Western civilization is an incarnation of various values, norms, heritages, religions, systems of government, and customs. This aspect combines elements of philosophy with the notions of free will, cultural traditions, and spiritual thinking. Scholars define the notion of “civilization” as a group of people that live in the common territory of small towns, cities, or even bugger nations. There have been several understandings on the meaning of an individual living in modern western civilization. This prompts different scholars to explore the meaning of “an individual” and its existence in the present world.
F. Kafka in the book The Metamorphosis analyses the nature of individuals. The author is interested in exploring people’s behavior, changes they experience, and the attitude to people, who have been metamorphosed. S. Freud investigates the issue of civilization, in the book Civilization and its Discontents, defining it as a unit that comprises of “forces itself upon one that men measure by false standards, that everyone seeks power, success, riches for himself and admires others who attain them, while undervaluing the truly precious things in life” (Freud 2). According to wide-spread understanding, western civilization represents a transformation in humanity’s estate. This state of the contemporary world comprises of economic growth via entrepreneurial capitalism, technology and applied sciences.
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Being a major contributor to the current existence, I believe that existing in this world, as an individual requires considerable transformation, which in turn will ensure proper survival. Modern Western civilization seriously considers the ideologies of economic autonomy, private property, and insights into the significance of a middle class, which are applicable in the present existence. Individuals will admire people who own vast private properties and in the process neglect the most precious things in life such as communism. Existing in such an environment required transformation of an individual to someone who can easily sustain his life in the westernized regions. Freud describes the mechanism of individual development, “it seems to us a product of the interplay of two trends, the striving for happiness, generally called egoistic, and the impulse towards merging with others in the community, which we call altruistic. Neither of these descriptions goes far beneath the surface. In individual development, as we have said, the main accent falls on the egoistic trend, the striving for happiness; while the other tendency, which may be called the cultural one, usually contents itself with instituting restrictions” (Freud 38). .Major aspects of life led towards the production and distribution of wealth, which aimed at promoting individuality and equality amongst the population. The efficient distribution and creation of wealth in the contemporary world is possible through division and specialization of labor. An individual had to advance specialization of different work areas, which increase people’s economic value.
The Metamorphosis by Kafka depicts several transformations with the leading character of this book and people who surround him. The novel outlines various changes, which can take place in individuals including physical, psychological, and economical. The meaning of existence in the contemporary world is that individuals have to sustain a governing system, which has order and justice,”Into a room in which Gregor ruled the bare walls all alone, no human being beside Grete was ever likely to set foot”(Kafka 11). Freud suggests that individuals rely on attributes and achievements profoundly that are totally foreign to the objectives and ideals of the whole host. From this perspective, it is easy for people to suppose that a fraction of people care for these personalities who achieve their status according to the set standards, and that the majority cares less about the on-goings. “But the discrepancy between men’s opinions and their behavior is so wide and their desires so many-sided that things are probably not so easy” (Freud 15). This means that the question of individuality can be confusing especially in the current society. People tend to be confused about subjecting themselves to their own interests or improving the society.
The two authors significantly contribute towards the aspect of modern western civilization through different characters. Individuals exist in the modern world without much interest in other people’s lives. Despite the various undertakings people engage in, no one will question the moves hence implying dependence on people’s activities. In most cases, the modern western civilization promotes the aspect of self-centeredness more than communism. “Life, as we find it, is too hard for us; it brings us too many pains, disappointments, and impossible tasks. In order to bear it, we cannot dispense with palliative measures… There are perhaps three such measures: powerful deflections, which cause us to make light of our misery, substitutive satisfactions, which diminish it; and intoxicating substances, which make us insensible to it” (Freud 30). For instance, in The Metamorphosis, the transformations of Gregor do not arouse any concerns from the other characters. As the character undergoes the various changes with an effort to survive in the world, the characters remain unusually calm and unquestioning. Most characters do not find these changes of Gregor as a surprising move because the present world requires substantial changes in the lifestyles people lead. An individual creates substantially a world around him or her, which will only support his existence in the world, “All right, people did not understand his words any more, although they seemed clear enough to him, clearer than previously, perhaps because his ears had gotten used to them. But at least people now thought that things were not completely all right with him and were prepared to help him. The confidence and assurance with which the first arrangements had been carried out made him feel good. He felt himself included once again in the circle of humanity and was expecting from both the doctor and the locksmith, without differentiating between them with any real precision, splendid and surprising results” (Kafka 11).
