Thursday, September 08, 2005

 

Decivilisation

An excellent article by Timothy Garton-Ash in today's Guardian chimes in with one of my long held beliefs: that the veneer of civilisation in which we live and enjoy security and comfort in the developed west, is brittle and could rupture just as easily as in New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina. TGA points to similar collapses during the last war and subsequently in Berlin as the Russians entered and then in Bosnia in the nineties. 'Remove the elementary staples of organised civilised life,' he says, '-food shelter, drinkable water, minimal personal security- and we go back within hours to a Hobbsean state of nature, a war of all against all.'

Garton-Ash exhumes a Jack London word- 'decivilisation' to describe this, a word which could also be applied to the young children all marooned on that island in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. TGA suggests we are closer to this process than we realise and identifies as possible triggers:
a) natural disasters caused by climate change
b) terrorist attacks on a bigger scale than hitherto.
c) the invasion of the world's poor into the richer parts of the world.
d) possibility of war through the accommodation into the international system of emerging powers like China and India.

He concludes with another of my hobby horses: that we are currently enjoying a hiatus before things begin to go seriously wrong. Hope I'm wrong about this but I fear I am not.

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