Civilization and Its Stultifying Consequences

Stultify. As a verb, it means a number of things. In the archaic legal sense of the word, it means “to allege or prove to be of unsound mind and hence not responsible”. In contemporary usage it means both “to cause to be stupid, foolish, or absurdly illogical” and “to impair, invalidate, or make ineffective”. Although this word is poorly known and sparsely used in today’s English vernacular, it applies to every facet of Civilization and civilized life. Indeed, Civilization is the art, science, and process of stultifying the human animal.
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There is essentially no body of research regarding intelligence in domesticated humans vs. wild humans. This is unsurprising given the civilized myth that civilization is a process of higher learning, enlightenment, and intellectual development, and that primitive life is uneducated and ignorant. It is also unsurprising that civilized people have neglected to research the limitations of their own intellectual development. However, some data does exist that compares the brain weight and cortex volume of wild animals and their domesticated counterparts.
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Grzimek’s Encyclopedia of Animals contains the essay Animals in Captivity, which provides this data and discusses the many stultifying effects of domestication on animals. Among the animals sampled are rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, pigs, sheep, llamas, ferrets, cats, and dogs. In every case, the domesticated version of the wild progenitor species suffers between 8% (rats) and 33% (pigs) reduction in brain size, and between 12% (rats) and 37% (pigs) reduction in cortex volume. A number of studies by the German scientist D. Kruska corroborate and elaborate upon these findings. And yes, before skeptics get up in arms about brain size equating to intelligence, a number of corollary studies have been done proving that these smaller brain sizes and cortex volumes do, indeed, mean these animals are dumb as hell compared to their wild relatives.
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Are we not also mammals? And have we not also been bred for 10,000 years for selective traits (e.g.: specialized labor, servility, passivity, submissiveness, etc.)? If so, then I think it’s fair to extrapolate from these findings that domesticated humans are also considerably stupider than their wild counterparts. And if the science isn’t convincing (or isn’t valid by virtue of its being science), one need only look at the state of contemporary people to prove how stupid, how stultified they are. Look at the celebrity flavor of the week. Watch some reality television. Watch any television. Go talk to your neighbors.
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Beyond the process of domestication and selective breeding, civilization uses another particularly hideous means of stultifying the human animal mind: education. I won’t delve deeply into this topic here, as it’s been extensively shredded elsewhere (see citations). Suffice to say, education exists and was intentionally designed to make people obedient and dull-witted minions, smart enough to follow orders and too stupid to question authority.
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So too religion. So too the dominant culture’s media. Television. Movies. The internet. Radio. Newspapers, magazines, comics. Celebrity worship. Video games (to which I am addicted).  All these tools and tactics of civilized domination stultify the human mind, stunt our intellectual growth. And all under the guise that civilization is a “high state of intellectual development” and “refinement of thought”. Brilliant fucking propaganda!
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But stultification isn’t just concerned with the mind and with intellectual stupidity. It also entails impairing, invalidating, and making ineffective. Beyond that, there are many other forms of intelligence besides the intellect, and stultification is the process of impeding and stupefying these forms as well. And, in addition to these two points, stultification is also about the removal of mental agency and therefore one’s responsibility.
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Civilization encapsulates and excels at all of these methods of stultification.
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It impairs, impinges upon, and invalidates our animal intelligence, our senses, our perceptual understanding of the world. Civilization and its homogenizing monotony attempt to extract and eradicate all sensual pleasure in the world, and the need for sensual awareness. What’s the point of smell when the whole world reeks of burning petroleum, fast food, axe body spray, and heaps of rubbish? How acutely can one hear in the deafening cacophony of industrial machines and constant blaring media? What’s the point of seeing when all we look at are glowing screens? How well can we feel changes in weather and intimate changes in our surroundings when all our skin ever feels is climate control, air conditioning, and the imprisonment of synthetic clothes? How can we even begin to know our own deep desires when our whole lives are regimented, planned, controlled, and dictated by clocks, by bosses, by advertising, by the need to work to pay rent?
