"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Civilization and Savagery

If you haven't read the stories or seen the TV news coverage of last night's brawl in Detroit, in which courtside fans at an NBA game attacked several Indiana Pacers' players, who then charged into the stands and engaged in fistfights with the rioting customers, by all means please do so. It was an ugly scene that says a good deal about what we are becoming as a society. This sort of thing happens elsewhere around the world, of course, and has happened here as well on occasion, but this was a new height of mayhem and madness within a public sports arena at the highest level.

We have become all too accustomed to the sight of people running rampant in our society, as in the massively destructive "celebrations" that commonly pop up in cities whose major team has just won a championship of some sort or other. But this was a regular-season game, and not a very close one, though hard-fought. People seem to find it all too easy to slip out of control today, and we are not going to be able to wish this problem away.

The only real solution is going to be to reconstitute a society that insists that people be at the very least civilized.

But that will not happen, of course, until we openly value civilization.

This is not mainly a law-enforcement problem, it is a philosophical problem.

These people are just acting on what they have been taught. For the past half-century, our schools, laws, and pop and elite culture have all, to an increasing degree, heaped scorn on the very notion of civilization, the belief that some ways of life are better than others—and then we are somehow alarmed when people act like savages.

Simple law-enforcement tactics will help somewhat, but they cannot do it all; they are in fact only a final line of defense. Events like last night's riot should remind us of what a thin line separates civilization from savagery, and that it is not all blue but in fact mostly black and white, and that the ideas we hold, and the ideas we teach, have enormous consequences.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yesterday (Saturday) my son played his final high scool football game. A superb game of two teams trying to win to continue in the state play-offs. We lost but my son and I won. After the game the parents and fans greeted and cheered the team as they came off the field. My son was tearful because he and others had played their heart out and left all they had on the field. I held him close and whispered how proud I was of him. I am a rich man. -Randy