The Anti-Civilisation

Peter Myers, 29th October 1999

When I was a child, I was taught that Civilisation was good. In my primary school each student had his own Social Studies text-books, which taught about Ancient Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome. They also taught me about society's increasing use of energy, and that nuclear energy was good. In junior high school I studied Latin. My other subjects were Maths I and II, Physics, Chemistry, and French. Religion was tacked on too, because I attended a Catholic school; but if we count it out, then four of my six subjects were Maths-and-Science, and a high standard was demanded. I never studied Ancient History in high school as a subject, but I used to read it as a hobby. It too taught me about Ancient Civilisations, including those of America.

If I had gone straight to university from high school, I would have studied Engineering. Instead I was persuaded to enter a Catholic seminary, where my interest in such matters withered, and I became something of a scholastic philosopher. When I left after several years and went to university, I did not study any maths or science subjects at all; instead I studied philosophy and anthropology. Anthropology was a sort of secular equivalent of theology; but it was pretty-much anti-Civilisation. Nearly all of the peoples we focused our minds on were aboriginals or tribes which had been conquered by the Civilisations. Our emphasis was not on the virtues of Civilisation but on its evils. At the same time the Marxist philosophy was current among many Anthropology and Sociology lecturers. Marx attacked all of the Civilisations; and his most subtle attack on them was to redefine them. Instead of calling them Civilisations, he called them "Class Societies".

Each was run by and for a small Ruling Class, and oppressed everyone else. Engels taught that the only good societies in human history were the aboriginal societies, which he described as Primitive Communism. The goal of all moral people should be to destroy the Class Societies (read Civilisations) in order to return to Communism. This time not primitive and stateless, but scientific, with all-powerful state control, which would be relaxed once all enemies of the new order had been defeated. Even though the Civilisations could only be destroyed by waging violent war against them, from the inside and the outside, such a war was moral because the Civilisations themselves were founded on war, and used violence to maintain control, i.e. to maintain Civilisation. Every civilisation had been underpinned by a religion, and Marxism aimed to wipe out all organised Religion. When Lenin took power, the aristocrats and priests were executed, as happened to the landlords and monks of Mao's China. When the Red Guards destroyed the Buddhist temples, were they destroying Western imperialism, inaugurating a new civilisation, or merely destroying an old one? Every Religion is imperfect, but surely the only justification for their total annihilation could be the inauguration of a perfect system: and that is exactly what the Red Guards of Lenin and Mao thought they were doing.

Freud's views were at the time very influential too, in the domain of Psychology, and also anti-Civilisation. Whereas Marx taught that Civilisation was Oppressive, of the lower social classes, Freud taught that Civilisation was Repressive, of our natural desires. Marx taught that social unity (in the Civilisations) was a myth, that instead there was a perpetual class war in society, in which one had to choose one side or the other; Freud taught the same thing, inside the individual person: rather than the personality being a unity, there was a perpetual war between Conscience and Desire. Unity and Peace were impossible.

Radical Feminism developed out of Marxism. Whereas Marx renamed Civilisation as Class Society, Radical Feminists renamed it (most civilisations) Patriarchy. Once again with some justification, because marriage has often amounted to ownership or control. They even attacked heterosexuality, complementarity itself.

During my third year at university, I nearly "dropped out"; this was basically an anti-Civilisation thing. I did not drop out then, but three years later, when I had a job, I began reading Earth Garden magazine, which encouraged its readers to return to a peasant lifestyle, as symbolised by a picture of a peasant digging his garden, on the front cover. I did not notice at the time that Earth Garden magazine is published from Epping, a suburb of Sydney, not a back block in the bush. Talk about practising what you preach! This time I really did drop out, leaving the city and going to a remote area in the countryside to pursue self-sufficiency. I ended up on the dole and my marriage broke up; this happened to most who "dropped out".

Whereas Scientific Socialism was "Old Left", Green and Radical Feminist Utopianism is "New Left". Where do they leave us? Firstly it must be admitted that each of these movements has, in its theory, much to say that is true; that is why so many people fell for their line. Further, that it is best not to try to return to the old order now, but to incorporate such truths into our understanding, so that we can rebuild - from the wreckage of our society which has been the effect of the Cold War, fought not only between societies but within them - a new civilisation for the next century. That, at least, should be our goal. This proposal is somewhat Hegelian, in that it envisages a synthesis between the Old Order Civilisations, considered as thesis, and the Anti-Civilisation we have now, considered as antithesis.

