Nobody’s Job: Civilization

A few weeks ago, I posted that civilization is everybody’s job.

Bruce Charlton claims the opposite in a remarkably pessimistic post:

However; ‘civilisation’ is (quite rightly) nobody’s priority to sustain – not least because it is a by-product rather than a strategy; and is anyway a very long-term and remote problem – so it will always be made a low priority in competition with so many others.

I think, on one level, my post and Charlton’s are reconcilable. For instance, I think it is true that happiness is man’s chief end, but I also think that ‘seeking happiness’ in itself is simply a bad idea. Happiness is found indirectly as it is an activity in accordance with virtue, a sort of combination of present experience, total quality of life, and committing oneself to one’s personal work in a virtuous way. But we still must acknowledge that it’s what we seek and define it well lest we indirectly foil our pursuit of it. Similarly, civilization isn’t built by the person growing a garden, living in doors, or being polite at the super market. But it isn’t unhelpful to have in mind that if the majority of people never do either, then civilization cannot exist.

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