6
$\begingroup$

Working on the art book for my post apocalyptic world building project I got used to accompanying the introduction of each character or topic with a quote to set the mood and to emphasize how little (or much) has changed, compared to the old world (not as a catchphrase the character says).

Actually I am working on a professional scavenger who is obsessed with the "ancient" civilization he encounters on his raids every day, relics of past greatness, technological advancement and peaceful unity in a wild and merciless post apocalyptic world, dressing like (what he takes for) a classic gentleman.
After WW3 civilization went downhill, people are busy surviving, cropping food, putting up defensive fortifications, fighting hostile groups of other survivors. Wandering through the remains of the old world everyday, seeing images of people making music, art, building elegant huge city scapes, this character thinks what these people are doing nowadays is not living, it's merely surviving. A human being needs education (not only about cropping and fighting, but intellectual and technical), art, musicm manners, cosmopolitanism, a groomed appearance - well, basically civilization/culture, to be able to call oneself human.


I am looking for a quote that states that one needs civilization / culture / refinement to really be(come) human or that only civilization / culture / refinement enables one to be human.

In the best case a general term like civilization or culture is used, not only focussing on one aspect, like personal virtue or art.


Note: I am only looking for real quotes, not own creative ideas to put in the mouth of some character that is said to have lived in my world.

Bonus points if the quote isn't 20th century English or ancient Roman Latin (I already use both and would like to include several cultures and eras to show the parallels throughout human history), e. g. ancient chinese philosphy, some renaissance Italian phrase about the uomo universale, the literary Age of Enlightenment or something from the British Empire (cf. gentleman), which viewed itself as extremely civilized, compared to the savage colonies it oppressed.


I have searched by myself, but that is extremely ineffective, if you only know the proposition your text should have, not an era or a writer. (And just going over all civilization quotes would take forever). So I was hoping maybe someone knows a quote, that is much easier to look up.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Nov 15 '19 at 2:18
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You should listen to Sting - Englishmen in New York :D $\endgroup$ – Alexander von Wernherr Nov 15 '19 at 6:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ looking at the history of state of nature should be helpful, part of the issue is the idea you are looking for has not been that widespread in history. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_nature $\endgroup$ – John Nov 16 '19 at 16:35
8
$\begingroup$

Edit2: After some digging around, I finally found the perfect quote for your story.

How different a creature is man in society and man in solitude! - William Godwin

Perhaps you are wondering why I believe this the perfect quote for your story. This is because William Godwin (1756-1836) is a philosopher that supports anarchy, or more accurately, min-anarchy. He wrote political philosophy during the French Revolution, a period of major chaos and strife.

His quote is perfect because Godwin’s stance is on forming a society on the borders of no government and complete anarchy (which is what you have in your current apocalypse). You could have your scavenger find one of his works, such as the An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice or the book Things as they are (Caleb Williams), starting his journey to bring back society, and giving him the ability to fire back Godwin quotes when meeting oppressive dictators and highway bandits.

Whereas Godwin wrote philosophy arguing for the tearing down of oppressive government, it’d be ironically fitting if your scavenger quotes Godwin as he fights to bring back some form of governed society from the complete anarchy, meeting midway.


If you are looking for quotes about society and how people fit into it in general, Confucius is a philosopher from Ancient China that really fits your bill. He also loves to define the perfect 'gentleman', albeit in an ancient style.

Some quotes below:

Manners maketh man:

Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?

For your scavenger:

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

Constructing society based on virtues:

“Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors.”

Another great gentleman quote:

“A gentleman would be ashamed should his deeds not match his words.”


You can find more of his quotes here, but I really recommend reading up on Confucius' philosophy in general, if you're interested in this topic :).


Edit: it seems that you wish to get a quote that answers as to how people behave when their basic needs are not met; this is similar to the theory of Maslow's basic needs. A great quote from Maslow concerning basic needs is the following:

“It is as necessary for man to live in beauty rather than ugliness as it is necessary for him to have food for an aching belly or rest for a weary body.” Abraham Maslow

Godwin combined with Maslow and Confucius, these quotes should hopefully be enough ammunition to demonstrate the importance of society, art, and manners to humanity.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @CeeMon just updated my answer a bit $\endgroup$ – Enthus3d Nov 14 '19 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ This is better. But it would be perfect if the term civilization or culture would occur somehow - not only art declined after WW3, I guess you can compare it to the early middle ages after the achievements of the antiquity. Everything is more savage, improvised to survive, society values and virtues got a lot rougher... $\endgroup$ – Cee Mon Nov 16 '19 at 11:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @CeeMon I provided a quote written by William Godwin, a philosopher during the chaos of the French Revolution. Perhaps this will fit your criteria better. $\endgroup$ – Enthus3d Nov 16 '19 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ Well, there are "societies" in my world, groups of survivors that developed into tribes with their own habits and lifestyle over decades after the apocalypse, now fighting over predominance in the area. But they mainly focus on surviving and warfare, falling, however, considerably short of the old world’s sophistication $\endgroup$ – Cee Mon Nov 16 '19 at 17:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @CeeMon For that case you can use Maslow’s quote, about the necessity of beauty over just food, since you said these societies focus only on the bare minimum for survival. It’s impossible to find a single pertinent quote to deal with every situation, but the combination of different quotes should suffice. $\endgroup$ – Enthus3d Nov 16 '19 at 17:09
5
$\begingroup$

“All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—"

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

"So we can believe the big ones?"

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

"They're not the same at all!"

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point—"

MY POINT EXACTLY.”

-- Terry Pratchett, Hogfather.


More seriously, Terr Pratchett has some great quotes concerning just about everything. They may not be the tone you're looking for, but they are damn good!

