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Home Important Posts The Civilized Savage

The Civilized Savage

"They hurry like savages to get aboard an iron train/And though it's smoky and crowded they're too civilized to complain."

"Bongo, Bongo, Bongo", Danny Kaye

The difference between the civilized man and the savage is that the civilized man follows the rules and the savage does not. A civilized man is quite capable of killing one, a hundred or even a million, so long as he is first outfitted with a uniform and a set of regulations telling him when and where to kill. A savage kills as he lives, without the need for rules and regulations.

The civilized man is bound by interdependent social compacts that control his survival. The savage does not depend on a social compact for his survival. He depends on himself. Even when his survival derives from the same system as that of the civilized man, he feels no sense of obligation toward that system. He exploits it, the way that he would exploit a honeycomb in the forest or kill the last mammoth without worrying what will happen when it is gone.

The modern civilized man with his giant and tiny screens full of information that tell him not only who won and who lost, and make him laugh and cry, but also update him on the latest social mores so that he can maintain his civilized status by staying in step with the march of progress, has learned to live by the rules. More than that he has learned to believe in the rules. The rules feed him and move him up the ladder where he will be able to buy more giant and tiny screens to stay in step with civilization.

The savage advances much more slowly up the ladder, even when he lives next door to the civilized man, but this is of little concern to him. The civilized man is concerned with advancement while the savage is concerned with sensation. The civilized man wants to better himself. The savage only wants to be himself. For the civilized man there is only the past and the future, but no present, but for the savage there is hardly any past and no future... only the eternal carpe diem moment of the present.

The civilized man builds trains, roads, telegraph poles, skyscrapers, fiber optic lines, satellites and organizations to link together and control his civilization. Faster communications and transportation make it possible to link together larger areas, economically and politically. Civilization expands and grows denser at its centers and increasing amounts of resources are diverted from the tasks of progress to the chores of administering impossibly large territories.

As forward progress slows, the civilized man begins to fidget aboard the iron train. Looking out at the lush jungle, he begins entertaining thoughts of becoming a savage again. For the most part he knows that he cannot actually turn savage. The awareness that he will have to give up his comforts to turn savage is embedded too deep within him. The savage does not understand that going feral takes twenty years off his life expectancy and kills half his children. And even if you explained it to him, he would not care for the savage does not believe in the future, only the present. It is this knowledge of the future that burdens the civilized man who longs to turn savage. It is this knowledge that he is determined to destroy to be able to escape once and for all from the iron train and into the jungle.

There are simple and effective ways of destroying that awareness of the future. The easiest is to use the pull of sensation to bury the mind in the present. Drugs are one way to accomplish this and sensuality is another. Constantly rushing into danger or burying yourself in noise will do it too. So long as your mind is forcibly tethered to some sensation, whether it is the aching receptors of the brain crying out for the new drug of choice that they have bonded with or any other part of the nervous system that is overloaded and whose overload cripples memory and long-term thinking, then you can simulate the state of mind of a savage.

Simulation through stimulation is ineffective. The civilized man does not properly turn into a savage, instead he becomes a hybrid, too civilized to be a savage and too savage to be civilized, with one foot chained to the iron train of progress and the other in the damp earth of the green jungle.

The civilized savage is the dominant figure of the latter quarter of the past century and of this century as well. This creature is a chimera of contradictions. He is a high tech back to nature fellow. He builds entire industries dedicated to harnessing the sun and the wind. He drugs himself with legal and illegal cocktails of chemicals to get in touch with his inner emotions.

Most contradictory of all, he believes that the sum of civilization lies in dismantling the military and industrial infrastructure that makes civilization possible and replacing it with a trillion dollar social organization that will reproduce some natural primitive order, as defined by the proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, a proverb that like the rest of his ersatz savagery he invented himself.

To become truly civilized, the civilized savage believes, one must become a savage, one must learn from the savages how to be civilized, by embracing civilized savagery and leaving behind the civilized savagery of imperialism, nationalism, capitalism and all the armies marching off to war and smokestacks belching smoke.

Social progress, to the civilized savage, is the only progress there is and he associates it with dismantling, what he thinks of as the artificial elevation of capitalism and the middle class, and restoring everyone to savage equality through a vast collection of government agencies. A village employing millions of people just to teach civilized men how to become savages by taking away their responsibility for the future.

In "the village", there are no fathers or mothers, parents do not care for their children and children do not look after their parents. There are no husbands or wives. Everyone is forever young, or pretending to be, and forever keeping it real, in the moment where no one has money and everyone has all they need, where no one works and everyone earns, where there is no past and no future, only right now.

