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Cool Quotations about Civilization

The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.
~Sigmund Freud
Culture is roughly anything we do and the monkeys don't.
~Lord Raglan
We are born princes and the civilizing process makes us frogs.
We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
~Bryan White
Progress may have been all right once, but it went on too long...
~Ogden Nash, "Come, Come, Kerouac! My Generation is Beater Than Yours," New Yorker, 1959 April 4 (Thanks, Garson O'Toole!)
Civilization is hideously fragile... there's not much between us and the Horrors underneath, just about a coat of varnish.
~C.P. Snow
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
Man - despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments - owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.
~Author Unknown
I've made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I'm convinced of the opposite.
~Bertrand Russell
We should distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden
We pass through this world but once. Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.
~Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man
And the wind shall say "Here were decent godless people;
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls."

~T.S. Eliot
We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.
~Albert Einstein
When you can't do something truly useful, you tend to vent the pent up energy in something useless but available, like snappy dressing.
~Lois McMaster Bujold
K is for "Kenghis Khan." He was a very nice person. History has no record of him. There is a moral in that, somewhere.
~Harlan Ellison, From A to Z in the Chocolate Alphabet
Is man's civilization only a wrappage, through which the savage nature of him can still burst, infernal as ever?
~Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, vol III, book V, chapter 7
Barbarism is needed every four or five hundred years to bring the world back to life. Otherwise it would die of civilization.
~Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Journal, 3 September 1855
Leash: n, a means by which animals, formerly running wild, are prevented from running tame, also.
~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com
We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.
~Richard P. Feynman
Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work.
~Aldous Huxley
Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death, they have no theologians to instruct them, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills.
~Voltaire, letter to Count Schomberg, 31 August 1769
Codi: Gives you the willies, doesn't it? The thought of raising kids in a place where the front yard ends in a two-hundred-foot drop? [referring to cliff dwellings]Loyd: No worse than raising up kids where the front yard ends in a freeway.
~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
People don't like the true and simple; they like fairy tales and humbug.
~Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Journal, 2 March 1861
[M]odern man is just ancient man... with way better electronics.
~Author unknown, "A Short History of Breakfast," from a Jack in the Box tray liner, 2006
What we call progress is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance.
~Henry Havelock Ellis
Civilization begins with soap.
~Galveston Times, quoted in Quotations for Special Occasions by Maud van Buren
A living civilization creates; a dying, builds museums.
~Martin H. Fischer
One... gets an impression that civilization is something which was imposed on a resisting majority by a minority which understood how to obtain possession of the means to power and coercion. It is, of course, natural to assume that these difficulties are not inherent in the nature of civilization itself but are determined by the imperfections of the cultural forms which have so far been developed.
~Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion
There are many humorous things in the world, among them the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.
~Mark Twain, Following the Equator, 1897
Society is a made-up formula of what we are supposed to be, kept alive by those who believe in it.... I laugh in the ugly face of society, with all its fabricated dimensions.
~Author Unknown
The gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual.
~John Muir, letter to J.B. McChesney, 19 September 1871
Society attacks early, when the individual is helpless.
[T]he progress of civilization corresponds with the spread of general nausea.
~Edgar Saltus, The Philosophy of Disenchantment
When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.
~Daniel Webster, Remarks on Agriculture
Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.
~H.G. Wells, The Outline of History
They civilize what's pretty
By puttin' up a city
Where nothin' that's
Pretty can grow....
They civilize left
They civilize right
Till nothing is left
Till nothing is right

~Alan Jay Lerner, "The First Thing You Know," Paint Your Wagon, 1969
Our concern is not how to worship in the catacombs but how to remain human in the skyscrapers.
~Abraham Joshua Heschel
It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct.
~Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents
It must be admitted that there is a degree of instability which is inconsistent with civilization. But, on the whole, the great ages have been unstable ages.
~Alfred North Whitehead
Civilization is what makes you sick.
~Paul Gauguin
The dying process begins the minute we are born, but it accelerates during dinner parties.
~Carol Matthau
The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Civilization... wrecks the planet from seafloor to stratosphere.
~Richard Bach
Where there are humans
you'll find flies,
and Buddhas.

Civilization is a movement and not a condition, a voyage and not a harbor.
~Arnold Toynbee
We are so clothed in rationalization and dissemblance that we can recognize but dimly the deep primal impulses that motivate us.
~James Ramsey Ullman
Good manners: The noise you don't make when you're eating soup.
~Bennett Cerf
Progress is man's ability to complicate simplicity.
~Thor Heyerdahl, Fatu-Hiva
If the Aborigine drafted an I.Q. test, all of Western civilization would presumably flunk it.
~Stanley Garn
I stood on a tower in the wet,
And New Year and Old Year met,
And winds were roaring and blowing:
And I said, "O years, that meet in tears,
Have ye aught that is worth the knowing?
Science enough and exploring,
Wanderers coming and going,
Matter enough for deploring,
But aught that is worth the knowing?"

~Alfred Tennyson
Civilization: a thin veneer over barbarianism.
~John M. Shanahan, The Most Brilliant Thoughts of All Time (In Two Lines or Less)
Civilization is the distance man has placed between himself and his excreta.
~Brian Aldiss
Evolution made civilization steward of this planet. A hundred thousand years later, the steward stood before evolution not helper but destroyer, not healer but parasite. So evolution withdrew its gift, passed civilization by, rescued the planet from intelligence and handed it to love.
~Richard Bach