What does it mean to be highly civilized?
On this particular issue I hold a slightly contrary view to FOS.
Civil means “Of or belonging to citizens”.
To me, a highly civilized person is one who is aware of the structures and levels of organisation in various communities, and who actively investigates new possibilities for the organisation of groups that actively enhance freedom and security for all.
Such awareness will include all the many levels of influence on the organisational structures present from the environmental, to the genetic, to the cultural, to the potentially infinite levels of logic and abstraction and strategy possible.
In my experience the highly civilised individual is just as likely to be found in small rural communities, or even essentially alone, where the reduced need to interact socially on an ongoing basis gives them more time to explore the possibilities available in the infinities of possible organisational and strategic system forms.
In this sense, the most highly civilised people are often acultural, not from ignorance but by active choice. They often take themselves beyond the boundaries of culture, to actively and practically explore what is possible.
One can only go beyond culture by being as fully aware as possible of all the many levels that culture has to offer, then actively choosing something else beyond that.
So for me, the highly civilised person is one actively engaged in the enquiry as to what modes of social interaction can support the greatest diversity of forms with the greatest degrees of freedom and the greatest security for individuals, on the longest possible time-frames, while simultaneously demonstrating a respect for all sapient life and both the freedom and the responsibilities of those individuals, whatever their particular stage of development or level of awareness.
For me, being highly civilized is far beyond the culture and habits of any group or groups, and having an awareness of culture and habits (and not being bound by them) is definitely part of the process.
One of the fundamental aspects of awareness is freedom. One of the fundamental aspects of freedom is being aware of the levels of “laws” and their degree of applicability and consequence (from the physical through all levels of social and logical and strategic) and simultaneously being aware that one is not ultimately bounded by any of them. Achieving that awareness, in a way that at the same time actively enhances the probability of security and freedom for sapient life generally (human and non-human, biological and non-biological), is to me the highest level of civilization possible.
My latest endeavour in that realm is on my blog:
which I wrote yesterday.