Ursula Le Guin on Civilization

…for the people Civilization calls “primitive,” “savage,” or “undeveloped,” including young children, the continuity, interdependence, and community of all life, all forms of being on earth, is a lived fact, made conscious in narrative (myth, ritual, fiction). This continuity of existence, neither benevolent nor cruel itself, is fundamental to whatever morality may be built upon it. Only Civilization builds its morality by denying its foundation.

By climbing up into his own head and shutting out every voice but his own, “Civilized Man” has gone deaf. He can’t hear the wolf calling him brother–not Master, but brother. He can’t hear the earth calling him child–not Father, but son. He hears only his own words making up the world. He can’t hear the animals, they have nothing to say. Children babble, and have to be taught how to climb up into their heads and shut the doors of perception. No use teaching women at all, they talk all the time, of course, but never say anything. This is the myth of Civilization, embodied in the monotheisms which assign soul to Man alone.

From Introduction to Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences by Ursula K. LeGuin (1987, Plume/Penguin)


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