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Civilization stultifies our vision, makes us blind. All we see is screens and virtual people, a world increasingly covered in alienating technologies. We stare straight ahead, eyes fixed on our next planned task, never deviating from the prescribed route. House to car to work to restaurant to shopping mall back to house, all flat, all straight ahead. Eyes always forward, never once looking up, down, behind or around. Never looking for details or minutiae, because everywhere Civilization has gone and conquered, complexity and diversity are abolished and replaced with homogeneity and monoculture. We hardly even bother to look, to really see, anything but digital media any more. The average American adult devotes a whopping 11 hours a day to various forms of digital media, 5 of which is television and 1 of which is the internet.
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Civilization stultifies our hearing, makes us deaf. Airplanes, cars, 18-wheelers, the bright flickering babble of television, radio, youtube, netflix, Call of Duty, the clangor and clamor of machines tearing down and building up – these are the only sounds we hear . Newscasters in their flat San Diego accents spew poison in our ears, while police gunshots and 40mm tear gas canisters sound distantly. Helicopters and freight trains and traffic jams round out the nightmare, and leave us reeling. Some of us drown out the roaring gyre with earbuds or headphones, deaf to the stultifying noise of Civilization, even deafer to our own alienation, and deafest to the pulsing web of life all around us.
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Civilization stultifies our ability to smell. The burning of gas and oil, perfumes, colognes, deodorants, body sprays, scented lip gloss, aftershave, fabric softeners, drier sheets, dishwashing liquid and other detergents, soap, shampoo – these smells pervade the air, invade our nostrils. The far-off stench of paper mills and sewage treatment plants wafts in, mingling with the stink of human shit, smoldering crack pipes, exhaust, kitty litter, burnt rubber, burnt sugary cornerstore food, and the dried blood of protestors all over the pavement. Civilization makes us smell-blind to the real scents of the world: dank soil, mycelium, the meaty skunk smell of a lover’s armpits, all the thousands of shades of green plant smell, sweat, animal smells, bird smells, ocean and river smells, smells that herald weather changes, and petrichor, the finest smell in the world.
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Civilization stultifies our sense of taste. Urban industrial culture continues to destroy diversity and to standardize existence. And in so doing it supplants the traditional hunter-gatherer fare of our species with a diminishing pool of a few plants. Civilization deprives our tongues of all the world has to offer. We eat no bitters, few sour foods. All the industrial swill that touches our tongues is sugary sweet, ultra salty, high-fructose, hydrogenated, dyed with colors derived from coal tar, and imported from half a world away. Civilization robs us of the ability to taste our landbases, to lick dew from a drooping bay leaf, to revel in the delicious ecstasy of bitterness and sour and savory.
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Civilization deadens us to touch, stultifies our skin and hands and feet. The only surfaces we’re allowed to touch are concrete, lacquered wood, glass, and worse, plastic, linoleum, pleather, nylon, acrylic, and polyester. Our bodies eke out miserable lives trapped in suffocating clothing, jailed in shoes and boots and high heels, and our hands hardly ever touch anything solely for tactile pleasure. Most of the touch we receive is violent and/or painful, even that which masquerades as affectionate and loving touch. Infants develop neuroses because their civilized parents never hold or even touch them any more. Civilization steals from us the ability to revel in touch, and holds us back from doing so with its norms and taboos. We never learn to love the squish of wet mud through our toes, the bliss of walking barefoot and feeling all the pulses of the earth, the jubilation of rain trickling down our naked bodies, the atmospheric shift that happens when a predator enters an area, the electric embrace of the desert in a thunderstorm, or the feeling of complete contentment that comes with fully and consensually giving our bodies to our lovers and friends. Civilization stultifies all these avenues of touch, and knows only the touches of pain, punishment, enclosure, and imprisonment.
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When one combines the ways in which civ stultifies our senses, the stultification goes even deeper, making our bodies themselves and the ways we use our bodies stupid, ineffective, and impaired. Civilization seeks to flatten and level the world, blanketing it in concrete and making it “easy” and “accessible” to get around. This means we no longer use many of our finer muscles and muscle groups that traditional peoples living in uneven and chaotic landbases use daily. Everywhere we walk is flat, devoid of obstacles, we don’t have to crouch or maneuver to navigate difficult terrain, we never climb or descend anything except for sport. And of course, this only applies to a select few civilized people who actually walk or move at all, as the vast majority drive or take public transit everywhere they go.
