists now say, the Gauls had hundreds of gold mines, and the Romans wanted the gold for themselves.

Remember the categories, class/ethnicity/gender. It makes the notion of a homogeneous society problematic . For example, most Americans consider their society ‘civilized’ in the sense that there is democracy (political rights) and running water, electricity and food (economic rights) available to all. I live 100 miles from the Navajo Nation, a huge area that encompasses bits of Arizona and New Mexico, but not a nation by any means. It receives charity from the US government and isn’t allowed to raise taxes. 50% of the ‘rez’ (local word for the reservation) live without electricity, they are still burning coal! The water is often polluted from uranium mines. There are no hospitals. Native Americans have the lowest life expectancy than any US demographic.

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