If one were to look in many dictionaries, the meaning of the word civil would be different in each one. This is because a single definition cannot describe what it means to be civilized. The meaning is different for every person because every person’s individual values and morals are different. Religion, conflict and compromise, exploration, communication, organization, and rational thinking all contribute to being civilized. Through an examination of these factors one can attempt to explain what it means to be civilized.
Religion affects people greatly. In the epic story The Odyssey, the main character Odysseus often relies on the gods to help him through his many adventures. Religion is important to society because it gives people a sense of right and wrong; a sense which every society needs. Religion also provides spirituality and guidance, which helps to keep people grounded. In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the animals do not follow any religious principles and suffer because of this. There is rarely a perception of right or wrong, and many of the animals have no sense of spirituality and are not grounded because of this.
Being able to resolve conflict in an appropriate manner is a mark of a civilized society. Conflict arises in everyday life, and in order to be civilized one must deal with conflict in a mature and appropriate manner. Compromise is one way in which to resolve conflict. When one is brought face to face with one’s opponent and forced to listen, learn, and mend one’s own beliefs; one must collaborate, compromise, and communicate in order to pursue one’s beliefs. In some instances war can also be justified as a civilized way to resolve conflict. In such circumstances a society must look closely at the situation and answer the question: is this war justified? In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, conflict arises between the two families and is not resolved until the death of the main characters, Romeo and Juliet. This is an example of a war that is not justified or civilized, and the characters in the story suffer consequences because of it.
In a world of new age and technology, exploration is welcome in every form. As a society, people are encouraged to expand their minds to new and better things. Exploration takes place all around us all the time even though we may not realize it. From a nature walk, to the classroom, to the farthest corners of the galaxy, people explore and discover new things. In order to be civilized, one’s mind must be open to exploration and the unknown. In an account of her experiences in space, Sally Ride summarizes the thrill of exploration in “Single Room, Earth View.” Exploration is expressed through feelings, impressions, and insights that make one civilized and give one a new perspective on life.
Communication is essential in relaying ideas and beliefs to other people. A lack of communication, such as in Romeo and Juliet between the families, can have dire consequences. Communication leads to understanding, which leads to compromise, and ultimately being civil. In Animal Farm, the animals communicate with each other, but the pigs do not always communicate with the other animals. A civilized society must have ongoing communication between the government and the people. Without communication between the government and the people, a society may turn into a dictatorship like in Animal Farm.
A civilized society must also have principles upon which the society is based. Without communication these principles cannot be articulated and understood. Communication is also essential to education and religion. Through education and religion one forms ideas and the basis of one’s principles. Through communication one has the ability to form ideas and beliefs, and have those ideas and beliefs heard and turned into actions.
In order for a civilized society to function, there must be organization. In both The Giver and Anthem, the societies are very organized and therefore, function smoothly and precisely. When there is a sense of order, individuals can more easily acquire knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to a more civilized society. Organization can help to plan more thoroughly and understand things better. Without organization there could be total chaos and it would be extremely difficult to communicate. When one has a thought, that thought must be organized, and then put into ideas and plans. Then, those plans can be transformed into reality.
Rational thinking is the ability to sort through problems using reason instead of emotion. It is important for a civilized society to be run through reason and not feelings. Rational thinking can provide consistency in making decisions and in problem solving, which can lead to a more stable and trusting society. It is important that one has the ability to think rationally so that one can take information provided and analyze that information to make the best decision based on the information given.
To be civilized is a combination of all these elements–religion, conflict and compromise, exploration, communication, organization, and rational thinking. All of these elements support each other and tie into each other, without one, another would not be complete. Being civilized consists of having beliefs and morals, a willingness to listen to others and resolve problems in an appropriate manner, an openness to new ideas, ways in which to communicate one’s ideas, organization, so as to acquire knowledge, and ways of thinking in which those ideas can be heard and turned into actions. Society is not as civilized as the world may see it. The world claims to be civilized, yet violence and injustice exist everyday. The world is not perfect, but it would not hurt to strive towards perfection and civility, in order to make the world a better place.
Courtney from Study Moose
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