So How Civilized Are We?
I found my husband watching a documentary on the practice of gavage in the West African country of Mauritania. I sat down against my better judgment. Girls are taken to tents in the desert for months at a time to be fattened up because fat means prosperity and prosperity means desirable. They drink camel’s milk and eat handfuls of oily grain day and night and when they vomit, which they do, they are encouraged to force more down or it is forced for them. Poorer girls are force fed in the confines of their homes. Two days later I’m still reeling from the images.
I awoke this morning with the word gavage in my head. It’s a pretty word for a barbaric practice. I shouted at my husband, what the hell is wrong with this world? Girls in Africa are force fed to get fat for market and women here stick fingers down throats to get skinny! How fucked up are we?
“It’s about who is the strongest. It’s always been that way. Being the strongest means you are safe.” He asks; “So how civilized are we?”
Civilization is an advanced state of human society that includes a high level of culture, science, industry, and government so it is arguable that in many places we are indeed quite advanced and more sophisticated creatures than our forbearers. But how far have we crawled in designer clothing past the lizard mind instincts for survival? Are we just fancier savages?
How strong do we have to be to be strong enough? Do we ever have enough to feel safe or are we expecting the tiger paw in the cave door no matter how many gates and gold bullions guard us? Is it foolish to be content? Half the blogs I read are a mix of survivalist and philanthropist. Ten ways to fix your business, five ways to better health, twenty facts about how to succeed, how to manage your life, your mind, your food, your career, your love life. The most eccentric and interesting blogger I know advises readers how to make millions and subsequently informs them that he is divesting himself of everything as the only peace is to be unfettered, homeless and free of financial burdens.
Once our basic needs are met it seems that over time we might lose the instinct to be the strongest the way we stop growing wisdom teeth and excess hair. Is it really that natural to be competitive? Do we need to feel strong to feel safe? How much do we really need?
There are people who strive to accumulate wealth they will never need. Is it fear of staying still or is it a basic distrust of the life in front of them? My dermatologist friend tells me that once a woman comes to her office for a cosmetic procedure she will most certainly be back again and again for more. How beautiful must we be to be safe?
I heard an expert talk about life on the planet. He said that 99.9% of life on this planet is already extinct. I heard another expert say that people who understand how to use technology will rule the world. According to Einstein idiots will run the world and we will all strive to be that idiot to avoid extinction; savages with apps.
“I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.” – Albert Einstein
And then there’s another mystic; John Lennon –
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
For those of us who do not strive to be strong survival is a tricky game. When unemployment numbers went down this year the numbers indicated Americans had simply given up. We don’t have the luxury of giving up. In truth, we do not control our basic needs. Our air is polluted and our water is owned by someone else. The food we eat is grown on tired soil and much of it is grown with bad seeds, sprayed with poison. We do not have the luxury of constant contentment because we have a duty to be vigilant. It’s a balance I understand as I gaze out the window of a home I love onto a beautiful meadow bordered by magical woods, surrounded by wonderful animals. I have no savings, no pension fund, no financial certainty beyond this month and I have a hard time planning for the future.
Even in my yoga career I was once the strongest and that did make me happy but now what I love about myself in yoga is something else altogether.
What’s going on? I don’t think we need more time to tell. What is unfolding is who we are despite our basest natures and because of them. What’s hardwired will stay in the DNA for now but no matter. If the greatest show on earth is a show of strength, at the forefront is a beautiful benevolence that exists beside Armageddon. Or that’s what I see. Let it roll.