The great betrayal

When the anthropologist Mary Douglas was asked what she thought was the first sign of human civilisation, she answered without hesitation; the oldest fossil of a healed human femur. Here was evidence that while one of their number lay injured, the other humans offered shelter and protection; a wild animal under these circumstances would quickly succumb to predators. Here is the fundamental distinction upon which all society is based, that society is in some sense superior, or different from, more powerful than the brute forces of nature that would compel an individual with a broken femur to lie down and die. Society is something much greater than the individuals who happen at any moment to inhabit it; a civilised society is one which does not allow its members to die just because they have a broken femur.

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