Saturday, December 29, 2007

Civilization

It should come to no surprise that I was going to do a blog on this subject. But what I would enjoy knowing is if you feel this way yourselves or do you just think this is a game and you are waiting to arrive at 'Colonel Mustard in the skybox with a particle knife"?

Civilization -
A stage of development in human society that is socially, politically, culturally and technologically advanced.

Do we meet this criteria. Well, to me, we satisfy the whole definition. Oh, you say, you don't think we meet it politically. Well, I say we live within a benevolent dictatorship (except for all the screw ups) of Linden Labs and his royal highness King Philip.

Because we are such, it raises many questions for me.

What are the two major risks to our civilization.

1. To me extinction is a possibility. We do not control the possibility of an economic crisis which would make our leaders digitally annihilate all of us. Oh please, you all know this is possible. Hopefully not probable. Civilizations have ended. They have been lost through assimilation or genocide. Turning off the severs (for any reason: economic or otherwise) would be genocide. Assimilation doesn't sound very threatening unless we mean assimilating Firstlife into SecondLife and then that is their problem not ours.

2. Outside influences being so overwhelming as to change the nature of our civilization by their standards so as to in all purposes reduce us to a society we don't want to live in. This has been done to many civilizations. Of course the American Indian comes to mind. And what do I mean by this. The Casinos of SL are gone. Is it good or bad? Not important.....they ended because of another civilization making us assume their laws and ethics. (which as an aside I question deeply. i.e. In their world a 19 year boy old having sex with a 15 year old girl (if her parents press charges) becomes labeled for life a 'sexual predator'. But a 65 year old man having sex with an 18 year old girl is label 'virile.' As for their ethics, I don't have the time nor inclination to write such a commentary. But we all know it is lacking.
So now, a stupid group of leaders, mainly from California of all places wants to ban sexual activity in Secondlife. I think we should ban those leaders from such and also procreation since it is obvious they are genetically inferior and perhaps are actually the cancerous cells of society. In firstlife there are 'parental controls' what we need are 'stupidity controls.'

Do you see other risks? What solutions would you suggest? (I would direct you to read Thomas Paine www.ushistory.org/paine/rights/c2-01.htm

A few excerpts of note

"
government is no farther necessary than to supply the few cases to which society and civilisation are not conveniently competent; and instances are not wanting to show, that everything which government can usefully add thereto, has been performed by the common consent of society, without government."

"The more perfect civilisation is, the less occasion has it for government, because the more does it regulate its own affairs, and govern itself; but so contrary is the practice of old governments to the reason of the case, that the expenses of them increase in the proportion they ought to diminish."

With my deep love of all of you I now take my leave to return to our world.

7 comments:

Upo said...

I liked this entry. I agree with what is said with the exception of one item. And that is where Paine talks of mans wants which I will get to in a minute.
One of the core concepts or notions at the heart of governments or any governing body is this idea of control. And, when you stop to look and analyze things, you begin to notice something....and that is we have very little control over anything if anything at all. I mean who or what are we trying to control and for what purpose? Once you stop to look at things closely enough, you begin to realize that control is an illusion. I mean let's stop to analyze one of my favorite lines and pick it apart. Our government is supposedly designed to be set up so that any man, woman or child has access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Well, hmmm....life. Well once we are born we've already gained access to that. Thank you for your kind and generous offer but I'm afraid you've come a little too late to the game. Let's talk when I'm on my deathbed and see if we can't work something out for my next incarnation (if one so believes in). Would love to sit and chat about my next coming. I think you could make a fine parent, indeed.
Liberty! What a wonderful concept. I adore it. We have laws at federal, state and local levels which must coincide with federal but can be modified so long as it harmonizes nicely with the federal umbrella. And, if we try and apply a general meaning of the word liberty, (of which this one is:

"freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.") you may want to rethink your intentions because laws are in nature designed to interfere, restrict, introduce control (for those of you that are convinced it actually exists) and interferes with freedom of choice. Very kind of you to impose not one set of governing laws but three to give me liberty.

The pursuit of happiness. Who here is happy with the sense that they are being conrolled? Raise your hands please. One of the fuels that feeds this notion of control is fear. Ironic isn't it that we have to live in fear to be happy. (Again, for the believers). I've learned that happiness comes from within but thank you for informing me that I could be quite mistaken in the way I think and happiness is an external force that is imposed upon by others actions, views, ideas, and the world around me and is an elusive little bugger that I need to chase down.

"Dear God,

I know that you are terribly busy but could you please find some time to instill me more with a sense of fear so that I may be happy. Apparently, you and I have been misguided. Amen."

