The Dawn of Civilization
The dawn of history reveals a humanity already civilised. Perhaps it reveals a civilisation already old.
Egypt and Babylon. Chesterton offers that these are the first human societies of which we have reliable and detailed records and information. These societies were civilized societies at the dawn of history; civilized society must have, therefore, existed before that dawn.
They bear witness against the two common and crude descriptions of pre-historical society:
If we want to get rid of half the nonsense about nomads and cave-men and the old man of the forest, we need only look steadily at the two solid and stupendous facts called Egypt and Babylon.
When modern man thinks of primitive man, he considers what he sees as today’s [this book dates from 1925] modern savages. But neither Egypt nor Babylon were anything like this. Perhaps today’s modern savages are descendants from a previous, unrecorded historical civilization that saw its decline.
What, in fact, do we know about the results of a declining civilization?
If we lost all our firearms we should make bows and arrows; but we should not necessarily resemble in every way the first men who made bows and arrows.
There is a difference between the idea of pre-historic man and decivilized man. Chesterton notes that the Russians in retreat were so short of arms that they fought with clubs. But some future historian would be mistaken to believe that the Russians were no different than an ancient Scythian tribe.
Further, on what basis is it believed that the earliest civilizations were despotic and tyrannical? We certainly know in our age (as in Chesterton’s) that despotism often comes at the later stages of a declining civilization (boy, do we really know that).
A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy.
Ten words to describe the last eighteen months. How did he know, almost one-hundred years ago?
As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.
He’s wrong about this. It wasn’t while we slept; we were hypnotized, voluntarily drugged into a suggestive state, willingly sacrificing our children to the gods. Turned into apologists and even defenders of those who tyrannize us.
But I digress…returning to the lack of evidence of despotism and tyranny in the earliest societies: we consider the strong man. But without
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