"It's not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren't doing it."

“It's still magic even if you know how it's done.”

“There isn't a way things should be. There's just what happens, and what we do.”

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.”

“Even if it's not your fault, it's your responsibility.”

“Goodness is about what you do. Not who you pray to.”

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ The first one is really beautiful but probably too big of a leap from fantasy to past civilization. The others are nice, too, maybe I can use some for another character or topic. $\endgroup$ – Cee Mon Nov 16 '19 at 12:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @CeeMon I think the others would fit nicely as more sort of quips or catchphrases that a character could reply to someone skeptical about how relevant society is in the current era. Your "archeologist" could also find pieces of partially decomposed/damaged books and make a scrapbook of their favourite excerpts, which would be a fun keepsake. $\endgroup$ – Whitehot Nov 16 '19 at 12:26
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A better pratchett quote. ... good manners started to happen as soon as all the mammoths were killed off and there was no piece of food big enough for everyone to eat at the same time. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 16 '19 at 17:23
3
$\begingroup$

There was a Lord Moulton, an English judge, who spoke or wrote about the realm of manners and why it was so important to a society. I don't know the original source, but he has been quoted several times by commentator Mark Steyn, for example:

Moulton divided society into three sectors, of which he considered the most important to be the "middle land" between law and absolute freedom. At one end, one is free to do anything; at the other, one is forbidden to do certain things; but in between lies the domain of manners, in which the individual has to be "trusted to obey self-imposed law".

"In this domain," wrote Moulton, "we act with greater or lesser freedom from constraint, on a continuum that extends from a consciousness of duty through a sense of what is required by public spirit to good form appropriate in a given situation."

Steyn has observed that the "realm of manners" seems to be shrinking; we are increasingly moving toward a state where everything is either mandatory or forbidden by law, or otherwise we're not allowed to even have an opinion about it. Lord Moulton's point is that a society is bound together and defined by the things it can agree on, the civic rituals and so forth, without having to be forced to do by by law.

as Lord Moulton put it, "The real greatness of a nation, its true civilization, is measured by the extent of this land."

The Mark Steyn article I'm quoting from has to do with the NFL "taking a knee" business that was going on a few years back, but he's referred to Lord Moulton on other occasions and is himself a good observer to quote.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ But manners are only one aspect of civilization, art is another. Together they make the difference between surviving and living. $\endgroup$ – Cee Mon Nov 16 '19 at 12:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think Lord Moulton is using the word "manners" to mean civilization. $\endgroup$ – workerjoe Nov 17 '19 at 0:56
2
$\begingroup$

Benjamin Disraeli was an influential Conservative Prime Minister in the UK during the Victorian era. He has a number of good quotes about government, but also about civility and society, one of which:

"It is knowledge that influences and equalises the social condition of man; that gives to all, however different their political position, passions which are in common, and enjoyments which are universal."

You can easily "distort" this by the passage of time to omit politics, should you wish.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ But this quote primarily defends knowledge as the foundation of civilization. My character however wants to defend civilization as the foundation of humanity (against some posties who, faced with a merciless new world, only concentrate on surviving, fighting and farm work) $\endgroup$ – Cee Mon Nov 16 '19 at 12:33
2
$\begingroup$

In a famous discussion between several philosophers in the company of Cicero, they argued at length about a popular Roman maxim from that day: "The republic cannot be governed without injustice" (η δημοκρατία δεν μπορεί να κυβερνά χωρίς αδικία).

Laelius is said to have strained every nerve to prove that "nothing is so hurtful to a state as injustice, and that without justice, the republic can neither be governed nor continue to exist." At length, the following counter-statement, which was penned some time prior by the poet Ennius, was proposed by Cicero as containing the summary of the conversation:

"Rome's severe morality and her citizens are her safeguard."

Cicero said, "this verse seems to me to have all the sententious truthfulness of an oracle. For neither would the citizens have availed without the morality of the community, nor would the morality of the commons without outstanding men have availed either to establish or so long maintain in vigor so grand a republic with so wide and just an empire."

Any of the above sentiments could be paraphrased and used I'm sure.

There are a lot of other great quotes in Plato's Republic. Here's one: "Justice is useful when money is useless." (Η δικαιοσύνη είναι χρήσιμη όταν τα χρήματα είναι άχρηστα.)

There are a bunch of good ones in various culture's proverbs (this website is an interesting resource).

I'm a fan of Epictetus, and he has some good ones, like "who does not choose to make use of a good vessel? Who does not value a benevloent and faithful adviser? Who will not willingly receive a man who is ready to bear a share, as we may say, of the difficulty of his circumstances, and by this very act to ease the burden, by taking a part of it."

Maybe most of these are longer than what you're looking for, but the resources I cited are public domain, so I'm sure if you skim them you'll find something worth quoting.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ The quotes are good but concentrate on one aspect, the personal virtue. I am looking for something that covers both the virtue or decency (which of course is important in a savage postie world), but also some form of art to make the difference between surviving and truly living $\endgroup$ – Cee Mon Nov 16 '19 at 12:41
1
$\begingroup$

Why not create one,

other people remind you that there are other ideas, other ways of being, they tell you what you are is a choice, and once it is a choice you ask why choose to make the world a worse place.

or

Manners are an acknowledgement that other people are people.

or

One man can move a rock, two can move a boulder, many can move a mountain.

or

If you are around other people, being able to think from their perspective is a super power, you can use it to lie or just predict with ease. But it's a double-edged sword, a wonderful trick, once you can see from their perspective, you can feel their pain, and hurting them hurts you, and suddenly it gets harder to be an asshole.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.