This Ugly Civilization Paperback – September 15, 2019
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- Publisher : Underworld Amusements (September 15, 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 456 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1943687226
- ISBN-13 : 978-1943687220
- Item Weight : 1.47 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.15 x 9 inches
- Customer Reviews:
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This is an entertaining and thought-provoking book! One of those books where I have my phone in my hand while I read it so that I can take pictures of great little passages and quotable bits.
It's hard to pick my favorite part, but I really enjoyed the short passage about a fictional 6-day vacation at an eating resort. It was written like a 19th-century progressive advertisement for the wonderful world of tomorrow, but the author was clearly revolted. I loved the phrase "the most delicate and pleasing modernizations of the old Roman vomitoriums", and it's awesome that the word "vomitoriums" is in the index.
What a treat! The third, practical section of the book can get a little dry in places - there is a list of electrical appliances on a farm, following a table of kilowatt-hours/month/family of typical electrical devices in the 1920s, but that kind very pragmatic approach distinguishes this book from a generic "modernity.. Ewww!" book. The author clearly had an alternative in mind and he's clearly done his homework!
Thanks to Underworld Amusements for giving this neglected gem a new audience!
This Ugly Civilization reads much like a black-and-white documentary, chock-full of information in Part I for the reader who is into intelligent opinion supported with details. As a woman reading this, I tend to treat the first part mostly like reference material that I didn’t need but slowed down with interest in what the author had to say about women in the factory and how homemaking suffered for it.
From page 181 (bearing in mind that this was written 90 years ago): “In industrialized America there are still considerable numbers of homemakers—women to whom homemaking is still a career and motherhood life’s great adventure. Mostly they are to be found on the farms in the country, although a dwindling but gallant minority of urban homes can still boast of them. Because of the glamour of adventure which has been thrown about the woman who earns a living outside of the home, we tend to forget that the making of a home is not only a career but a creative career of the highest order. Homemaking is an art.” Yet even then: “Modern shoppers do not go out to buy what they need—they go out to ‘shop.’” (p. 191) But before consumerism and modernity were the growing problem that they are today: “In the Middle Ages, women were identified with their spindles as men with their spears.” (p. 193)
Part III discusses the types of humans: quality-minded, quantity-minded, and herd-minded. “There are good grounds for concluding that whatever we have of civilization has come into being because of the quality-minded, exploited though they have been by the quantity-minded possessors of power, and hated by the unthinking masses, have always been able, after an often heart-breaking lapse of time, to impose their ideas upon mankind.” (p. 222)
While lamenting the insufferable realities, the author remains optimistic. From page 234: “But this is possible . . . that individuals who desire to live the superior life shall erect enclaves of their own, enclaves in which they and their families and friends may live without dependence upon the patronage of the quantity-minded and in which they may enjoy such comfort and attain to such understanding as the limitations of life make possible . . . little islands of intelligence and beauty admidst the chaotic seas of human stupidity and ugliness—would not only free the quality-minded . . . but they would furnish to the rest of mankind the pattern for a more comfortable and more intelligent existence.”
And ah…the days of free land… “The farmer of our pioneer period was economically as well as politically free.” (Page 281 continues…) “Land was free to the homesteader. The pioneers only had to occupy it, build houses upon it, fence it, cultivate it—they had, in short, only to use it and it was theirs. Free land made it possible for every pioneer family to be economically self-sufficient. For land furnished them nearly everything that they needed . . . stone and lumber for their buildings; grain, fruit and meat . . . wood for fuel; flax, wool, furs and hides . . . trees, minerals, clay . . . Yet hard as [the primitive life] was . . . [it] made pioneering attractive to the great masses of the more settled sections of the country.”
Much more is underlined in my copy of this book which is well worthy of reading, but I’ll conclude with this from page 314: “…where freedom ends and servitude begins, there comfort ends and discomfort begins” and “if we own our homestead free and clear, we are as free under the existing laws of the country as it is possible for us to be.”
Thanks to Underworld Amusements for this 90th Anniversary edition of a book with a message that remains valid nearly a century later.
While the concepts of self-sufficiency and sustainability have been making a half-hearted comeback in recent years, they are generally packaged in the form of collectivism and groupthink. In the rare instances that a truly responsible, and individual, form of this type of lifestyle is presented, it seems daunting and impossible compared with the concerns of day-to-day life in the modern world, whether in urban, suburban, or rural locales. Not so with the non-utopian vision of a better world presented by Borsodi. Not only does the author take us through the factors that led to the destruction of the individual home in favor of the factory in great detail, he also presents as close to a step-by-step guide as possible to how one can cut the factory cord and live truly free. From growing food and raising animals, to preparing for winter and leisure activity, Borsodi lays out almost every aspect of how a family or tribe could survive and thrive COMFORTABLY in a homesteading environment, and why they should.
Borsodi does not stop there, though. In Part V (“This Ugly Civilization” is divided into 5 Parts split between 2 Books), he tackles the ultimate hurdle standing in the way of an individual making the decision to sever themselves from the modern world: “The Philosophical Aspects.” In this section, Borsodi presents every argument we use to talk ourselves out of freedom, and into the cold arms of the system, and gracefully tears it apart by presenting logical and sensible alternatives.
Of course, Ralph Borsodi does not expect that everyone will follow his lead. He divides humans into three categories (The Herd Minded, the Quantity Minded, and the Quality Minded). Borsodi is not truly an idealist because he recognizes that the Herd Minded and Quantity Minded types cannot fathom leaving it all behind. In this sense, he is more of an elitist. However, he also recognizes that individuals do not have to remain in their category. The Herd Minded individual may become Quality Minded, the Quantity Minded may become Herd Minded, etc. He even acknowledges that there are those individuals who are a combination of Quality and Quantity Minded. What Borsodi is firm on, is that only the Quality Minded are suited for creating, and enjoying, the beautiful civilization that could be.
Throughout my life, I have occasionally stumbled across books that are so good, so “pure,” that I cannot put them down. They fundamentally challenge my way of thinking and open a door to a different perspective. Many times, they answer a question I was not even aware I was asking. “This Ugly Civilization” by Ralph Borsodi is one of those books.
“It is an ugly world, my friends. Perhaps it may be made a beautiful world, my friends. It is an evil world, my friends. Perhaps it may be made a good world, my friends. It is a foolish world, my friends. Perhaps it may be made a wise world, my friends. Free yourselves, my friends, and it becomes yours to make it what you will.” -Ralph Borsodi