How do we measure civilisation? - Glasshouse Christian College

How do we measure civilisation?



  • September 10, 2020
Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead was a famous and sometimes controversial cultural anthropologist in the 1960s and 70s. She was once asked what she thought the first sign of civilisation was and her answer surprised many. Some expected that the archeological evidence of civilisation would be advanced tool-making or a flourishing economy. However, Margaret disagreed.

An article by Ira Byock called The Start of Civilisation, said Margaret believed that civilisation should be measured from when people took care of each other. Margaret talked about the first archeological sign of civilisation was seeing a thighbone (femur) which had been broken and then healed. Margaret said, “A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has looked after the injured person until they recovered.” 

Today, we see the breakdown of civilisation in different parts of the world where humanity is not at it’s best. People aren’t serving each other or helping each other and it seems in some places, civilisation itself has crumbled into violence and rioting with no concern for the harm being impacted on others.

However, we can be heartened by a far greater majority doing their best to help others. You’ve probably heard the story of a little boy saddened by seeing a tragedy on the news. The mum sees he is upset and tells him to look for all the people doing good in the midst of the tragedy. If it is a fire, watch the firefighters risk their lives to save others. If it is famine, look at the people trying to help provide food. If it is a disease then look at the healthcare workers taking care of the sick.

In any tragedy, look for those who are helping.

In our current situation, the power of one individual to help others has never been more obvious. Our Victorian friends are sacrificing their freedom of movement to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Even in Queensland, we are showing that we are civilised by staying home and being tested when we get sick, maintaining social distancing and not grabbing the last roll of toilet paper when we have plenty at home. 

The archeological evidence may show in a healed bone but the directive to look after each other for a better, civilised world is much older. The Bible is filled with encouragement to look after each other. 

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.” Romans 12:10
“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

These are a few of my favourite verses on this topic but if you search for Bible verses about caring, more than a 100 other examples pop up. 

We may become lulled into a false sense of security by how well Queensland is doing in response to COVID-19 but let us continue to look after each other and follow the guidelines of those in authority trying to help us through this difficult year. 

I know that you as parents are missing out on precious opportunities like watching your child compete in an Athletics Carnival or not seeing them receive a citation but I want to thank you for abiding by the restrictions and by doing so, looking after one another. 

Please continue to show your care for others by not entering the campus during school hours or during pick up and drop off, keeping your children home when they are sick and following the guidelines of those who are trying to keep us safe. 

Mike Curtis, Principal

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