words and images by mk swanson
Civil or Savage?

Civil or Savage?

In listening to broadcasts on world affairs today, it occurred to me that there is a basic philosophical question at issue: are the people of certain countries, ethnicities, colors, or creeds inherently or hopelessly mired in savagery, or are all people essentially and on average equally capable of rational thought, kindness, and civil behavior?

I think we often hear arguments based on the former. I hear that Afghanistan is a medieval tribal region that has been fighting continuously for 400 years, and so is incapable of enlightened self-governance. The concept is that some countries or peoples are caught in an earlier time in their march toward civilization, and so can’t help that they are violent. The voices recommend that we stop trying to “help” these countries/ethnic groups because they are… primitive.

Is it just me, or is anyone else hearing an alarm bell?

I believe that any group of people, given access to human rights like food, shelter, education, and freedom from oppression, will choose to promote those basic rights for others in the same numbers as any other, regardless of the number of years they have been “civilized.”

The people of Afghanistan are not–no people are–innately savage. I think that with access to basic human rights that we in the More Fortunate World take for granted, they will look astoundingly similar to us.

With this disposed of, perhaps we can begin to address why those in the supposedly civilized world commit acts of violence.