The Combatant – #5

He hears many interesting things, but, fleeting, they go almost as fast as they come; only death remains. Not even the reasons for all those deaths, or the names of the wars, or the approximate dates stay. Nothing but the pure and grotesque fact of so many deaths. Now as he looks into the past from the comfort of the future, time compresses, reality loses importance, and absurdity seems little more than mere words, words that not even use ink and paper anymore.

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The Story of Civilization: Moral Elements – Marriage

“Marriage was a profitable partnership, not a private debauch; it was a way whereby a man and a woman, working together, might be more prosperous than if each worked alone. Wherever, in the history of civilization, woman has ceased to be an economic asset in marriage, marriage has decayed; and sometimes civilization has decayed with it.”
Will Durant, “Our Oriental Heritage”, page 44.
(A family composed of the father, the mother, and their children: a rare institution today.)

SUMMARY: Civilization needs morals as well as marriage, an institution that went a long way from the nationalization of women and the prevailing property-motivated polygamy, up to our current fashion of romantic monogamy.

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The Story of Civilization: Political Elements – The Family

“Marriage began as a form of the law of property, as a part of the institution of slavery.”
Will Durant, “Our Oriental Heritage”, page 26.
(Chinese woman exposing her “lotus feet”, a common practice of binding — and deforming — women’s feet during imperial China, from the tenth to the twentieth centuries. Legend has it that the goal was to increase the status and beauty of women.)

SUMMARY: Even after the advent of the state, the family continues to be the basic political unit of society, but the woman, whose position was central to the family, becomes increasingly subordinate to man as agriculture and property develop.

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The Story of Civilization: Political Elements – Law

“When to this natural basis of custom a supernatural sanction is added by religion, and the ways of one’s ancestors are also the will of the gods, then custom becomes stronger than law, and subtracts substantially from primitive freedom.”
Will Durant, “Our Oriental Heritage”, page 26.
(“Execution of a Moroccan Jewess”, paint by Alfred Dehodencq, 1860. Sol Hachuel, 17, was decapitated by the false accusation of apostasy, that is, the resignation of her previous religion. Thirteen countries, even today, apply the death penalty for such “crime”. Yes, it’s 2019.)

SUMMARY: In the beginning, laws were customs, and man did not have individual rights, but with property, marriage and government, laws evolved, and the individual emerged.

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The Story of Civilization: Political Elements – Origins of Government and the State

“Societies are ruled by two powers: in peace by the word, in crises by the sword; force is used only when indoctrination fails.”
Will Durant, “Our Oriental Heritage“, page 22.
(Student waves a flag in Tiananmen Square, in Pequim, China, 1989. Such a “violent” protest generated retaliation from Deng Xiaoping’s government: it is estimated that more than 10,000 people were killed.)

SUMMARY: Man only associates with others for self-interest; it was war that stimulated a level of organization sufficient for the centralization of power into a government. The state is the result of conquest by force, of the substitution of kinship ties for domination, but is only maintained by the indoctrination of man, who allows himself to be indoctrinated — through family, church and school — to satisfy his interests.

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The Story of Civilization: Economic Elements – Economic Organization

“It was a great moral improvement when men ceased to kill or eat their fellowmen, and merely made them slaves.”
Will Durant, “Our Oriental Heritage”, page 20.
(A slave in Louisiana or Mississipi, 1863: in spite of slavery in Brasil “being over” for longer than in the USA, I can’t find any Public Domain images. I wonder why…)

SUMMARY: Agriculture has led to property, to inequality, to slavery, to industry, to class struggle, to the State; that is, to “civilization.”

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The Story of Civilization: Economic Elements – The Foundations of Industry

“Man, said Franklin, is a ‘tool-using’ animal.”
Will Durant, “Our Oriental Heritage”, page 12.
(A “knapper” from Irian Jaya, in West Papua, New Guinea: studies suggest that this kind of stone tool production skill was acquired by hominids at least 500 thousand years ago — and that also indicates the presence of some kind of language already at that time.)

SUMMARY: Beginning with the discovery of fire, man starts to build tools and produce more and more material goods and food, thus improving his living conditions. Initially, such improvement is given by the direct use of the goods; later, by the accumulation of wealth through the sale of surplus.

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The Story of Civilization: Economic Elements – From Hunting to Tillage

“The moment man begins to take thought of the morrow he passes out of the Garden of Eden into the vale of anxiety…”
Will Durant, “Our Oriental Heritage”, page 6.
(Ju/’hoansi “bushmen” in Namibia: hunter-gatherers that, until today, live the moment and survive with fifteen weekly hours of work.)

SUMMARY: The discovery of agriculture by women frees man from hunting by providing a dependable supply of food, while the domestication of animals improves his life — man learns the concept of time and, with it, meets anxiety and begins to be human.

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The Story of Civilization: The Conditions of Civilization

Or the demon of earthquake, by whose leave we build our cities, may shrug his shoulders and consume us indifferently.
Will Durant, “Our Oriental Heritage“, page 1.
(Port-au-Prince, Haiti, soon after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 160,000 people.)

SUMMARY: Every civilization has economic, political, moral and social elements, and depends on geological and geographical conditions for its existence. But what preserves civilization is its transmission to our children — and the technique of such transmission is education.

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The Story of Civilization: The Project

…that these volumes may help some of our children to understand and enjoy the infinite riches of their inheritance.
Will and Ariel Durant, ”The Story of Civilization – Volume 1“, Preface, page X.

I “met” Will Durant when looking for a book that presented the history of philosophy in a concise and not-too-complex way. His first book (and big bestseller), “The Story of Philosophy“, gave me just that. “Reading” it from a masterfully narrated audiobook by Grover Gardner greatly boosted my enthusiasm. So much so that it was looking for other narrations by Grover – not books by Durant – that I came across his “The Story of Civilization“, and I was simply flabbergasted.

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