It seems to me, civilization, being a manifestation of humanity, is based on human hearted actions… like kindness and courtesy. These two mutually harmonious ways of being are the cement and aggregate that make up the foundation of civilization. Those that practice them advance civilization and those who don’t destroy it. We all want to live in a civilized society, and all of us seek the advantages that civilization brings, but to live in a civilized society requires us to be civilized ourselves. We are obligated to be kind and courteous, if we are to be civilized, not to be so, is to be uncivilized. We loose sight of this at risk not only to our fortunes and pleasures but to our very souls.
Aristotle said that people are social animals. Civilization is not necessarially a fact of us being social however. Ants are social, in fact, it could be argued that they are more social than us, but an ant colony, no matter the order it displays, is not civilized. By this example we see that social organization is not a primary attribute of civilization. Nor is communal living necessarially an attribute of civilization… as every historical example of socialist and communist nations have descended into barbarity, bloodshed and depravity… they are the antithesis of civilization. Civilization requires human heartedness as a prerequisite, order and communal living are created by civilization, but civilization is not based on them, it creates them.
Kindness is simply an attitude of holding others charitably, overlooking their faults, doing acts that advance the well being of our fellows and making the lives of strangers more comfortable. This is an easy concept to understand, every one of us wants to be treated kindly, but it is far harder to practice in our daily lives. We all have days when we are grumpy, out of sorts and simply mad at the world. It is at these times that it is the most important that we act kindly to those we come across. We grow as a result both intellectually and spiritually. Moreover, the very act of being kind not only creates civilization in us, but it grows civilization in others.
There is an old axiom that courtesy is the lubricant of society. Courtesy is a twin to kindness in that it is treating others in a way that makes it emotionally safe to interact with friends and strangers. Courtesy is an indication that we recognize the humanity and worth of those we interact with. Since all of us must interact with our fellow man to get our needs met, courtesy facilitates the process. From such mundane acts, like shopping, to extreme times of sorrow, we need others to help us in our day to day lives. Civilization allows this to happen in a way that is efficient and comfortable. The efficiency of meeting our needs and the needs of others, that civilization fosters, is enhanced by courtesy.
It is not possible to pass our obligation for kindness to the State. The State is a product of the lack of civilization of those within it. If mankind lived in a spirit of absolute civilization the State would be superfluous. As such, the State is an entity that acts as a backstop for those that act uncivilized, IE, unkind and iniquitous. As we pass our duties to be kind to the State, we become less civilized, and the power of the State must grow to balance our selfishness and inequity. The result is less civilization, not more. The same can be said of courtesy, the less we display, the more the State must coerce social harmony.
If we want to live in a society that is civilized we must act both kindly to others and courteously. If we try to pass our obligation to be civilized to the State, the quality of civilization is diminished… necessarially. The State cannot hold people charitably, it cannot overlook the faults of people and it cannot treat others as it would be treated… because it is not a human being. The State is an entity that is based on power to punish and force action to create social concord where there is none. The State imposes order on society… civilization creates it. Strict order is not civilization nor is communal living, they are side effects of civilization, but are not a prerequisite of it. We are obligated to act in a way that forwards the goal of civilization not stunt it. Those that understand and learn this lesson will be more human hearted and those that scoff will be less so. The state of our civilization will be enhanced or harmed by your actions. In the end, the real question is, do you want to live in a civilized society… or an ordered one?