Here’s something you may already know if you have some knowledge in the social sciences: Certain criteria must be met for a society to be considered “civilized.”
Government, a given, is required to keep social order. Some argue that a religion is also necessary to explain the way of the world, but it isn’t required. A system of writing for recording things such as government records, historical events, diaries, and works of fiction is crucial. Fiction ties into the next one, the need for arts and architecture. A society’s art and architecture express its values in a creative way, and reveal what the society thinks is beautiful and strong.
There are several other less obvious characteristics of civilization, but the one that strikes me as the most important (and somewhat disturbing) is the necessity of social classes. Today in America there are distinct classes–upper, middle, and lower, based on income. It’s a bell-curve, with most of the population falling somewhere in the middle. Classes don’t have to be based on money; in older societies class was determined by social status, which was determined by one’s job. Government officials were at the top, followed by artisans, merchants, peasants, farmers, and slaves.
Conceptually, social classes can be broken down into two realms: those with power and those without it. The government will
always be on top. The other social classes organize themselves according to a society’s values and ideologies. This shows that in order to be “civilized,” a society needs to allow itself to be ruled. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it means that ideas of equality from great thinkers such as Karl Marx might be pure idealism.
So, government is necessary for structure, and inequality is necessary for stability. I’m totally not against government, but as a person with liberal beliefs it saddens me to think that some people will always be socially “better” than others. I do believe that no person is really “better” than anyone else. Because of this, I sometimes become skeptical of those who are in positions of power.
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” – John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton
This is why I believe in democracy. No one is better than anyone else, so no one person should have absolute power over everyone else. Even though social differences exist in democracy, it allows everyone’s voice to be heard. I’m not trying to preach about government…but given that a completely equal state may be impossible, a political system that involves all people the best it can is the best bet. We are equal, yet we must be unequal. Chew on that…