I get the impression that Paine talks of material wants in life. I think it is safe to say that all any one person really truly wants is to be happy. Since he used a plural sense of the word, I can only assume this. Certain fundamental basic human needs need to be met in order for this to happen. Once we obtain our material possession of what we think will make us happy, it seems to go without fail that over the course of time that the happiness diminishes. We've all experienced this.

I think Paine pretty much hit the nail on the head. This is nothing new, though. The Chinese figured this out 4,000 years ago and was also figured out by the native americans as well.

It's not that people are stupid but living in a way of thinking that was instilled in us as we were growing up. Things that we are taught. But, one can't help but wonder if our way is the best way to living life as we watch each other go at each others throats in the name of causes such as selfishness, greed, self-righteousness and many other reasons that people often misuse.

And, Lauren, I believe that there is truth to what you say as I can not only see it for myself but feel that truth as well. I've tried to outline it in my own words but the same fundamental principle exists between what you, Paine, the native americans, the Chinese, myself and many others have said. The question remains is...how are we going to let it affect our own person? If you let them anger or upset you, then they have already succeeded in their task and the ban doesn't even need to go in effect. That just merely becomes a detail. Sex can be a great way to express ones happiness, however one defines it. But, it is not the only way and SL is not the only outlet. People will flock to a place where they are happy and free to express their happiness. And the cycle continues ever on.

Lauren said...

Upo, you have written succinctly and addressed more of the issue then I had. I appreciate this immensely. As to, 'come to no surprise,' I was surprised and happy that you elaborated.

Delicious Demar said...

Hmmmmm. interesting topic - although it is HUUUGE! Trying to determine whether or not SL is a "civilization" gets into natural law, behavioural science, ethics, political theory, epistemology, existentialism (woohoo - $10 words rock!). I think Paine's article is interesting, from a nice conservative minimal-government perspective, but I wonder whether the lessons of history since then have proved him right, or wrong. Did he just miss the point entirely?

I took a quick look at Happy Planet World (http://www.happyplanetindex.org/list.htm). It claims to rank countries by a Happiness Index, as they define it based on Life Expectancy (a dubious measure to be sure - a long miserable life is not better than a short happy one), Ecological Footprint (the ability of a country to live within the resources available to it), and Life Satisfaction (basically self-reported satisfaction with life).

Another source (http://www.le.ac.uk/users/aw57/world/sample.html) has a neato "World Map of Happiness" based on some pseudo-scientific Subjective Well-Being Scale... lol.

Ok - these might be a bit of scientism (b/s posing as science), but the point is, that looking through the findings of these two sites, there seems to be no correlation whatsoever between the size of government and the level of "happiness". In fact, several of the happiest countries on both sites are clearly government-heavy and exist under strict governmental and bureaucratic controls.

So... I guess that although i can see Paine's point as a theoretical possibility, RL is obviously far more complicated than that. His argument that people naturally coalesce and form civilizations and self-impose social order, in order to fill their wants, makes a tidy sort of sense, and intuitively it sounds good - but is it really true? Look at vast parts of Africa, South America, eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and just about everywhere else, where in fact people tend more to form into competing tribes or factions and do their level best to kill each other in order to obtain material goods, land, or some religious/political/ethnic superiority.

But, back to SL... I think I tend to agree with you Lauren that SL can be considered a "civilization". In fact, Paine's perfect world of minimal government and maximum community working for the common good of all seem to be really well suited to SL. There is no blood to spill, no armies and physical suffering in SL - so it is a kind of purified medium where this kind of question can be looked at closely. I'd definitely argue that Second Life has blended so many different cultures and forms of expression - in general it is a far more open-minded and forgiving place than RL. the degree of creativity and the common availability of SL "technology" (the ability to build and create, use tools to make everything easier) is really high. Socially (and by extension ethically), given the lack of any central "laws" to regulate behaviour, things seem to run pretty smoothly, and the number of incidents of wrongdoing are far outweighed by the general feeling of goodwill and community.

As to the question of whether SL is just a game - I am one of those that wholeheartedly believes it is not a game at all. If it is, couldn't we legitimately ask, isn't life just a game? SL is more like a cultural and creative incubator - it teaches, it allows creative expression, it challenges us mentally and emotionally, and most importantly, it forges bonds between us in a way that a game never could. I have learned more in SL about so many things than I ever thought possible - life lessons even - that has brought SL above the level of a game and into the realm of being a part of my RL.

omg that is a frightening thought. lol. Well - this turned out to be a little more serious than I anticipated! I wanted to leave a couple of witty quips and be done with it. but, ermm, i got nothing. thanks for making a really thought-provoking post! This is the first time i stumbled accross your blog - but I will be back!!! :-))

DD

Upo said...

