Civilization


Camp looked around, absentmindedly tamping his unlit pipe. We were back in the pub, found our usual seats and Vicky was our hostess.

‘How did you get over the last two months,’ I asked her.

I stayed home with my son, enrolled in an on-line course on becoming a realtor and applied for every dollar from the government I could. I did better than some others.’ Happy to be back. I missed seeing and being with people the most.’ And with that she dropped two lovely pints in front of us.

‘What do you think holds the fabric of society together, keeps cultures thriving and nations intact?’ Camp asked.

‘Civilization is a tenuous achievement, held together by people willing to tolerate others outside their own family, accept a code of ethics, law and order based on civility, justice and equality and ‘do no harm’, as well as technology and an abundance of food,’ I said. ‘But if you’re referring to the mayhem in the US after those cops killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, then I have to say, anarchy is only a stone throw away.’

‘The majority of protesters were genuinely aggrieved and demonstrated peacefully for racial justice, there were plenty of aggressive looters and hooligans taking advantage of civil unrest. These punks come out only to rob and steal and incite violence and destruction,’ Camp said. ‘There is a growing right-wing militia movement, called boogaloo, who are encouraged by Trump’s tweets to ‘liberate’ their states. They tote assault weapons and wear Hawaiian shirts.’

‘There is so much pent-up anger and lockdown frustration over the past few months and also genuine pain and sorrow over these racially motivated killings by white cops.’

‘There are three emergencies at present troubling the world: The pandemic due to covid-19, the civil unrest in the US thanks to racial injustice and a fascist government and an environmental crisis thanks to an overreliance on fossil fuels,’ Camp said, finishing his pint with relish. ‘A fresh draught sure beats a can of beer.’

‘Let’s face it, the US is built on genocide of the natives, wiping out 90% of indigenous peoples and slavery. Did you know that the first president, George Washington had 123 slaves?’

I said, emptying my first pint. I had to agree with Camp that sitting at our usual table, being served a fresh draught by a lovely young lady, is very civilized.

‘A teacher once told us that civilisation was a matter of plumbing. Basically, infrastructure for moving clean water in and dirty water out is what allowed people to congregate in large groups in permanent dwellings and create cities and cultures. Otherwise people would still be nomads to literally escape their own shit,’ Camp said.

‘Yes, the flush toilet is surely one of the best inventions, right after the wheel and the roman arch,’ I agreed. ‘Add to that electricity, technology and distance communication and you have a modern society.’

‘And then there comes a deadly virus and a revolution prompted by injustice and misuse of power to disrupt the whole tenuous structure of society.’

And just like magic Vicky brought us a refill and for just one moment life seemed perfect and in balance.

‘Good to see you both survived the lockdown,’ Vicky said, ‘but what’s with the hair? Even growing out of ears and noses.’

‘It’s the new style,’ Camp said. ‘The natural way.’

‘If we let nature take over like your hair then we’re soon back in the jungle.’

‘Maybe Vicky has a point,’ Camp said.

‘I did cut the grass,’ I conceded.

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