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Western civilization, however, encourages the strict abidance of values, spirituality, and heritage. In this case, it is essential that whatever an individual promotes should substantially promote the society’s values, customs, and spirituality. “What the world demands of poor people they did to the utmost of their ability; his father brought breakfast for the minor officials at the bank, his mother sacrificed herself to the underwear of strangers, his sister ran back and forth behind the counter at the request of the customers; but for anything more than this they did not have the strength” (Kafka, 59). The life of an individual is a personal aspect, the notions and expectations of the society cannot be overlooked. Living as an individual in the modern western civilization means the incorporation of the communities reasoning in to the different lifestyles people chose. Most people view western civilization as an aspect, which promotes individuality, but closer analysis of this ideology, reveals the promotion of communism. Sigmund Freud acknowledges that an individual in modern western civilization should obtain intimation of his link with the surrounding environment. This will be through expressing affiliations, which arise from the external setting. “Normally there is nothing we are more certain of than the feeling of our self, our own ego. It seems to us an independent, unitary thing, sharply outlined against everything else” (Freud 45). Freud considers this as a deceptive outward show, which mainly ignores the inner appearance of an individual.
On another perspective, western civilization concerns with the disconnection between body and mind. An individual living in the current western civilized world will have to undergo considerable changes that will support their existence. However, the two authors, Kafka and Freud, add to this concept by explaining that these transformations will not affect the person’s body. The effect will only be visible in their minds and actions they undertake to survive as an individual. People will do various things and activities to survive in the modern world, which focus on economic perspective. For instance, people have to engage themselves in various areas of work in order to achieve their economic level. “We will therefore turn to the less ambitious question of what men themselves show by their behavior to be the purpose and intention of their lives. What do they demand of” (Freud 47). The economic level will in turn determine the social class of an individual. For this reason, people with different physical appearance and activities will fit in certain social classes that probably do not match their outward appearance. However, this difference in physical appearance does not change the initial mindset of the individuals. An individual strives to remain relevant in the modern world and this will be through identifying his or her expertise and specialization. In addition, an individual will have to be creative and innovative to avoid redundancy especially in workplaces. The Metamorphosis exhibits this role of individuals through the leading character Gregor. Despite the various transformations, the character undergoes, in order to remain relevant in the society his mind remains unchanged. For instance, Gregor wakes up and tries to stand upright in vain, “When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. He was lying on his back as hard as armor plate, and when he lifted his head a little, he saw his vaulted brown belly, sectioned by arch-shaped ribs, to whose dome the cover, about to slide off completely, and could barely cling. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, were waving helplessly before his eyes” (Kafka 16). The current state does not allow his application of the previous state meaning that, after every transformation, a person has to suit to the changes. In essence, western civilization allows an individual to think with their changed mind but not act with their original state. Innovation and growth, specially creating new wealth calls outlays of risk capital in advance of obtainable outcomes. Individuals in this world have to be risk takers while expecting both failures and successes. Human beings’ expectations are subject to blemished judgments and panic in the wake of unforeseen incidences. This will in turn lead to a flight to safety of self-interest causing harm to the public.
Western civilization requires individuals to be technologically advanced because this is the basis of the current operations. The two authors speak of technological innovations, which enable swift communication between individuals. Technology has equally advanced up to date transportation especially of commodities and people. Advances in technology lead to improvements in individuals’ productivity. After much input, this will open way for increased wealth that sustains the existence of people in the society. “It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement – that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life” (Freud 42).
On the contrary, the two authors argue that the outward appearance of individuals starts from the inner being. In this context, it becomes difficult to distinguish between the outward and inner appearance of an individual especially in the modern world. “On the wall directly opposite hung a photograph of Gregor from his army days in a lieutenant’s uniform, his hand on his sword, a carefree smile on his lips, demanding respect for his bearing and rank” (Kafka 26). Here, the lead character seems happy in his earlier days before any transformations. Modern western civilization creates a double personality in individuals, which advances their survival and existence in the globe. Freud argues that western civilization has notable impacts especially to the outer world. Despite the outward appearance of the individuals in an effort to survive in the western civilization system, the ego seems to keep itself clearly and sharply outlined and delimited. “Under the pressure of these possibilities of the suffering, men are accustomed to moderating their claims to happiness… if a man thinks himself happy merely to have escaped unhappiness or to have survived his suffering”(Freud 24). Kafka and Freud support the idea that an individual’s sense of his own personality cannot remain the same from birth. Western civilization ensures the transformation of individuals from time to time to ensure that they co-exist cordially. The contrasting notion of this argument is that no individuals will remain the same in spite of the changed physical appearance. This is the case when individuals will be in a high position to pretend. The inner personality has a great impact on the physical appearance of an individual especially because of western civilization.
Western civilization especially in the present world has a great impact on the existence of an individual. There is a need to investigate the value of human civilization, because it determines in turns the personality of a person. Different literatures support the notion that western civilization has led to the creation of a better personality. The modern western civilization calls for individuals with high levels of creativity, innovation, and self-centeredness. People need to arm themselves with greater aspects of knowledge in order to remain relevant to the society.