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Being Civilized

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

The last couple of weeks or even months saw subtle to drastic changes in the world around. From being quarantined to social distancing, restricted movements, early school holidays and “work from home” days or few spending more “at-home” time. Throughout all these weeks, numerous thoughts, worries and emotions have been flitting through the mind. The worries of being affected or quarantined to the economic implications of the changes brought about and the trouble in keeping the domestic front active as well as purchase of essentials. All in all, these weeks required plenty of common sense, restraint, social consideration and etiquette.

“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” Charles Darwin

Though the initial impact based studies showed it was the outlying ages who were primarily at risk, as documented by epidemiological and disease experts; later it was the chain of transmission that was under focus for it caused more harm. Technical details and contact tracing were done. Then the most difficult part was convincing the need to restrict and make an effort to break the chain. One of the lessons learned from the society where the epidemiological disease curve had flattened out, was the collective effort of those who were part of the chain.

When each and every member of the social strata, be it the young or the old, the healthy or those with underlying diseases came together to support each other; the curve began to flatten out. Each one knew the role they played and strove to protect the other. It was the humane concern that underlined their activity over the next few weeks.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King Jr

Being civilized is defined not by how many degrees one has or the per-capita income alone. the civilized society is defined how each member of the herd contributes to keeping the network strong, safe and protected for all. When one vested group sticks tot heir interests of their own, it harms the social fabric. While the harm may seem to be to one side; on the long run the harm caused may directly or indirectly affect all the social levels. The worth of the civilization lies in how all the members face any crisis on their respective fronts. For that is what makes the human different, from not being blinded by their inherent and primal instinct; but to bring together and forward their social structure as a whole.

“Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.

But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.
A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.”

We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized.”

Ira Byock, in his book The Best Care Possible: A Physician’s Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life (Avery, 2012)

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