This 20 trillion dollar subsidized fantasy of control freaks who imagine that they want to get in touch with a natural way of living has become the barometer of progress. Progress has come to be defined as the end of civilization.

The civilized savage is searching for authenticity under every plastic bush and ceramic turtle. He is all about keeping it real in an air conditioned studio surrounded by four kinds of flavored water. He wants to cut loose with a designated driver, hold an orgy with protection and  build an artist's colony with social security benefits. Too stupid to be civilized and too smart to be a savage, he lacks the survival skills of either group. He cannot make it in the jungle,and on the iron train his only function is contributing creativity to the leisure of a mechanistic culture. Without the middle class that the civilized savage does his best to stomp out, he would quickly become as extinct as the mammoth.

What the civilized savage lacks in useful skills, he more than makes up for in creativity. Straddling the boundary between the immediacy of the savage and the foresight of the civilized man, he is able to blend both, combining ego and technique, emotion and rational order, to be a talented performer, a charismatic speaker, an ingenious artist, an evocative writer and a startling poet. In addition to this he is capable of starting all sorts of businesses, so long as those businesses involve finding a new way of catering to the leisure needs of the public or cashing in on government social spending. When the train grinds to a halt, then the passengers need to be fed and entertained, and so these are among the few growth areas of a society that is otherwise stuttering to a halt, bringing wealth comes his way.

The civilized savage sabotages the train and then opens up a snack food stand by the side of the road serving soylent green. He unionizes the railway workers, convinces them to spend the next month on strike, throws together three films about the dangers of rail travel, contributes the profits to a special fund to enable the victims of motion sickness to sue the railway and then runs for office on a platform of making the trains run on time, when what he really means is making sure that the trains never end up running at all.

Civilized men don't know what to make of the civilized savage. He is at once a repulsive and appealing figure to many. And even when the civilized savage oppresses them, they do not rise up against him, because they are too civilized to complain. Riding the train is a privilege of the social compact and they will keep riding it, mostly in silence, so long as they believe that the social compact of their civilization provides them with a measure of security. While the savages kill and riot, their civilized brothers clutch guns and wait silently hoping that tomorrow the track will be fixed and the trains will run again.

The rise of the civilized savage is a harbinger of the end of a civilization. But there is such a thing as the natural rise of a civilized savage, which is the sort of thing that took place in Rome, and his unnatural rise due to the careful plotting and planning of an entire ideology which found it useful to promote decay by empowering the civilized savages who were naturally drawn to it. And while the natural rise of the civilized savage may not be averted, the unnatural rise does not represent a national moral failing, but the outcome of a plan.

The Western civilized savage has hijacked civilization to serve the ends of savagery. The longer this state of affairs goes on, the more difficult it will be to get the train going again. But getting the train going again is the best way to shake off the savage appeal of the jungle. It is only when people see that true social progress is possible by harnessing the forces of industry and culture to move forward, that the claims that the civilized savage makes about social progress come to seem as ridiculous and antiquated as Soviet propaganda posters.

There is no way to defeat cultural defeatism but through success. The trains must run or the jungle awaits.


  1. America is at that awkward stage, too late to stop the savages, but too early to kill the bastards.

  2. Anonymous7/1/13

    I refer you to the 1982 book by Dr. Leonard Peikoff "The Ominous Parallels" which clearly points out the similarities of America in 1982 to pre-Hitler Germany. It is and has all come TRUE! Dr. Peikoff is still writing and blogging and is the intellectual disciple of Ayn Rand. I am 70 and am appalled and saddened by the change in America, however, NOT surprised. As a Student of Objectivism since the 60's, Miss Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged" predicted almost everything that Washington, D.C. is foisting off on us. As Dr. Thomas Sowell said "I am glad I am old and soon to die".

  3. Anonymous7/1/13

    The fuel for our train is now solar and wind, our engineer is a tool, and the conductors are sleeping in the caboose because everyone has a free e-ticket. It will soon be jungle time.

  4. @Ranger Lou, thinkew so much...now I have coffee all over my screen. ;-[]

  5. This is brilliant in it's content and its cadence. The noble savage replaced with the civilized savage, BRILLIANT!!!
    I posted it and fed from it this morning. The top of Drudge has Pelosi, Larson, and DeLauro San Fancisco flanked by Connecticut who is fast becoming the civilized savages on the East Coast.
    Thank you Daniel.

  6. thank you Beth, glad you liked it

  7. Anonymous7/1/13

    Another brilliant analysis of reality Daniel. I don't know how you do it.


  8. I wish I could be more of a Savage. There are times where the idiocy of the Left and political elite on both sides makes me want to channel my inner Ape and chuck feces at them.