Hi, DD. :). You have some very interesting points to be sure. But, surely, measuring life expectancy as a form of happiness....well, all I know is that you cannot discount advances in medicine and technology that promote and sustain life expectancy. To me, that doesn't necessarily prove happiness. It just proves who has access to modern medicine and technology. I mean the human population is clearly becoming more dependent on technology.

Real life is as complicated as we want to make it or as simple as we want to make it. Why do you think people are warring and at each others throats? To me, it suggests that ways of thinking and values got all messed up. I mean as a general rule of thumb people are taught that if we have nice things and look pretty then we will be happy. It's becoming ever increasingly saturated. If we have x, y, and z, we will have a happy life.

One of the things I have noticed about Second Life is that everyone has the opportunity to have all these wonderful things that we try to mimic from real life. And, more often than not when I mingle with people who have all this, and are still showing discontentment and unhappiness well then, you have to wonder if this way of thinking is the best way.

And, I do believe that Paine is correct. All one has to do is look at nature. There are many MANY examples of social networks found among animals and insects of different species. The only thing that differentiates us from them is that (until further proven) we are the only species that is conscience of our environment and surroundings. And, that is where all the complications come about.

Let's use an example. One of the things that keep Second Life running is the selling and purchasing of land. In order for this to be successful, Linden Labs is doing nothing more than following the line of thinking that having this will give you what you need to have a happy Second Life. What do you suppose would happen, if all at once, everyone decided that, 'hey, I do NOT need this to have a happy second life'? I myself own no land. I used to but not anymore. I have some houses in my inventory taking up space. But, I do not need them. The acquisition of these virtual objects hasn't made me more happy.

If I may direct your attention to a book, 'Waterlily' written by Ella Cara Deloria, the book shows the intricate system of the life of the Dakotas. These civilizations that Paine speaks of have existed in the past but have for one reason or another been wiped out. And it wasn't because they're way of living failed them, it was because more often than not it was an external violent force that overcame these civilizations.

One of the underlying things that can govern our actions is fear. Fear is a very powerful thing to use against people and is used almost consistently. Fear spawns action and a lot of times while we think we are doing the right thing in all actuality we are perpetuating the cycle of fear and imposing it on others.

Now, the attraction to SL is that there is LESS fear inside that virtual metaverse than in the real world. People are more free and there are less concerns. But, look what has happened. The group that wants to abolish sex has entered the picture. Why? Why are they doing this? If you were to able to sit there and analyze it and take it to its very nature, the underlying thing motivating them is fear. And, usually fears are unjustified. The only thing happening is that they are perpetuating this cycle of fear. As is evident, because this article is a direct response. It was written out of fear that something that may be important to someone is taken away. And, this comes from attachment. That is the weapon employed here. We become attached and when we are attached to something fear takes over. They have perpetuated fear and passed it on to someone else causing a retaliation.

What do you suppose would happen if we all would stop being afraid? What do you suppose would happen if we would stop becoming attached to material posessions?

Upo.

Rheta Shan said...

Picking up not only on this entry but on the one before on Lauren's blog, I would venture to say it strikes the eye that Second Life has all the trappings of a New World. Lauren has listed some, others come to mind : parallel niche communities often oblivious to each other in the huge new space available to them ; a dearth of rules and recognized regulatory bodies able to handle conflicts among these ; uneasiness about the unquestioning application of Old World rules to the new ; the lack of awareness for the need, or institutions able to create a coherent framework of rules appropriate to the New World...

I think that to those more than cursorily immersed, there is no way SL is less than a world (although the question remains of how complete and viable a one it is). Awareness of this will, I think, be crucial to understand what happens, as a society struggles to emerge from the currently amorphous collection of communities that have decided to settle in the New Word. RL history has much to teach about that, I would guess, though that is a topic too deep for me. However, I am not sure that using the term « civilization » to describe the gestating society of SL entirely appropriate.

Don't misunderstand me, please ; I agree with Lauren's insight, and I am very happy to see others do so, butt : one, the term has many different definitions, the one selected thus a little arbitrary (I, for one, like the one by German sociologist Norbert Elias, who defined civilization as the process of subsuming primal urges and impulses under codified social behaviour, a necessary step in the evolution of complex social networks); two, in the one used here, it assumes some form of « advancement » which can not be measured, compared or in any way weighed because it is subjective, and, by its nature, prone to delusions of grandeur (the « civilizatory mission » was the rationale for my country to enslave African, Asian and Arab nations for centuries).

As an emerging society, SL is in need of many things, starting with awareness of what it is inside its constituent communities and not ending with its own, working system of law and government. We might be in the unique position to participate in the creation of those, but please let us be wary of repeating the errors made in RL.

Anonymous said...

i don know wha u homies r sayin, but it sure sound great

Anonymous said...

sry ignore that last comment, i didnt think that it would get published... and i have no clue what any of this is about... no harm meant