The Civilisations of the Ancient World provide us a model, because they were based on culture rather than race. They were based on culture, but they were Multicultural. This fact is often hidden because we have failed to see that Polytheism is always Multicultural. The basic idea of polytheism is that your god (or goddess, or value system) is compatible with mine. We can co-exist with one another, your value-system with mine. Monotheism, instead, is monocultural, insisting on a single set of values which, it is claimed, are not only valid for all but must be adopted by all. In this light it can be seen that Marxism and Radical Feminism are new types of Monotheism. The gods of Marxism - the apotheosised Marx and Lenin - could never have peacefully coexisted with other gods.

In recent years, feeling that "Western" civilisation is disintegrating, I have been trying to "save" it. But, under intense scrutiny, it has vanished before my eyes. I now realise that, in a sense, there never was any such thing; it was a fabrication to justify the European conquest of the rest of the world. There is only a "world" civilisation. It is worthwhile to look to our own past for ideas and inspiration, but we should not look only to our own past; we should feel free to draw on any and all cultures.

All of the Civilisations were founded both on economy and on ideas. The importance of economy is attested by the antiquity of the mining industry, and the long sea voyages undertaken to obtain minerals needed, ocean voyages in boats made of reeds, logs etc. The historical evidence is provided not only by Thor Heyerdahl, but my many others including Raymond Dart, Cyrus Gordon, and Jim Bailey. All of the Civilisations were connected with one another, even across the oceans. In effect, there is only one History of Civilisation.

The importance of ideas, in the Civilisations, is attested by the importance of their gods (and goddesses). But ideas are always part-myth, and when we have seen through a myth, we can no longer believe it. At present, having disposed of both Jesus and Marx as gods, we are bereft of myths we can believe in. We are godless, not because we don't want gods - we do need them - but because we can't find any.

Only the diehard could see Germaine Greer as a goddess; she herself admits to being more like a eunuch (because, she said, hysterectomy is like castration). But, as, historically, the idea that God is a woman - the Earth Mother - preceded the idea that God is a man - the Sky Father, in "heaven"; so, historically, the idea of God as male, a father in Heaven, seems to be passing. We will have to come up with a new concept of God.

Even more significant than the loss of "godly" status by Jesus and Marx, is the loss of "godly" status by the Devil. For the Devil, in Christianity and Islam, is very much a God; only the equal of God could battle God. The Civilisations' polytheism comprised gods and goddesses who were like people, not wholly "good" or wholly "bad", even though enemies may have always been depicted as "bad" during time of war. The idea that the universe is based on antagonistic polarity, a cosmic struggle between a good pole and a bad pole, began with the Zoroastrian religion of about 1500BC. It may have inspired the conquests of the Persian empire, as it later inspired the conquests of Islam and Christianity, and more recently has inspired the Cold War and the radical feminists' Sex War. For the Devil has always been identified with one's enemies. As the West has ceased to believe in the Devil, Christianity has crumbled. The attempt to secularise the Church has led to it becoming something akin to the Communist Party, attacking the "Western Civilisation" that the Church itself had earlier underpinned, when it believed in the Devil.

For 2000 years the West has lived with the idea that the course of history is predetermined, in the hands of a knowing and powerful God who would triumph over evil. Even the Marxist movement drew upon this idea of a higher power, predicting the defeat of evil, calling on the disciples to "help bring about the inevitable". The certainty of victory encouraged the faithful. But now this idea is fading, and the future is being seen as neither guided by God nor in the power of some benevolent Humanity. If it is not in the hands of angels or UFOs, then it must be in our hands - and we are finite and untrustworthy. How can we face an open future?

The mining industry was begun by aboriginal tribes looking for ochre, flints etc. Mining for metals, by the Ancient Civilisations, was done by ship, with regular ocean trips lasting up to 3 years (e.g. see 1 Kings 10:22). Such expeditions seem to have reached the New World millenia before Columbus (see Cyrus Gordon, Before Columbus; Jim Bailey, The God-Kings & the Titans, and Sailing to Paradise), and the very same sites are being mined today. Today, however, the quantities being extracted are so great, and at depths to 2 kilometres down, that no further civilisation will be able to follow in our tracks, because we will have taken it all; they will have to mine the oceans, moon, asteroids and planets. No civilisation has ever intentionally left some for future peoples. The Green proponents of Social Responsibility urge us to consume less, to shrink our economy, but Green voters are mainly middle-class white-collar residents of big cities, relatively affluent and relatively unaffected by the sacrifices they call on the lower orders to make. Who will embrace Voluntry Poverty, as Ivan Illich advocated, when they realise that it entails Voluntary Powerlessness?

Return to the Myers' papers