  9. Anonymous7/1/13

    Your essays always provoke introspection in me. In this one, I couldn’t help but see aspects of my personality in your description of the Savage. This was mitigated, though, because your description of the Civilized citizen also fit. So, while the glove didn’t really fit, enough of my hand fit in it to embarrass me. I’ll be pondering the implications of my hybridization in the weeks ahead.

    This comment will be my preliminary effort to start the process:

    Nancy Pelosi is right - the Progressive Program for America is a looming inevitability. And resistance is futile.

    Progressives have insinuated themselves so completely into your “Iron Train” that they are indistinguishable from it. Urban fashion, the pitting of neo-tribes against each other, the constant pine for more taxes, and social shaming- all the things that erode freedom and define civility in America today, are the coal, the trams, the gears and gaskets, wheels and bells that make-up the train. And since, by your reckoning, everyone needs to heed the conductor’s “All Aboard!” or be heckled as “Savage,” Newsweek Magazine must be right: “We are all Socialists Now.”

    It’s stupid and fruitless to stand on the tracks in front of a rushing locomotive. And if people don’t want to help lay the train’s line-extensions, yield broad easements of their personal autonomy to its engineers’ plans for future enlargements or tolerate its loud whistles as it rushes through our neighborhoods at 3 AM, they have no recourse other than self-exile, of which suicide and reclusiveness are just two obvious examples. This is the dreadful end-of-the line swivel station where your thesis must logically conclude, before returning to base.

    This isn’t a conflict between urbanized and rural citizens. As Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man relays so eloquently, it is paradoxically easier to hide anonymously and service your vices in mobs and cities than it is in low-density rural areas. It’s more a socio-economic conflict, reworked into a proxy-argument between class-warring Progressives and social-warring Progressives-one labeling itself “Democrat” and the other “Republican,” both fighting over the levers in the locomotive - with your “Civilized Savages” representing the tertiary service economy of clerks, agents, waiters, lap-dancers and garden designers riding the train forever wondering why the train keeps lurching as it transits between stops.

    I think most of us just want off the train. We want to take over the caboose, grab the break handle and turn it violently to stop the thing, leap onto the graveled rail-bed and take our chances in “the jungle.” But that incurs the “Savage” label from the scolds in first class. It means that, to escape the escapee must be immune to scolding, and hence shameless: Savages.

    We are all Winston already.

    John Locke is dead, Orwell wrote predictions, not fictions, and the addictive, desensitizing “sins” of gin, sex, loud society, and solitaire are the only sanctuaries left to us. Both factions of the Progressives have planned for that, too. They serve all of those “sins” for free already to asking passengers in the Lounge Car which they have coupled conveniently just in front of the caboose.

    There is no escape! Orwell’s 1984 revisits us in 2013’s terms, with American Liberty reduced to a gauzy illusion, and Nancy Pelosi cackling at us from behind her podium.

    Now I see why the Left is so confident of itself, and why so many of us are lining up in the Lounge Car signing up for rationed pot-cards, starting home breweries and listening to House Music at deafening volumes. We’ve reached the end of the line, and there is simply nowhere left to go.

    Think I’ll go roll a doob and fire-up the X-box I got for Christmas. It’s all there is, and will ever be!

  10. We Christians will be checking out of all this soon. We've got plans of our own, long ago laid down for us, but not by these pseudo-civilized savages who now roam the walls and gates of progressive civilization.
    It's been nice knowin' ya. You're all welcome to join us.
    Your prescient assessment astounds me, Sultano-- reminds me of your namesake, the earlier Daniel, rappin' to Nebuchadnezzar back in the old country.

  11. Anonymous7/1/13

    By some of those pictures posted you could argue that we have found the missing link ..... And here they have been looking at old fossils to prove evolution ... When the best evidence is in real life .... Give me a break ....

  12. Self-created missing links

  13. Gayle7/1/13

    Brilliant piece. Thank you for this.

    Savagery of the scots-irish type has been smoldering and quiescent for many decades in the South; not extinguished even though the government and media's best efforts were put toward this end. These savages are beginning to bestir themselves, and awaken once more. Watch this space :)

  14. @Ranger Lou America is at that awkward stage, too late to stop the savages, but too early to kill the bastards.

    I guess one would be hard pressed to come up with another brief description of current political situation in the country that is both accurate and hysterically funny, meema just spilled her coffee, but I still can't stop laughing! :)

  15. Incidentally, two other groups (common criminals and militant islamists) share the same similarities, they savage enough to rob mug kill people, and they civilized enough to use the established legal system of civilization to their advantage.

