“Thank you for your service.”
Whenever these words are uttered, it is always—always—a soldier to whom they are directed. And while police officers aren’t typically singled out for random expressions of gratitude, they too are held in particularly high esteem, for like soldiers, police officers are seen as constituting the line between civilization and savagery.
That this popular view is true as far it is goes is undeniable. Equally undeniable, however, is that it only goes so far. And it doesn’t go very far at that.
The reality is that, first and foremost, it is upon the shoulders of the parent that civilization depends.
More so than anyone else, conservatives know that this is the case. Soldiers and police officers are government actors. Yet government is and can only be as good as the citizenry over which it presides. In other words, in spite of what Big Government ideologues would have us think, governments do not create civilizations. Governments cannot create civilizations.
Fundamentally, a civilization is a composition, authored, as it were, over the span of many thousands of years and by countless numbers of people, of a complex of refined manners or habits.
To put it more simply, a civilization is not natural. It is even unnatural. Rather, civilizations are like works of arts: they are hard won achievements.
What this means is that no one is born a civilized person. The civilized are not born at all. Savages are born—each and every time a human being comes into the world. The civilized, though, are made.
And they are made by their mothers and fathers.
Nature brings individual homo sapiens into the world. But parents cultivate persons. Through a mostly informal education in the habits of its civilization, parents domesticate the wild animal that is the child. Through sacrifices small and large, the parent labors tirelessly for years to slay the savage to which they gave birth.
Of course, both father and mother are equally essential to the creation and sustenance of civilization. But fathers are especially important, for not only is the father the protector of his family, in many respects it is the father who teaches both son and daughter what it means to be a man. As the renowned cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, “Motherhood is a biological fact, while fatherhood is a social invention.” She also remarked that “Fathers are biological necessities but social accidents.”
The family transforms males into men and men into fathers. A preponderance of fatherless homes does not bode well for a civilization.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.