The article “What We Have to Lose” addresses several issues, but the main one is civilization. The author comes up with several arguments in support of and against civilization, its cause, and possible solutions.  He argues the precious nature of civilization as well as its fragility. Civilization refers to a complex society or societies with normal urban development and in which the elite group stratifies the society.

There exist some elements of civilization in such a society which include specific communication systems, separation based on stratification, and the domination of one group by the other or over the natural environment. Civilians have definite socio-economic and political which vary from centralization, labor specialization, ideas of progress, and superman ship. The civilized view the rest as barbaric and illiterate and demean them; most of what they do is a total failure.

In this regard, therefore, civilization is looked at as the domination of larger cultures referred to as the primitive culture over the smaller cultures. The primitive culture considers itself as the elite and high class in the society. Just as the author puts it, the less civilized people experience some feeling of shame whenever they do some acts which seem unacceptable to society.

This paper is going to review the article “What We Have to Lose,” compile the main arguments, and provide an overview of the facts based on evidence from academic sources.

Theodore revisits the occurrences which took place during the Second World War where he recalls the falling bombs and their implications on people and property.  He remembers a pianist called Myra Hess who played his piano during this period as a show of his heroism and patriotism to her Nation (Dalrymple, 2001). She risked her life as she was Jewish and was playing anti-enemy music which was against the Semitic views.

Her patriotism led her to go on with her mission in a time when the world was almost ablaze, and the war was very fierce.  The concerts, the author argues, were a show of culture and humanity which were lacking during the war as people were under mistreatment, lifestyles compromised and brutal killings a regular occurrence. Her message on civilization was strong and depicted the unavoidable need for such enlightenment which leaders were ignoring and finding no place.

Myra’s music expressed the inevitable need for culture and sanity when dealing with people. It is not arguable that what Myra does is a sacrifice that a person devotes for the sake of the possible dangers that they might undergo as well as challenges and negative implications. It is all about taking a risk to defend the rights and freedoms of others.

It has much to do with standing up to protect the concerns of the suffering and oppressed such as those who under such subjection to this during World War II. Another example of civilization and patriotism in action is that of Sir Karl Popper and four Berlin men who spent a night together in readiness for arrest due to their patriotism. 

They went on playing their Beethoven quartet as usual and were ready to show that barbarism was not an excuse for compromising civilization. Resisting cruelty was their mission, and they were prepared to suffer the consequences including imprisonment.

The author asserts that high cultural achievement, unlike personal success is to some extent a component of civilization. Civilization is not mainly on what a person solely achieves rather than what the community and its cultures have made and prided in (Dalrymple, 2001). An individual can perform at the personal level, and the achievement is taken as civilization and progress from one level of life to another which is paramount, but the most critical thing is own for the sake of many.

Culture is a complex combination of activities that offer people an opportunity to transcend over biological existence to better mental, material, spiritual and aesthetic life. The mass killing of innocent civilians is a mark of barbarism, but not civilization, and those who commit such acts contribute to the high level of savagery and lack of patriotism.

The essential feature of true nationalism and culture include the willingness to repress and give up what one loves most for the sake of others failure to which make them worse than beasts.

The author argues that civilization involves peace and safety free of insecurity and attack s as was the case some years before his birth. He insists that much as protection is essential, civilization is often fragile and should be handled carefully. Feelings of security and the delicate nature of culture can be instilled early in life and create some feelings and emotions in people which grows in them through life stages. 

Bomb sites are evidence of wars that took place in the past and should at least be done away with to allow people to forget the bad memories. The unattended bomb sites were a feature of the uncivilized world and the environments very unattractive to live in. Bomb shelters formed parts of the arenas for activities and exploitation since they were dark and favored such behaviors.

They were frightening to the young school-going children and their fungal dampness a health concern. This depicts an unconducive learning environment for students which therefore promotes illiteracy, a fundamental characteristic of an uncivilized society. There is the need for sacrifice in reinstating the typical appearance of the background after a war to bring to an end these memories and to make the environment better.

When the atmosphere and surrounding are poorly attended to and poorly maintained, it manifests some level of barbarism and backwardness.

The issue of refugees is prevalent in under civilized societies where war and insecurity is a common occurrence. The author addresses several instances of refugees including his mother who was a refugee from Nazi in Germany following the war.

The life of a refugee is not only vulnerable and insecure but also dangerous. They have exposure to more attacks, health challenges as well as mistreatment in the lands where they seek assistance and refuge. Life changes entirely from the former comfort and comfortable lifestyles to low and unpleasant situations. There is no more driving, and social class is a thing of the past.

The life before people become refugees is includes driving heavy vehicles, picnics by lakes, and sweet memories which become entirely different when war emerges. To achieve civilization, people must give up their comfort and lifestyles, accept the prevailing conditions and move on.

To achieve a civilized society or country, there is a dire need for sacrifices by citizens and the government (Blundell, 2016). It all goes at a price and not just a matter of mere lobbying. It calls for the preceding of personal interests as well as corporate group interests for the sake of nation-building. Civilization, as the writer argues, has a lot to do with instilling positive virtues such as honesty, fairness, and foresight as the pillars of successful nation-building.

According to Oliver Holmes, nation-building calls for faithfulness and paying taxes as one of the prices. It is a pursuit for real happiness for the people with less chaos and subjection to suffering and economic strains.

As the author puts it, civilization is an escape from barbarism at all cost with more attention to quality education to avoid illiteracy which is a mark of low civilization. It includes giving populations the best opportunity to pursue their academic dreams at the expense of the costs involved (Malinowski, 2015). When people are learned, they act in such manners that portray literacy and not barbarism.

Their view to issues is different, and they are made more aware of their rights and the correct way of defending them. Civilized people are at a point of knowing how to demand what legally belongs to them and expression of needs is easy. They are aware of their responsibilities to others and to the government which makes them co-exist comfortably and socialize at ease.

They do not face any issues of comfort or conflicts since they are educated and have vast exposure to life. However, just as the writer puts it, literacy should not be used to demean and mistreat the less educated as they are also an integral part of our societies. The educated should address the rest humanely and avoid seeing them as less civilized and barbaric.

The chief sacrifice for the sake of nationalism and civilization is patriotism (Zuboff, 2015). As argued above, a patriotic person is one who is ready to give up everything for the common good of the rest who are under oppressive subjection, or the sacrifice of one’s comfort for the sake of the commons and the country as well.

Anyone who qualifies to be regarded as patriotic is always there in the best and worst times for the rest and will give up all they have for the betterment of others’ lives. National building and civilization go to the extent of pouring blood and sacrificing property and money.

Civilization is a costly affair. It is a concern that is not easy but goes with costs which include patriotism, self-denial, blood pouring and desire for more literate societies. People always have to endeavor to retain their civilization since losing it will demand a lot to restore.

The process of restoring culture means enormous changes in the judicial, education, health, environmental and other strategic systems which align with it. The love that people have for their community and the nation as well dictates a lot to how civilization is realized and the extent to which it influences change primarily regarding development. A civilized society is one ended to success and progress.


Blundell, S. (2016). The Origins of Civilization in Greek and Roman Thought (Routledge Revivals). Routledge.

Dalrymple, T. (2001). What we have to lose. City Journal.

Malinowski, B. (2015). Freedom and civilization. Routledge.

Jung, C. G. (2014). Civilization in transition (Vol. 10). Routledge.

Veblen, T. (2017). The place of science in modern civilization. Routledge.

Zuboff, S. (2015). Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization. Journal of Information Technology, 30(1), 75-89.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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