OPINION

Race for mastery

One of the most interesting definitions of civilization, one that refers to the causes rather than the content of the term, describes civilization as that which man has created in a bid to confront and gradually master Nature. At the same time, civilization refers to what man has devised or invented in order to overcome the sense of disenchantment caused by his separation from the natural environment. The devastating catastrophe caused by the tidal waves in Asia was a painful confirmation of the above definition; a reminder of the fact that civilization continues to represent the human struggle to dominate Nature. Man may have succeeded in taming some of the natural forces, but he is still very far from controlling the biggest of them, the so-called cosmogonic forces. The collision of the tectonic plates under the Indian Ocean was a painful confirmation of the processes that have shaped the face of the earth – and that the human effort to control, or at least predict, Nature’s whims continues. The fact that the death toll includes tourists who traveled to Asia from across the globe points to the second part of the definition of civilization. Urbanites, people of the cities, take off to find themselves close to Nature (its exotic side, in this case) from which they feel cut off. Only this time, they saw its ugly face.