What does President Donald Trump mean by “our” civilisation?
I think he means the civilisation of rich, old, white men. “Our” doesn’t include anyone who is black, brown, Muslim, Jewish, gay, educated, or any woman who doesn’t view herself as a something to be objectified. “Our” civilisation doesn’t need art, literature or music. It is fed entirely by money.
Since more than one of the above categories applies to me, it follows that I’m not a member of “our” civilisation, in the way that the president uses that word.
So when I say “our” civilisation, what do I mean?
To me, “our” civilisation is the confluence of many rivers. It is Egypt, India, China, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome, it is Euripides, Shakespeare, Basho, Goethe, Mozart, Mahler, Praxiteles, Picasso, Leonardo. “Our” civilisation is the Middle Way, the journey of Moses from the desert, compassion, redemption, democracy, enlightenment; it is gravity and relativity and quantum mechanics; it is a minuscule creature on a ball of dust on the edge of a galaxy, daring to count the stars and to measure the beginning and end of the universe.
And yes, “our” civilisation is also Auschwitz, the killing fields, the burning of witches. Intolerance. Dehumanisation of “the other”.
That is the central paradox of who we are. The brighter the light, the deeper the darkness. “And the darkness comprehendeth it not,” says the evangelist, yet it is by virtue of the existence of the darkness that the light shines.
It follows that while when the president says “our” civilisation, he may be excluding people like me, when people like me say “our” civilisation, we do not exclude people like the president. What he is, what he stands for, was created by us. If we make his ilk into “the other”, we are as guilty as they are. We can make the mistake of dismissing them as a bunch of uneducated, unenlightened boors, but the last time “our civilisation” made that mistake, there was a world war.
If all civilisation gets wiped out, it won’t much matter if it was “ours” or “theirs”. So, in the little time we have, let’s try to save it.