A note on civilization
This note considerably revised on 6 July.
I have not read The Birth of the Clinic but my guess is that Foucault is full of shit. This is because civilization is when you don’t step over some “holy guy” who’s dying on the street. Civilization is when you disregard said guy’s right to be an eyesore and call the cops.
Fantasies based on idiot media that it is something in some Mad Max way “cool” to step over bodies have brutalized my nation. Southern slave-owners liked to see people die but civilized Americans such as the Founding Fathers, the Abolitionists, and my parents didn’t, and they believed in democracy, ending slavery and promoting public health for that reason.
In a civilized world, you take the holy guy who babbles in his agony to a modern hospital and in that hospital he is like me a patient with some responsibility to shape up and act right so as to make the doctor’s and nurse’s job easier. Period.
Yes, the Patient has a right to be a Subject as well as an Object. But not in any absolute sense.
I saw the first ever homeless mother and child I’ve ever seen in Seattle next to the public library on the way to work at Rainier Bank in 1986 and all some of my friends could say was she was on something. Fortunately and as far as I know, mothers can still lose custody for pulling some homeless shit on their kid. This is called civilization.
Under rule of law no distinction can be made between me and a Han Chinese at Queen Mary. This is called civilization, and it predated Christianity; racial tolerance, of necessity, originated in those oh so brutal ancient empires because people had to get along in the metropolis.
If you were starving in a Roman province you went to Rome and got free bread with olives. Basically, for Rome, for you to be a barbarian meant simply that Rome had to send a legion out to the provinces of Italy, to Gaul or to the Danube, and kick your ass, and this was expensive. It was much easier to give you those much-maligned “bread and circuses”. This arrangement was quite stable until climate change, in all probability, caused it to collapse when Roman agrarian wealth could no longer generate a surplus.
Welfare creates civilization. Romantic and “progressive” historians accentuate the origins of civilization in the monopolization of grain stores and the destruction of decentralized Neolithic agriculture. But this was not a wholly negative process. Nothing is.
Goodness, as Mae West said, had nothing to do with it.
Rome had slavery, of course. But there are indications (cf. Robin Blackburn’s History of New World Slavery) that its form of slavery was a caste system as seen roughly at the same time as India’s, and not a system of exchange which is what Western slavery became. After 1600 the primary fact in the West was not slavery, it was the slave trade, whereas prior to 500 AD the primary fact was slavery: the trade in slaves was insignificant.
The crisis of my country is that the progressive Left is entirely too permissive as regards the idiot Jeffersonian-agrarian ideal because the independence of the agrarian political subject was based on the extraction of unpaid labor from women, slaves and children. Eurasians know that human progress occurs mostly in cities to which we flee for a shot at existence.
But the American left allows itself to repeatedly blindsided by the “discourse of Authenticity”. Next thing you know you have “Johnny Yuma, the Rebel” who’s just a dispossessed slave-driver gone west.
He steps over dead bodies being no wimp like me.
Towards the end of his life, my Dad said that most of his fellow medical students of the 1940s were Communists (although he was not). As future doctors, they simply believed that society would and should generate a surplus, for example of their talent and discoveries such as penicillin, making a luxury, health, into a free good.
Of course, starting somewhere in the 1970s, we were told, repeatedly, that this was all folly. But at that time, Dr. Ernesto “Che” Guevara was dispensing medicine and kicking ass in Bolivia and as an agent neither of Cuba, nor of the Soviet Union. That’s because he didn’t think Bolivia was at that time a civilization. And modern Bolivia, today, is showing that he’s right as it uses anything but the “free market” raise itself from the poverty Che witnessed.
Whilst we watched bad guys get what they deserved.
IT TAKES A WHILE BEFORE YOU CAN STEP OVER INERT BODIES AND GO AHEAD WITH WHAT YOU WERE TRYING TO DO. – Jenny Holzer, The Living Series, 1989