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Monday, September 6, 2021

Who is the Better Savage: The Civilized or the Primitive?

Civilized people are more violent, tyrannical, rapacious, and discourteous than primitive people because they believe that their civilization grants them the privilege to invade any land, take control of the natural resources, destroy the local way of life, kill hundreds of thousands of people, and kidnap men, women, and children to be sold as slaves. On the basis of my reading of history, I can surmise that about 80% of the killing and enslaving during the civilizational clashes of the last 1000 years has been committed by civilized people.

Civilization is supposed to make people compassionate, wise, and erudite. It is supposed to make people capable of empathizing with cultures different from their own—this is what the books on philosophy and religion teach us. Instead, we find that throughout history most civilized people (not all) have acted as merciless invaders, killers, destroyers, and slavers. More brutality, immorality, and sinful acts have been committed in the name of civilization than on anything that the primitive could conceive. This is the paradox of civilization.

On October 12, 1492, when Columbus made a landfall in San Salvador, he was greeted with respect by the locals. They gave him and his men their food and their traditional gifts. Columbus took the niceness of the locals as a sign of their weakness and savagery. He kidnapped ten of his local hosts and transported them to Spain, where he displayed them before the Spanish elite as specimens from a tribe of weak savages who lived in a land that he had discovered. Within a decade of Columbus’s voyage, the Conquistadors arrived in the Americas.

History is written by civilized people. The civilized depict themselves as the epitome of culture, compassion, and progress, and they portray the primitive as savages, killers, and philistines. It is due to such one-sided accounts of history that people in our time harbor the notion that civilization makes a man cultured, compassionate, wise, and peaceful. The truth is that civilizations have made maximum territorial, technological, and economic progress when they were being led by people who were violent, tyrannical, rapacious, and contemptuous of primitive ways of life. 

Who pays the highest price for progress—the civilized people who conquered, enslaved, and slaughtered, or the primitive people who lost their land, culture and, in many cases, life? The carnage and destruction committed by civilized people in their lust for land, natural resources, and slaves can be defended by invoking the notion that what leads to mankind’s progress is good; it can be defended by invoking the ideas of “might is right” and the “manifest destiny of the civilized to rule over the primitive.” But it cannot be defended by using the tenets of any existing moral and religious theory.

Being civilized means being focused solely on the territorial, technological, and economic progress of one’s own ethnic group. It means being violent, tyrannical, rapacious, and discourteous. It means being unconcerned about the life, propriety, and culture of the people who are deemed primitive. It means being free of moral and religious constraints.

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