The definition has a lot in just a few words and presents a full picture of what a ‘civilized’ man should be. It is only a society or an age with persons of such banners and character as defined which can call itself ‘civilized’ and ‘civilization’ would be an automatic process with such members being there in that age.
Science has given us a world of ‘wonders’— never ever even thought of or even imagined centuries ago. Except that death still does come and that could not be avoided or eliminated from the cycle of life, but, of course, the creation of life, its sustenance and its prolongation has indeed been controlled by Science.
Birth and death were once considered as an act divinely destined, but now with the scientific developments birth can be controlled as willed but death still cannot. In more than many fields of human life or in animal life, in plant life, revolutionary advancements have been made by science.
Moon, the cry for which by the child was silenced by the clever mothers by presenting its reflection in a plate of water, has long back been reached by man and the performance can be repeated as and when desired.
Remotely controlled devices make life magical. We can conquer what was unconquerable, we can reach that what was inaccessible. Nothing seems impossible. Parts of bodies can be replaced; the damaged one can be repaired, even the part of an animal’s body can be transplanted in a man’s body.
The scientist proudly claims to have conquered nature and to have brought about a revolution in human thought. All this is true indeed. But does all this really mean that we have become more ‘civilized’?
Let us examine the issue point by point as per the definition as given in the Chamber’s Dictionary.’ Having advanced beyond the primitive savage state’ — this is the first criteria.
The savages lived in the woods; killed animals for their food; remained scantily covered with the help of bark of trees or animal skins; would sometimes ferociously attack each other and even kill without any fear of punishment. Such a one was called a ‘Savage’. The Savages lived in the woods.
Trees and their fruits served as their habitat and their food. The fresh and unpolluted atmosphere and environment kept them healthy and full of vigor and vitality. We, today, live in slums, drains of the dirtiest flow forcing us to inhale the most poisonous gases; those living in palatial multistoried flats have hardly the chance to sleep under the clear open sky and breathe the fresh invigorating air; they have coffers full of money but tensions and tremors torment their bodies and their minds.
Contentment and calm of mind elude them. Depression, disenchantment and disease overtake them. Life for them is all artificial — artificially produced air-condition their living. T.S. Eliot, the great modern English poet calls all this a ‘Wasteland’ and calls man as ‘Hollow men’ and that is truly so. Whether ‘Savages’ were living a better life or the modern so-called ‘civilized’ men?
Savages killed animals for their food. We also keep killing them for food as well as for sport. In a recent survey the population of the tiger species in our country— India — is fast depleting. Their skins are being exported; their bones are being sold out to be used as medicines.
Our Jungles are getting thinner and thinner both in the sphere of the fauna and the flora. The eco-balance is getting fully disturbed and misbalanced. The snake-skins are being used for exotic dresses — the savages covered themselves with animal skins. Are we then any better?
Nature has arranged for striking a balance. The snake eats away the rodent, thus crops are saved from the rodent menace. Now when snakes would be killed at a mass scale in this manner for fashion-shows, the damage to the crops would go on.
The Savages killed each other sometimes. That was only when some infuriation was caused. But how about Hitler who massacred such a large number of Jews and Adi Amin reveled in the mass collection of human skulls.
This is what has happened in this age-called the scientifically advanced ‘Modern Age’ — and only to satisfy the eccentric ego on a man. That is what H.G. Wells wrote about wars — ‘Hundreds and thousands of men, uniformly dressed, carrying diverse deadly weapons go to the theatre of war, killing those whom they do not know and who have done them no wrong. And those who stay at home rejoice at the murder of men’.
‘Killing those whom they do not know and who have done them no wrong’ — is this a behavior of a civilized set of people? The Savages killed only those who had given them some offence or caused them some harm, but these mercenaries kill those ‘whom they do not know and who have done them no wrong’. Science has given to mankind disastrous weapons.
The holocaust witnessed by Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the World War II is just recent history. The atom bomb not only killed soldiers on the war front but the entire population — the civilians — the innocent women, the little children and ill and ailing patients in the hospitals This was what happened to the present generation but the nuclear fusion left so many maimed and deformed even in the coming generation. It is Science which has worked this havoc.
We have hardly in any way ‘advanced from the Savage stage’ as the dictionary lays down, rather have been more Savagely in our actions. We have only to hang our heads in shame rather than to rise up our heads in pride to call ourselves as ‘civilised’ beings.
The next part of the dictionary meaning says — ‘refined in interests and tastes’. Let us go back to the ancient age of our sages and saints in our country who gave us the ‘Vedas’, ‘the Upnishads’; the great poets who gave us the great Epics of ‘Ramayan’ and ‘Mahabharat’, to those who have painted the frescoes of Ajanta and Ellora.
On the other hands — the Greeks who gave us the great civilization and great poetry, — China, which gave us the philosopher Confucius. We still revere these poets, painters and philosophers — that was the pre-Scientific modern age.
Can we deny that those great minds were in any way less ‘refined in interests and tastes’ than what we today are? Those ages were not the gift of modern science. The mind of man extended in dimensions of thought and emotion. Wars were fought but there still was some method — fighting came to a stop at sunset. But today’s wars fuelled by scientifically developed arms and ammunition has no method in its madness. Who were more ‘refined in interests and tastes’—the ancients were or the moderns are?
Self-controlled and fair-spoken’ — is still an additional quality that a civilised man is expected to Possess and exhibit as per the previously quoted definition.
In this so-called modern world there is nothing like a ‘self-control’ in human behaviour. A bar-maid could be killed by inebriated young men for not serving them liquor at the odd hour past midnight.
A lady of a so-called respectable family could be thrown into the ‘Tandoor’ in Delhi by her so-called husband and burnt alive. People living in big metropolitan cities do not care to know who their next door neighbour is or who is being robbed or murdered in the adjacent room.
One for oneself — that is the limited concept of social life. In the olden days the whole village used to be a family and the sorrow or joy of one was shared equally and emotionally by all.
Nothing of that sort of sensitivity is now visible anywhere. There is duality in words and expressions—that is the shape of the modern politician. The greater the equivocation, the more successful the politician. All this is because life has become governed more by reason and less by conscience or emotion.
Science tends to give training in more rational thinking and where reason overtakes emotion takes a back seat.
The above are some of the details of how science has influenced every walk of our lives, every way of our life, every thought of ours and every thinking.
Let us judge for ourselves from what has been discussed above if we are more civilized with science as our hand-maid or were we more civilized when we were without much of it. We ultimately have to say that ‘Science without Conscience is the ruin of mankind’.