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Civilization’s heinous propaganda outlets teach us the worst forms of communicating, and stultify our capacity for communicating with body language. Civ people are all so out of touch with their bodies that non-verbal communication is impossible. And due to the influence of television, movies, and all the shiny baubles of Spectacle, when civ people do communicate verbally, it’s almost always passive aggressive, actually aggressive, coercive, manipulative, and indirect. In marring our ability to communicate effectively, directly, and non-coercively, in this way too does civilization stultify us.
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And it goes on. The civilized agriculturalist diet stultifies our health perhaps more than any other factor. It is an indisputable fact that eating a diet primarily consisting of grains (i.e., wheat) leads to all manner of health complications: dental carries (cavities), autoimmune diseases, and obesity.
This has been proven time and again by contemporary science and basic observation (see the attached notation, and do your own research; the data is abundant). What’s more, this has been happening throughout civilization, all the way back to the Neolithic. In Rome, the gladiators were known colloquially as hordearii, a name that literally means “barley men” or “grain munchers”. They ate a vegetarian diet consisting of barley and lentils, not for health benefits, but to make themselves fat! Having a large cushion of fat insulated their abused bodies against cuts and blunt force trauma, cushioning their bones and protecting their nerves and blood vessels. The point is, they ate the civ diet and got fat. So too with the ancient Egyptians. Apparently, many Egyptians, including both commoners and royalty, had a slurry of health problems related to their diet, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Upon analysis, the mummy of Hatshepsut revealed that she died a 50 year old obese woman with a fucked up grill full of cavities. The cause of death? Metastatic cancer. And the attributed cause? The ancient Egyptian civilized diet.
We’re all subject to the same. Impaired bodies. Obesity. Heart disease (which according to the CDC now accounts for 25% of all deaths in the US). Dental carries and all kinds of oral health problems. High blood pressure. And this is just one more of the myriad ways Civilization is stultifying.
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Another is sexuality. Civilization is catastrophically stultifying to our sexualities, to both our desires and to the ways we have sex. Civilization teaches us that sex is all about power, about getting off. It enculturates males and females with too many patriarchal gender norms and roles to name here, and forces the claim that these are integral and “natural” parts of human sexuality. Civilized sex is solely about dominating others and getting off; it has nothing to do with intimate connection with another human being (or human beings), certainly nothing to do with emotions, it’s not even about procreation. When civilized people do have sex, it’s either overt rape, or so closely resembling rape and rape culture that it might as well be rape.  And increasingly, as Civilization approaches the zenith of its extreme alienation and techno-fetishism, people are less capable of and interested in having sex with each other.
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In her book Vagina: a New Biography, feminist writer Naomi Wolf takes an in-depth look at porn and porn culture, and comes to a some startling conclusions. Not only are a large number of people now incapable of having sex without porn being displayed on a nearby screen, some have become so addicted to porn and its culture of theatrical abuse and absurdity that they prefer masturbating to pornography to having real sex. Perhaps even more disturbing is new neuroscience that suggests that repeated viewing of porn actually rewires the human brain, causing it to crave more porn, more extreme porn, and more alienating screen-based sex.  Couple the mind-altering drug fix of porn with recent developments in robot sex technology. For example, Roxxxy, the world’s first sex robot, whose creator claims that he’s worked with psychologists to create a “true companion” capable of “real connection” with users. Equally frightening is the Autoblow 2, a “hands-free” automatic fellatio machine.
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Civilization is so impairing, so harmful to our innate animal sexuality, so stultifying to our sex lives that civilized people now prefer watching porn and getting off with machines to actual physical sex with one another. Truly stultifying, truly horrifying.
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One final aspect of civilization’s inherent stultification I want to discuss is the archaic meaning of the word “stultify”. In this sense of the word, civilization doesn’t exactly stultify. It doesn’t allege or prove the unsoundness of the minds of its subjects, but Civilization does absolve civilized people of their responsibility in thousands of facets of life. One could argue that civilization itself IS the absolution of personal responsibility and deference to authority figures.
