Book Review: Civilized to Death

Civilized to Death: What Was Lost on the Way to ModernityCivilized to Death: What Was Lost on the Way to Modernity by Christopher Ryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was a big fan of Sex at Dawn, but that was more specialized. This one is wide-ranging and deeply disappointed with the absolute state of the place.

The take home, as is usually the take home in my beloved unga bunga bullshit books, is that the more civilized we became, the further we got from ourselves, which is why the modern world is such a seething morass of anxiety and rage. Ryan draws from the left-field guesses about our origins that constitute anthropology along with modern studies of hunter-gatherer tribes to conclude that we probably enjoyed like a lot more when it was simple and we were living in accordance with the animal drives embedded with us over the millions of years it took for us to turn into hairless apes.

We’re living in overcrowded Skinner boxes. We were never meant to see this many people, let alone see them every day. We were never meant to intake this much data. We’re highly adaptable, which is why we’re still alive as a species, but this is a freshwater fish in a saltwater tank situation. The adults are miserable because they eat things that aren’t food and spend all their time doing fake things that they don’t care about. The children are doomed because they’re kept confined and medicated to oblivion if they behave like children, especially during the federally mandated eight to ten daily hours of Sitting Still and Doing Math that constitutes early education. Being forced to live so counter to our instincts causes that civilization discontent Freud was popping off about, which leads to anxiety, rage, madness, an increasingly worsening world that makes the next generation suffer all the more.

Most jarring for me was the chapter on death and dying. Ryan champions a sort of stoic, honorable acceptance of death, reflected in primitive societies where the old, feeble, useless, or potential liabilities would take it upon themselves to functionally commit suicide by nature. Horrifying for us to consider, until you take a closer look at the state of the health care industry. A full 33% of the health care budget, 33% of all money that pertains to medicine in America, goes toward the 5% of people in the health care system who are going to die that year. It’s a huge money funnel dedicated to prolonging the process of dying. CPR, ventilators, chemotherapy, all these last ditch “well, something has to work!” efforts don’t heal the sick. It’s a racket, a ritualized worship of pain that ends up bankrupting whole families for generations.

It’s hard to read books like this and hope that the end isn’t well and truly nigh, especially in light of the Corona outbreak. So many people are hyperventilating at the prospect of things “never getting back to normal!”

Why would you want things to go back to normal?

I’ll see y’all in Thunderdome.

View all my reviews

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