Civilization’s Fragility I – When the regular options don’t work, sometimes you have to do unpleasant things.

Note from November 2007: This was originally posted on a blog of mine that was hosted on Blogger. I’ve since imported that blog over here to C Good’s Things on WordPress.

Here is a story that appeared on Yahoo news on July 6, about Jawhar, a village in Somalia that got tired of all the fighting, killing, looting, extortion & rape. (The story was originally published by either the Edmund Sanders Tribune Newspapers, the Los Angeles Times, or the Chicago Tribune, I’m not sure which one.)

So, after watching all this for a few years, they finally contacted a businessman in Mogadishu and asked him to become their warlord. He did, took him a while to clean out the town and a lot of people weren’t too happy when he first showed up, but most people are pretty happy with him now. He may even use this as a springboard into politics.

Obviously, this is one of those stories that has a lot of questions associated with it. The news story says it is now safe to walk the streets at night, and everyone is pretty happy with the new warlord. That could be because he’s doing the right things, like telling people they’ll be held responsible for their actions and severely punishing those who try mischief. Or it could be that he’s doing the wrong things but just doing them very competently, like having everyone spy on everyone else and letting it be known that anyone who says anything bad to the press is going to disappear. The story says initially some journalists claimed the new warlord was jailing any journalists who questioned his power. Again, this can be taken multiple ways. Is he still doing this? Did he grab an obnoxious few and throw them in jail for a couple weeks until he could get everything settled down, or are there journalists who have been jailed for months at a time because they talked to the wrong person? When these journalists were “questioning his power”, were they publishing articles that said “hey, is this guy really doing the right thing?”, or were they publishing articles that said “you know, so-and-so warlord is SOOOO much better than this guy, we should all try to kill the new guy and get so-and-so”.

But the reason this article really caught my eye is the second paragraph:

Looters in the 1990s burned the mammoth sugar factory, which once provided 1,500 jobs, and peddled the remains as scrap metal. Irrigation canals along the muddy Shabelle River rusted shut, flooding thousands of acres of crops and drying up thousands more.

Civilization & technology are rare things, and very fragile. It takes a lot of people working in concert to set up something like a factory or irrigation canal, and there is a lot of benefit in those things for a lot of people. Most anything that makes life something more than a day-to-day struggle to kill enough animals and eat enough plants to stay alive, while not getting eaten, bitten, or injured, is something to be cherished and encouraged. But when the course of events takes a wrong turn, the trappings of civilization, the things that took so many people working together to create – those are the first that are destroyed.

The fabric of society is a fragile one.

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