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In this use of  the word, Civilization is so utterly stultifying that it’s difficult to decide where to begin describing it. Civilized people have always been stultified in terms of making their own decisions, whether deferring to the god-kings and priests of ancient Sumeria, the pharaohs and priests of Egypt, all the various Emperors, Kings, monarchs, princes, Iron Age chieftains, soldiers, prophets, slavemasters, and on and on. As a consequence of the specialization born out of agriculture, civilization has always fostered and relied upon hierarchic division and authoritarian governance. Just so, this is the foundational stultification of civilized life. Civilized subjects give over their desires, their agency and personal will, to the State and to all its enforcers, and are thus made stupider and weaker because they do so.
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We see this sort of absolution of personal responsibility every day in contemporary civ. When conflict between people arises, they don’t deal with it directly and responsibly. Instead, they call cops and have each other arrested, beaten, coerced, and killed by external enforcers. Or they rely on the courts and sue each other into compliance. When the industry and civilized life require resources (as all civilized life and industry do), the people of a given civilized nation rely on the military to go seize the desired resource for them. They certainly don’t go out and take it themselves. When resources are plentiful but the urge toward violence is still prevalent, civilized people get their fix through ritualized sports teams who do the work for them. And most civilized people look to religion to tell them how and why the universe is and what morality should look like, exporting their metaphysical quandaries rather than have a direct relationship with the material world. Likewise, most civ people look to the law AND to religion to tell them what morality and ethics should be, rather than puzzle out for themselves what they think is right and wrong.
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In interpersonal and intimate relationships, the same thing. Couples rely on therapists, relationship and  grief counselors, and lawyers to settle their disputes, exporting their discontent rather than work it out directly or with empowering community/friend mediation. Parents and other adults encourage their children to come to them to settle divisions between them, and children happily follow suit, deferring to adult authorities rather than learning how to resolve their own social problems. People send texts, emails, and facebook messages rather than have difficult conversations face to face.
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And in all these ways and many others, civilized people collude with the project of Civilization and relinquish their own agency and personal responsibility. This is how civilization mentally and emotionally stultifies all its slaves. Though one can only speculate about such matters, it is perhaps due to this mental and emotional stultification that civilization is able to physically and sensually stultify its subjects.
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In any event, Civilization is, without a doubt, the art, science, and process of stultifying the human animal. It exonerates us from our personal agency and responsibility for ourselves and our actions. It impairs us, impedes us, impinges on our lives and desires, and invalidates our existences. Ultimately, it makes us weak and stupid.
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In undoing our domestication, in attempting to re-wild ourselves, it must be an integral part of our practice to discover and destroy all the ways Civilization stultifies us.
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CITATIONS:
Kruska, D. (2005). On the Evolutionary Significance of Encephalization in Some Eutherian Mammals: Effects of Adaptive Radiation, Domestication, and Feralization
– Kruska, D. (1988). Effects of Domestication on Brain Structure and Behavior in Mammals
Frank, H., & Frank, M. (1985). Comparative manipulation-test performance in ten-week-old wolves (Canis lupus) and Alaskan malamutes (Canis familiaris): A Piagetian interpretation
– Udell, M., Dorey, N., & Wynne, C. (2008). Wolves Outperform Dogs in Following Human Social Cues
– Gatto, John Taylor. (2003 & 2005). Against Schools! and The Tyranny of Compulsory Schooling
– Jensen, Derrick. (2005) Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution
– Leidloff, Jean. (1975). The Continuum Concept
– Pedro Carrera-Bastos, Maelan Fontes-Villalba, James H O’Keefe, Staffan Lindeberg, Loren Cordain.(2011). The Western Diet and Lifestyle and Diseases of Civilization.
– Curry, Andrew. (2008). The Gladiator Diet.
– Eades M.D., Michael R. (2007). Obesity in Ancient Egypt.  http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/obesity/obesity-in-ancient-egypt/
– Wolf, Naomi. (2012). Vagina: A New Biography
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Posted on December 17, 2014, in Anarchism, Primitivism and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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