People in the modern world today say that they are civilized. They feel that they are much more civilized than their ancestors. In the cities people say that they are civilized. In the villages people say that they are cultured. Is it really so? Can there be a civilization without culture?
In the village people work and live a simple life in harmony with Nature enjoying in its beauty and indulging in folk arts. They are hard working, emotionally attached, honest, warm hearted, kind and lovable to others, maintain tradition and unity but are indecent, coarse, uneducated, and ignorant of laws and the world, afraid of diseases, superstitious, orthodox and God fearing. So, they are conventional in nature, somewhat cultured but not really cultured.
In the cities people work and live a sophisticated life in accordance with time entertaining themselves with artificial amusements and spoiling the beauty of Nature with their modern gadgets at the expense of their own health. They are fond of easy and comfortable work, intellectually calculative, hypocritical, cold hearted, indifferent and cynical to others, interested in selfish and isolated life, but maintain outward courtesy and decency, educated, aware of the loopholes of laws and politics, don't care for diseases, scientific, unorthodox and not bothered about God very much. So, they are modern in date or outward appearance but not in outlook and materially civilized but not actually civilized as they don't care for morality and culture. That is the reality of the world. So, what does civilization mean? Civilization actually has to mean the sum total of culture. Yes, if culture is the foundation, civilization is the building. Therefore to put it plain, human civilization is the index of human culture.
1. Ancient Civilization
Advancements in the Past
Modern people think that ancient people were not so much civilized as they are. But the evidences that are standing in various parts of the world show that it is not true. The archaeological excavations show that our ancestors were much civilized. The coins, statues, Temples, forts, palaces and old seaports of India, the pyramids of Egypt, the arena or the coliseum, palace buildings, etc. of Rome, market places and the ports of Athens in Greece, etc. are the symbols of ancient civilizations. These things show how advanced and civilized they were in the ancient times.
The Pyramids built for the sake of preserving the dead bodies of kings with the belief that their souls might re-enter into them after many years on the desert sands of Egypt has posed many puzzles such as how and from where they had brought the huge building blocks and erected tall pillars in those days of little transport and other facilities, why they built in the form of geometrical figures, etc. The mummified bodies of the dead kings are still remaining without decay too! These things show that they were well advanced in scientific and engineering technologies and medicines.
The richness of ancient civilization can be seen from the architectural beauty of Indian Temples at Madurai, Tanjavur, etc. the cave temples of Ellora, Ajanta and so on. The Temples were built not only for the purpose of worshipping God but also for the sake of preserving their culture through arts for the knowledge of the future generations, for the sake of defensive activities during the times of Wars and for storing grain seeds in the metal pots on the top of the Temples for regeneration of crops after droughts or great destructions.
They had a planned way of life, which shows how wise they were. For the individual they had planned Four Stages of Life development such as Existence, Knowledge, Bliss and Absolute and for the society they had planned Four Types of Duties to be carried out in order to maintain Dharma (Social Justice) and lived accordingly; and those four duties were 1. to guide the kings with wise advices is the duty of the philosophers, 2. to protect the people is the duty of the kings, 3. to enrich the wealth of the nations is the duty of the merchants and 4. to serve under them is the duty of the craftsmen. They were very advanced in the field of architecture, arts, science, astronomy, mathematics, medicines, etc.
The people of the ancient civilizations were not affected so much by the problems such as unemployment, poverty, disease and economic backwardness as we see today. They were rich in civilization and culture. But their civilizations were destroyed by the barbarian invaders and due to such invasions great universities like Nalanda and Taxila were destroyed, wealth was plundered and Temples were effaced. Not only that due to natural calamities such as earth quakes, soil erosion and Tsunamis or typhoons many civilized towns, ports, Temples, etc. were destroyed, disfigured and submerged in the seas.
2. Modern Civilization
Mad Futuristic Advancements by Speed
Now let us see what modern civilization is all about. Human freedom, human rights, advancements about the knowledge of our Solar system and other Stars in the Universe, inventions of new machines for transportation, communication, etc., invention of new methods of doing surgical operations with the aid of video camera monitored by TV and electronic devices and new medicines for curing diseases, discovery of new elements, semiconductors and super conductors for various applications in industries, vehicles, etc., creations of new residential apartments to harness Solar energy for domestic purposes, etc., creation of sky labs to observe and discover new galaxies, quasars, pulsars, Black Holes and exploring the existence of human life or possibility of it somewhere in the Universe, etc. are indeed some of the achievements of modern civilization.
In everything fast forward has become the policy of modern civilization. Man is competing with Time in order to go ahead of future before it comes! Speed, speed, nothing but speed has become the formula of human activities in all fields. He is trying to reach other Stars and planets, though impossible now, may be possible sometime in the future. By forgetting the present, modern man is aspiring too much for the future. But to these fast activities in the name of development man has become mad and the world is also in a mad rush after nothing, which cannot be called as civilization. So, man by acquiring new habits like mad rush after something which is not clear, is behaving in a strange manner creating new psychological problems and unbecoming of a human being in the modern world.
Scientific Advancements only for External but not Internal Developments
Modern civilization, which has evolved with the advancement of knowledge in science, applied science i.e. engineering and technology and industries, is only a material civilization of man. D. H. Lawrence in his novel, Women in Love says that the symbols of this civilization, 'factories, jazz, cinemas' have made man's life quite meaningless and that means the denial of sex which is nothing but degeneration and destruction of human life in the world.
T.S. Eliot in his poem, The Waste Land says that the modern world has made man's life sexually unproductive and spiritually unfulfilling due to the offshoot of materialism and ideological conflicts and the result is that there is no love, faith and hope but only death wish.
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan in his Recovery of Faith says that 'humanity cannot escape from the nemesis of purely materialistic civilization except in a return to the life of faith and the fundamental religious affirmation of life.'
E.M. Forster also dislikes mechanical life and 'motion.' In his novel, Howard's End he says that 'merely growing industrialization is not enough' and merely running 'a motor car' using 'heavy luggage' while travelling and wearing 'good clothes' are not at all called civilization. His wish is that there should be reconciliation between natural and philosophical life of man and synthesis of the life of the body and the life of the spirit. According to him civilization is the sum total of culture based on Music, Dance, Art, Letters and Education.
3. Real Civilization
Advancement by Wisdom necessary
It is clear that just the economic and the scientific developments of the modern world cannot make modern man much more civilized than his ancestors. In the modern world the problems like population explosion, unemployment, poverty, diseases, threats of war and pollution of environment have increased much more than the ancient world. This is due to the development of the parts at the expense of the whole.
Real civilization should therefore be based on the sound state of mind and human love and not on madness and fear. The inventive and creative activities of the modern man should be good, beautiful, excellent and great. The inventions and creations of man should be useful and not harmful to mankind. Above all, the advancement of human knowledge should be guided by human wisdom, then only human civilization can really be meaningful in the modern world.