Measuring Civilization: Wheels on Meals


Are you civilized?  Is your neighbor?  How about your President?

Trick question.

As far as I can tell, we don’t have a measure of “how” civilized we are.  Sure, an economist will point to GDP, a geographer could point to population, and a librarian could point to how many reference works exist.

But HOW civilized are we?

One measure put forward many years ago has to do with eating.

I love eating.  And I love studying behavior.  Let’s put the two together.

If I took your civilization and withheld the food supply so it was, say, 25% of normal, what would happen?

Would many people starve quietly, still obeying the rules of decency and law so that civilization continued peacefully?

Or would there be some sort of breakdown in the rules?  Would people become more like wild animals, stealing, robbing, murdering, even cannibalizing?

Let’s bring some rigor to the process.

Take any group of people, say the group you’re stuck in a meeting with today, and make them supreme.  By that I mean, make everyone else in the world go away.  They have the whole Earth to call their own.

How long can this group survive using the rules of society they grew up with?  Will they thrive and grow into a new society?  Or will they end up at each other’s throats?  Or, my favorite, will they run away from each other, dying alone?

Make the group your whole nation.  Or the whole Earth.  You choose the group.

Then restrict their food.  Give them only so many calories every quarter day.

Here’s where the fun starts.

I know that when I get hungry, I attack.  I attack the fridge.  MUST EAT screams my stomach.  The rest of the body follows.  When my stomach is full I go back to being all nice and civilized.

How many quarter days would I allow civilization to survive?  Maybe two.

How about you?


Confessions of a Mad Man – part 1

It’s true.  I’m mad.

No, not angry.  There’s no one or no thing that bothers me for any reason.

I’m mad, crazy, a believer in things that no one can see.  I believe in things that no one else seems to believe in.

Aliens?  Large bowls of custard?  A long tunnel with a shining light at the other end?

No, none of those things.  The thing that I see that makes me crazy mad is that I believe in the human race.  You.  Me.  Us.  I have a deep belief that says “Our species is capable of greatness.”

It doesn’t sound too crazy at first, but I know I’m in the minority because our leaders, our pundits, our celebrities and our nay-sayers never admit this belief.  All of them are only interested in the here and now, saving their jobs, looking good.  Are they unable to dream, to conquer, to lead our civilization to greater glory?

Probably not.  Our system of choosing leaders is flawed, so that we end up with only those who are good a looking good and protecting themselves at the same time.

Yet I still believe that humanity is capable of great things.  Living among the stars.  Building great cities that blend into their natural surrounding.  A society that cares for the weak and unfortunate, yet offers a firm hand to those who refuse or are unable to assist the rest of us.

Yes, I’m mad.  But it’s the kind of madness that I couldn’t live without.  Would life be worth living if I didn’t believe that we were capable of so much more than what we have today?  Would I be able to go on if I thought that “this is it” and mankind is at its peak?  What’s the point of learning anything if I thought that there was nothing else of greatness left in us?  If I thought these things, then life wouldn’t be worth living.  What would be the point?