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Are we really civilized?

IN 1960 Mr. Roderick Meredith and I visited a mining compound in Kitwe, Northern Rhodesia — just a few minutes drive from the Congo. We were privileged to be shown through some native markets.

Mr. Meredith and I were appalled to learn that many of these natives can't afford even fly-covered dried fish. They commonly eat less expensive fare — worms! The heaps of worms we saw in more than one native market looked like common grubs.


Not Our Standards!

The "civilized" world of today prides itself on its intelligence, its culture and its advancement in science, technology and philosophy.

The so-called modern, sophisticated, "civilized" person looks on pagans and their customs with disdain and repugnance. The aborigines of Australia, Africa, South America and other parts of the world are treated as backward and "uncivilized."

But are WE really as civilized and cultured as we have been deluded into believing?

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines the word "civilize" as: 'To cause to come out of a SAVAGE or BARBAROUS state; to INSTRUCT in the CUSTOMS of CIVILIZATION; EDUCATE; REFINE."

And what of the word "civilization" which we so pride ourselves in having achieved? "Civilization" is defined as:

"1. Advancement in SOCIAL CULTURE. 2. A state of social culture characterized by relative progress in the ARTS, SCIENCE and STATECRAFT."

Have we ever stopped to examine our own customs and practices to see if we are really cultured and civilized? In some parts of the Orient it is commonplace for a housewife to walk into a "meat-market" where a plentiful and diverse supply of snakes are caged. The Indian attendant reaches into a cage and pulls out a number of writhing snakes. The oriental housewife then selects the serpent of her fancy. The proprietor takes a knife, cuts all the way around its "neck," slits its skin from head to tail, removes it, and then passes the still-living writhing, skinned snake to the pleased customer, who puts it into her shopping-bag and makes her way home to prepare it for the family.

Our western world would call this barbarous!

But what about the Western or Occidental world? Are we very much more civilized than they? In most any city of any size in America, Britain, Canada or Australia one can go into a delicatessen and select from the shelves rattlesnake meat, canned worms, or many other "delicacies."


Good Eating?

Now come with me into a modern, plush and very expensive restaurant in New York City. When one enters the restaurant, he is met by the smiling Head Waiter who ushers him and his party to their table. The furniture is very plush; the seats are covered in fine leather; light is mostly by the romantic flicker of candles; soft dinner music can be heard in the background; the waiters are dressed in tails and have thick foreign accents. The general decor and atmosphere make it truly a delightful place in which to have an enjoyable dinner.

A smiling waiter walks up to your table and puts artistically printed menus in front of you. On the menu (and included among the hors d'oeuvres) are listed such things as common earthworms and agave worms, fried ants or, if you prefer, chocolate-coated ants or bees, rattlesnake steaks, eels, snails, octopus, turtle soup, shrimp, crabs, oysters. You look at the menu half amused, half-nauseated at the thought.

As you look around, you see competent, civilized, intelligent-looking men who have been successful in the world. They can afford these "delicacies." Their female companions are usually elegantly dressed ladies wrapped in furs, decked with jewels.

But is this really "culture?"

You ask yourself how these successful men and women can possibly be so devoid of understanding as to pay so dearly for a dinner which usually includes at least some of these abhorrent creatures! Then you are reminded of the proverb: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12).

Now look at the food eaten by the average man-on-the-street.

The average American, Canadian, Australian or Briton exists on a "dietetic horror." Man takes the minerals, bran, the wheat germ and other precious food elements from the wheat. He feeds that to the pigs. Then he feeds his fellow man on the "refined" product. The iron and other vital elements are taken from sugar beets and sugar cane and we are then given the "refined" white sugar. Poisonous preservatives, bleaches, and other nocuous chemicals are added before ' reaching the consumer! Is it any wonder that many are anemic, constipated, diseased and just teetering on the brink of collapse?


Ridiculous Clothes

Now look at the clothes worn by the so-called civilized world. We look with amused curiosity upon the garments of aboriginal tribes, Orientals or people of the Near East and then we smile to ourselves! The garbs of these people appear strange or perhaps ludicrous to us. But just how ridiculous are our customs?

