Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ortega y Gasset: Civilization is Artificial

In the disturbances caused by scarcity of food, the mob goes in search of bread, and the means it employs is generally to wreck the bakeries. This may serve as a symbol of the attitude adopted, on a greater and more complicated scale, by the masses of today towards the civilization by which they are supported … Civilization is not "just here," it is not self-supporting.
It is artificial … if you want to make use of the advantages of civilization, but are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization — you are done. In a trice you find yourself left without civilization. Just a slip, and when you look, everything has vanished into air. The primitive forest appears in its native state, just as if curtains covering pure Nature had been drawn back. The jungle is always primitive and vice versa, everything primitive is mere jungle. (José Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses, New York: W.W. Norton, 1932, p. 97.)

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