The Story of Civilization by CEM Joad

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Myself. Then why do you say they are great?

Lucy. Because, I suppose, I shall like them some day. Anyway, grown-up people make a great fuss about them.

Myself. Yes, and there are other things such as pictures and music that you don't like much yet, but grown-ups make a fuss about. If Shakespeare's plays are a sign of civilization, so are Raphael's pictures and Beethoven's music.

Lucy. I suppose so, although I don't know much about them.

Myself. Then to produce beautiful things such as plays, pictures and music is being civilized, people like Shakespeare and Raphael and Beet¬hoven are the sort of people who count.

Lucy. But all sorts of people I have read about, like the Caliphs and Princes in the Arabian Nights, had splendid things, palaces and silks and satins, and jewels, scents and gorgeous clothes, and wonderful carpets, and lovely things to eat and drink, and slaves to wait on them. Weren't they civilized?


Myself. I am not sure. You see, they just had what they liked and did what they wanted to.

Lucy. Well, why shouldn't they?

Myself. Think of something nice, anything you like . . .

Lucy. Treacle toffees.

Myself. Well, suppose you were very rich, had as much money as you could possibly want, and bought thousands and thousands of treacle toffees. Wouldn't you get sick of them?

Lucy. I suppose so.

Myself. And similarly with catapults.

Lucy. What do you mean?

Myself. Well, John likes catapults more than anything else. But suppose he was very rich indeed, and, because he liked catapults best, spent his money on buying catapults, so that he had hundreds of them. He wouldn't be much better off than he was with one or two, would he?

Lucy. You mean he could not let off more than one or two at once.

Myself. Yes. And he would very soon get tired of catapults altogether.

Lucy. I expect he would; but what has that got to do with it?

Myself. Why, this: that the things you read about in the Arabian Nights, the splendid palaces and gorgeous clothes and hundreds of slaves, and all that sort of thing, seem to me to be just grown-up substitutes for treacle toffees and catapults. People get born the sons of kings, and they grow up to inherit power and riches, and then they say to themselves, "Now, what do I like best?" And


having found out what it was, they have spent their money in getting as much or as many of what they liked best as they could.

Lucy. And then they got tired of it?

Myself. Yes. Because when you have had a certain amount of doing just what you want and enjoying the sort of things you like, you don't want any more.

Lucy. Like getting tired of the treacle toffees. But you can always stop and begin again.

Myself. That is what the Romans did. They used to eat enormous meals, and when they couldn't eat any more, they took something to make them sick. Then, when they were empty, they began to eat again. But I don't call that being civilized. Do you?

Lucy. No, I don't.

Myself. After all, pigs do that, although they haven't the sense to be sick afterwards.

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