  16. It is the Savage that competes - not the Civilized Man. Competition (as one of its roots is murder) has slowly been usurping Duty as the work ethic mode of this era.

    Competition is the fuel of the savage, the barbarian. You do what is exciting and you destroy your 'opponent' without 'killing' him. The opponent can be a goal, but still, he requires an opponent to animate.

    Competition is also easier to teach than it is Duty as it is fast, dirty but also incomplete('Hey Johnny! Billy is doing the job better!'. Round and round they go after that.)

    How do you rank the Civilized Man vs Savage Man amongst us in our midst? The scalar of the response to Duty at one end and the compulsion for Competition on the other.

    Now mind you, Competition is a good motivational tool, but there are consequences of instilling it in the society (of which we are seeing it more and more in society today).

    Here are flags for identifying the Savage in your day to day life:

    Does he finish jobs to completion?
    Does he do his work in a detailed fashion?
    Does he show up on time?
    How into watching sports is he?
    How orderly is his life?
    How much does he abide by the rules vs break them?
    How often does he do what he says hes going to do?
    How neat is his work?
    How consistent is his life?
    How well rounded is his life?

    Please note that the Savage is an Adrenhalin Junky. The more the junky, the more he is a Barbarian. Doesn't have to risk his life to get the kick, but it IS the ANIMATING factor.

    Is there a place for competition for a Civiled Man? Only in dealing with (and understanding) the Savage Man or base survival (IOW very minimal).

  17. You know, I got on the computer today to start work on my very first blog... I'm not a writer by any means, in fact, I've never written anything that wasn't a school assignment, but I thought it better to at least try and learn as I go...

    And then I ran across this blog.

    I read just a couple articles and I admit I felt intimidated... But rather than give up, I'm going to use this blog as an inspiration as something to strive towards.

    Daniel, this writing is absolutely incredible and I hope that one day I end up with even one-tenth of the skill.

  18. That's great James. Writing is something that you get better at as you do it regularly. My own writing was fairly poor 5 years ago.

  19. Daniel:

    Here's Begbie showing how its done:


    On a scale of 1 to 10 (Dutiful vs Competitive), Begbie is a 10.

  20. Peter30/4/13

    The civilized man's desire to maintain his level of comfort keeps him on the train. He is too scared of the savagery of the jungle to attempt to get off the train and be himself. Without the screens to guide him through civilized society he is lost; he cannot find himself or advance. The civilized man needs the rules set forth by civilized society to provide goals and structure, and evidently, including the determination of when and where to kill other men. The savage does not depend upon civilized society for survival, including the decision of when and where to kill another person. The savage depends on his own thoughts for survival and not the guile spewed from the screens, both large and small. The civilized savage is able to both think for himself and at the same time interact with society. The cocktails just make it easier to cope with the arrogance and psuedo-philosphical and illogacial rants blogged by "civilized" men.

  21. We have created a Modern Frontier where new savages have been empowered. They depend on civilization, though.

    Americans coped with frontiers for most of our existence. We can do it again.


  22. Eli S.8/8/13

    I'm torn, because half of what he is saying is spot on, but the other half is misguided. The half I reference as misguided, is what Rod Dreher is talking about, it's the not analyzing the train part. It's not recognizing, that the train is not entirely perfect, in fact the ultimate end of the train is destruction. He mentions in passing, an essentially "keeping up with the Jones's" mentality as a pockmark of society (and he doesn't condemn it, in fact it seems he promotes it. i.e. little t.v. big t.v) but without addressing the fact that the Jones's are going to nowhere but another form of savagery, an anesthetized state, in which the gleaming train of progress has provided us with enough un-halted luxury that we are bored into stupidity, and have been co-opted by the train driver and his crew, as "the rules of society" have to be dictated by someone, and if we're all focusing on how best to follow them, than somebody else is writing the rule book, and I promise you this, it won't be someone with our best interest at heart. Long story short, is I'm sick of this all or nothing mentality, it's totally misguided, and steeped in fear, Jesus called for a middle road, and the fact of the matter is, both choices have some compelling and down right beneficial outcomes, but Daniel Greenfield is on the right track, but on the wrong train. Which is sad for such an absolutely brilliant man.

  23. Anonymous14/11/14

    From memory, forgive the bad paraphrase, "And the beast come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born." WB Yeats. (meggy 8868 )

  24. Infidel6/10/16

    Good article. Food for thought.

    On a tangent, reading the comments reminded me of JFC Fuller's description of how white South Africans of Dutch descent had reverted, since they first immigrated during the 1500s (in "The Last of the Gentlemen's Wars", describing his experiences in the Boer War).


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