Are we a civilized people or are we merely making a pretense at being civilized?
There are many factors at play here, and two of them have a major impact among the various peoples of this Earth.
Dissociative behavior is one negative factor whereby people can lose the abhorrence of doing ‘bad or evil’ acts through Conditioned Response (CR) — and other negative factor can be what we teach others about how to treat us, via our treatment of them.
Dissociative behavior is learned behavior. It’s something we witness on television news videos, in violent movies, or while playing violent video games — behaviors that humans (sometimes) emulate. Which can then turn into Conditioned Response.
Teaching others how to treat us (and treating us ‘badly’ is what I’m talking about here) is another way that can negatively affect our worldview, and later, our actions.
All of which can result in our being evermore civilized or less civilized, and as a civilization itself in the largest context.
ONE: Humans can disassociate themselves from acting in ways that might normally be called an ‘evil’ act via mental conditioning which is used to good effect by the militaries of many nations to make soldiers more effective at their profession — which is of course, war.
After exhaustive study, it was found that only 22% of bullets fired by U.S. soldiers in WWII found their mark, and actually hit an enemy soldier.
Investigators gleaned from WWII U.S. servicemen that they considered it too horrific to shoot another human being and were shooting ‘around’ the enemy troops — who themselves, were also doing the same thing throughout the entire war.
Only during the most extreme emergencies did the soldiers ‘shoot to kill’ and their wasted bullet stats fell dramatically in those stressful moments or hours.
Until the study, nobody knew this facet of human psychology — that it was considered too horrific by soldiers to kill even our sworn enemies, and since the invention of firearms people were shooting, not to kill, but to scare our enemies away.
Which is a wonderful thing if it works! (You can see a human bias right there, in that single sentence) It’s a very human thing to want to scare your enemies away vs. blowing them away.
Consequently, all U.S. soldiers were trained using Conditioned Response since the Korean War era — first shooting at paper targets, then paper silhouettes of a human that ‘popped-up’ suddenly, then a 3D mould of a human figure that also ‘popped-up’ instantly, then onto more realistic-looking, pop-up targets identical to the enemy soldiers of the era.
In this way, soldiers got conditioned to instantly respond to any movement directly ahead and only ahead of them, so that they don’t end up instantly shooting their own people while in Conditioned Response Mode (CRM)
CR is instant and automatic. There is no human (moral) thought process to slow down reaction times. Which is why so much time was spent training soldiers to be in the right place at the right time — because anyplace else within the combat zone was referred to as the Kill Zone. For very good reason.
All of which turned bullet stats from a 22% effectiveness rate up to a 70% effectiveness rate. And sometimes higher than that.
In the Iraq War, some soldiers wore earbuds and listened to rap music at high volume which extended the dissociative state and improved their bullet stats by another order of magnitude, although innocent casualty rates rose significantly.
We can conclude that persistent negative stimulus in our own lives can create a type of Conditioned Response which eventually becomes a negative for ourselves, our families and friends, and for our civilization. As CR remains a powerful influencer of human behavior, we should limit negative or violent stimuli in our own lives and (especially) for our children.
TWO: Everyday We Teach Others How to Treat Us
Each interaction we have with other people produces clear and predictable results.
And politics does not happen in a vacuum, nor does it happen among Artificial Intelligence robots. Politics happens between human beings who represent their citizens. Therefore, the interaction between politicians and thought-leaders eventually sets the tone between nations and peoples of the Earth.
When a civilization reaches it’s destiny (referred to by Political Scientists as the ‘climax’ of a civilization or society) it then plateaus and begins regressing at an incremental rate — most noticeably at the citizen level.
Begin treating your neighbour badly in a time where there is no forward societal momentum (which momentum is caused by a buying-into of certain unifying ideas throughout the larger society; like defeating Nazisim, the Space Race, the Cold War, or even the War on Drugs for four examples of many) and soon, in the absence of forward motion, all neighbours will be treating each other badly.
Which leads, very eventually, to the downfall of that society or civilization.
We see a very different America now vs. the America that we grew up with in the 1960’s. In some ways better, but in some ways worse.
It’s a sign that we’re nearing a plateau in American society, barring some great cause that everyone can buy-into.
And forget the War on Terror as some great thing that billions of people can buy-into and lead us to create forward momentum and thereby leave the plateau behind.
Lightning strikes kill more people than terrorism every year, and we haven’t declared war on lightning. Car accidents kill hundreds of thousands globally per year (many times more than are killed by terrorism) and we haven’t declared war on cars. Four million people per year (globally) die prematurely from air pollution, yet we haven’t declared war on air, polluters, industry, nor government regulators.
It seems that to rally billions of people to a cause, it must be immediately relevant and an existential threat to them, personally.
Which is fine. Except that takes a lot of time for some problems to come out into the mainstream, be discussed, and then appropriate actions be taken.
For example: If an asteroid or comet suddenly appears on a direct collision course with the planet, the way things are today, we’ll still be chuntering on about asteroids when it hits. Unlike the dinosaurs which were exterminated by a large asteroid impact, at least we’ll have had a long and animated discussion about it first. But we’ll still be dead.
Of all the things that are most likely to cause an Armaggedon-type event, an asteroid collision is number one on the list. Yet, we’re doing astonishingly little about it. Granted, that inevitable collision might be 1000 years away but one could just as easily arrive in a week, and some large rocks in space (bigger than the ones that wiped out the dinosaurs) have passed relatively close by the Earth in recent years, and were seen by astronomers only 5 days in advance of their flyby of our planet.
Unlike the dinosaurs, we could be discussing this now, and spending billions now, getting the necessary technology in place now, so we can be ready to defend our planet from a large rock flying at us from space, before one hits. But we’re not.
So, are we really that advanced? And consequently, are we really civilized if we’re not taking the requisite steps to protect life on our planet from the event most likely to exterminate all life on this planet?
The answer is; Of course we still have a ways to go before this world is uniformly educated and thereby civilized. But what great existential challenge will present itself to us that will allow billions of people to buy-into, and thereby create the necessary forward momentum to bring that scale of change?
It seems that only when we are severely challenged by events (as were the Apostles of Jesus) do we rise to become our better selves and thereby advance, individually, and as a civilization.
In the meantime, the best thing we can do as we face our own daily challenges is to avoid the things that will put us into a negative dissociative state, and to help guide our thinking we should try to live by the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8 “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — think upon these things.”
And to help us bring about the right response from people with which we have any dealings, we should try to live by the words found in Matthew 7:12 ‘Treat others how you would like to be treated, for this is the Law and the Prophets.’