“With age comes wisdom.” This was the thought a friend and I were recently contemplating around a camp fire in the desert. We no longer communicate with our elders, and our elders are not as wise as their age might let on. These were scenarios swirling around the glow and warmth of the fire and burning at our beliefs like the wind-blown smoke stinging our eyes.
With my own witnessing of the world, I’ve drawn up a rough draft of criteria for a “civilized” society I hope to one day pass on to my children’s children.
My first look is at how a culture views and treats creatures other than itself, or whether it considers its own part of the animal kingdom. If their zoos resemble display prisons, or if their wild populations have been depleted down to stray cats and pigeons; if they talk of “thinning the herds” but refuse to whisper the words of human population problems, there are deep issues.
Next, I observe space dedicated to public use and access. If private property and the automobile rule, city parks are nonexistant, and nature preserves are for show only, then it explains much about priorities.
Lastly, but of just as much importance, I ponder what a society wastes. If it is a country without forests and I see a dumpster filled with lumber; if it is a country with little space for landfills and I see the aftermath of a festival looking like a landfill scattered in the streets; if it is a country with malnutrition and there is an abundance of vegetables being discarded, well, then… I see serious room for reflection.