Daniel Greenfield writes in his excellent blog Sultan Knish, Government is Magic.
Competence is built on the unhappy understanding that things won’t work because you want them to, they won’t work if you go through the motions, they will only work if you understand how a thing works and then make it work by building it, by testing it and by expecting failure every step of the way and wrestling with the problem until you get it right.
That’s modernity. It isn’t glamorous. You can see it in black and white photos of men working on old planes. You can see it in the eyes of the astronauts who first went to the moon. You can read it in the workings of the men who built the longest suspension bridges, laid undersea cables and watched their world change. They were moderns and their time is done. They have left behind savages with cell phones who make decent tinkerers, but whose ability to collaborate falls apart in large groups.
The difference between savages and civilized men isn’t that savages are dumb and civilized people are smart. Savages can individually be quite clever within their parameters and civilized folk can be quite stupid. It’s the ability to extend that intelligence in groups that makes for a civilization.
Savages cannot work together. They can fantasize, but they can’t build anything bigger than a small group can manage. Savages are warriors, but not soldiers, they are tinkerers, not engineers, they are inventors, not scientists, they cannot work together on a large scale and thereby push past their own limitations as a culture and grow. They may have individual geniuses, but they cannot pass on what they learn.