Bikini bathing suits, plunging necklines, short and tight dresses, "short-shorts," skin-tight slacks — are these really any more modest than the dress of the non-western world?

Today on television human beings are turning more and more to nudity, while animals are being clothed! Perhaps one will, in the near future, behold the ridiculous spectacle of a near-nude human being riding on a fully-clothed horse, or leading a well-dressed dog! We surely live in a mixed-up, topsy-turvy world! Is this true civilization?

We look with amazement at heathen tribes who paint and powder themselves in what appears to us a ridiculous fashion. But doesn't our modern "civilized" woman also use lipstick, rouge, powder, mascara, hair dyes and other forms of "make-up?"

Many foreigners who visit our lands for the first time are amazed and shocked at what they see cultured westerners doing.

"The fantastic world of women's fashion has grown into one of the greatest con games ever devised . . . The tab for fuss and feathers [all types of women's make-up] is now close to 25 billion dollars a year. . .

"Every man should be able to enjoy looking at a womanly woman, but today's fashions do not permit it. The average female looks like a witch, with heavy-rimmed eyes, hair puffed out into a toadstool shape, and her shape below disguised as a lampshade, T-square or triangle . . ." So says Reader's Digest, October, 1962.


Concrete and Steel Jungles

Now consider another aspect of life as found in the "civilized" world. Today it is common to find (in the larger cities of every nation) veritable concrete and steel "jungles." In these manmade jungles live scores of millions of human beings — cooped up like animals! Children born in such circumstances have no parks in which to play, and must often grow up like alley-cats or stray-dogs — running the streets!

"Civilized" peoples ridicule the superstitious practices of the aborigines and the ancient pagans. Yet many superstitions and fables are just as firmly rooted in so-called enlightened peoples. Some who ridicule the divine inspiration of the Bible, accept instead the theory of evolution — which is not only unproven, but unprovable. The modern belief that life originally sprang from ocean slime is actually an ancient pagan superstition.

How many people have you known personally who are fearful of certain "unlucky" numbers; who refuse to walk under a ladder because of superstitious fear; who wear a rabbit's foot, a crucifix or some charm or amulet around their necks?

You would be utterly appalled if you knew how many people base their lives on their personal horoscopes and plan their future "according to the stars." How many people do you know who believe in water-witching, crystal-ball gazing, palmistry, or who will use a plum-bob or some other instrument to reveal to them hidden knowledge. There are many modern forms of wizardry, witchcraft, horoscopy, and other forms of demon practices and superstitions which our people still cling to — practices which God condemns (Deut. 18: 10-12).

We in the "civilized" world ridicule the witch doctors and so-called "medicine" doctors of heathen lands. But many of the pills, drugs and other concoctions which are daily pumped, piped or pushed into the mouths or veins of human beings were formerly used by many "uncivilized" medicine men. It has been said by a noted English medical doctor that if all these medicines and drugs were dumped into the ocean, it would be much better for humanity and much worse for the fish!

Reports an editor in Maclean's magazine: "for the past several weeks I have been questioning physicians, pharmacologists, hospital clinicians, scientific researchers and others about the 'confusing, dangerous mess' in therapeutics. My own general conclusion is that, unless we quickly mend our ways, we are on our way to creating a nightmare of drug-induced heart and blood disease; damaged livers and kidneys; impaired hearing, sight and sexual powers; and the birth of an increasing number of severely deformed babies." (Maclean's Magazine, December 1, 1962)

In many remote areas in the Americas, the Middle East, Asia, and the Polynesian islands, there are people who are almost without drugs but have a more natural diet, and have healthy bodies that live to a great age. What is so "civilized" about the way we wreck our health?

Are we, then, as "civilized" as we would like to believe? Look at the way many people treat animals with great kindness and tenderness; and then compare this with the way they treat fellow human beings (made in the very image of God Almighty)!