Civilized Society Essay


do with it at all. Also, in modern societies, an individual is permitted to acquire morethan what he needs as long as he could pay for it. Because of the size of civilizedsocieties, members tend to fend for those who belong to his family without regardfor others.

Settlement Patterns

Primitive societies were either nomadic or settled farmers. Those that remainedmobile were normally small in number and they made camps where they were nearfood and water supplies. They moved from place to place in search of food andgame. Some, however, were considered semi-settlers, like the Australian primitivegroups mentioned above who have their own villages. The abundance of wildlife andfood supply in areas like Murray, Australia, made the primitive groups stay semi-permanently in the area. For some, like the Aetas of the Philippines, they arebelieved to have come from Papua New Guinea because of their physicalresemblance. This group is said to have traveled to Asia when the continents wereconnected by land bridges.Members of the civilized societies have their roots in one community or another. These settlements are called cities or towns with fortified defenses and roads. Theydon't just go from one place or another as their fancies take them. They generally goto cities to earn a living and seek their fortunes. A civilized individual generallysettles in one place for a lifetime. Others

go to other places to earn a living, butsome eventually go back to what they call home. Centuries ago, expeditions werelaunched using modern ships and technology to spread culture to what the civilizedworld called the primitives or the barbarians. In areas reached by civilized people,the primitive cultures were made to adopt norms and cultures dissimilar to theirown.

Political Organization

 The primitive societies that were small in number had informal leaders, oftenselected based on strength and capacity to lead the group in fighting and hunting. Inbigger groups, tribal chiefs and councils were the rulers and leaders. In much biggergroups, being chief or king was hereditary. Selection and governance were not verycomplex. Among the primitive Mayan cultures, nepotism prevailed in the rulingclass. The king was succeeded to his position by his son. But being king of a Mayan tribewas not as easy as being king of England. A Mayan king-imminent must take acaptive in war to be killed as offering when he succeeds to the throne. In civilizedsocieties, like England, it is Prince Charles' birthright to be king when QueenElizabeth steps down from the throne. Prince Charles killing a captive in order to beking is unthinkable in the English society.Also, in modern societies, political organizations are plentiful and forms of government are complex. Some civilized societies practice democracy, while othersfollow communism or some other type of governance. In a democratic nation like theUnited States, the country's leader is chosen through a voting process. Candidateshave to seek votes during the campaign period. No bloody wars happen, but word

Author’s note: This is chapter 7 of my book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It (Richmond: Glen Allen Press, 2002), which is an introduction to Ayn Rand’s morality of rational egoism. Chapters 1–6 were reprinted in prior issues of TOS.

We have seen that being moral consists in being self-interested—acting in a life-promoting manner. We have also seen that what most fundamentally makes life-furthering actions possible to human beings is rational thinking. In order to live, we have to use our mind to discover the requirements of our life, and we have to act accordingly. We begin this chapter with the question: What can prevent us from acting on our judgment? What can stop us from employing our means of survival?

Observe that if you are alone on an island, nothing can stop you from acting on your judgment. If you decide that you should acquire some food, you are free to make a spear and go hunting, fashion some tackle and go fishing, or plant a garden and tend to it. And if you obtain food, you are free to eat it, save it, or discard it. Likewise, if you decide that you should build a shelter, you are free to gather materials and construct one. And if you do, you are free to live in it, build an addition onto it, or tear it down. Alone on an island, you are free to act according to the judgment of your mind.

But suppose another person shows up on the island, grabs you, and ties you to a tree. Clearly, you are no longer free to act on your judgment: If you had planned to go hunting, you cannot go. If you had planned to build a shelter, you cannot build it. Whatever your plans were, they are now ruined. And if you are not freed from your bondage, you will soon die.

The brute’s force has come between your planning and your acting, between your thinking and your doing. You can no longer act on your judgment; you can no longer act as your life requires; you can no longer live as a human being. Of course, the brute could feed you and keep you breathing; but a “life” of bondage is not a human life. A human life is a life guided by the judgment of one’s own mind.

In order to live as human beings, we have to be able to act on our judgment; wild animals aside, the only thing that can stop us from doing so is other people; and the only way they can stop us is by using physical force.

Consider another example. A girl is walking to the store intent on using her money to buy some groceries when a man jumps out from an alley, points a gun at her head, and says: “Give me your purse, or die.” Now the girl cannot act according to her plan. Either she is going to give her purse to the thief, or she is going to get shot in the head. In any event, she is not going grocery shopping. By placing a gun between the girl and her goal, the thief is forcing her to act against her judgment—against her means of survival. If she hands her purse to him, and if he flees without shooting her, she can resume acting on her judgment—but, importantly: not with respect to the stolen money. While the thief may be gone, the effect of his force remains. By keeping the girl’s money, he continues to prevent her from spending it; and to that extent, he continues to stop her from acting on her judgment. This ongoing force does not thwart the girl’s life totally, but it does thwart her life partially: If she had her money, she would either spend it or save it; but since the thief has her money, she can do neither. She cannot use her money as she chooses, and her life is, to that degree, retarded. . . .

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