Month: July 2009

Civilisation: the oldest confidence trick in history?

Remains of the Roman Road at Egnazia by Steve JayResearchers at universities in Portugal and Belgium discovered earlier in the year that the way to less selfish societies is to give individuals the freedom to behave as they wish. Their research gives scientific weight to the idea that, left to their own devices, people tend naturally to cooperation.

Though perhaps not a huge surprise to most of us, it offers another important challenge to the traditional line that our default priority behaviour is to compete – a line that has determined the rules of our economic and social systems for centuries.


Civilisation hasn’t stopped trampling on tribes….

Perenco arrives in the Peruvian rainforestIf you’re of the mind that our civilisation is more civilised than past civilisations, you’re probably right — especially if you consider the full definition of civilised (which includes the tendency to exterminate, exploit, oppress, imprison or immiserate everything that isn’t) proposed in the post after this. Not convinced? (more…)

By The Skin Of Our Teeth

Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando (Degas, 1879)Pretty soon now, we’ll be holding on by the skin of our teeth,

like Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando: suspended above

a terrifying drop, as we reach for the impossible

(which has to be possible) under the warm sunset ceiling

of our current predicament. We could always shimmy down

that inviting lifeline to where we started from, but what good

would that do us? And it’s too late anyhow. (more…)