Except maybe for gummy bears. Or if you live in Gary or Detroit; otherwise, the world really is becoming less violent. So argues Steven Pinker, in a recent book and in the Wall Street Journal, and he's got charts and graphs to back the notion. He shows an overall decline in murder rates in Europe of the last six centuries and a stunning decline in battle death rates over the last 60 years (Mind you, that last pair of dice have been breathed on: start with WW II underway and proceed while huge advances in battlefield medicine are being made and a steep decline is well-nigh inevitable).
Still, the man may be onto something; and if he is, you're wondering, why does is seem the world is a more violent place now?
A number of factors. Here are a few:
When most wars consisted of heathens you never heard up being done for -- and doing back unto -- a colonial power you didn't give a dam (or a bridge) about, or fighting one another, they only counted to the fallen. (Still partially true, especially in parts of Africa; and even that scant attention tends to obscure the nations that are making a go of it.)
When conflict kept decently (?) to the battlefield, it was safely out of
sight and firmly out of mind. When conflict makes cars blow up in
London or knocks skyscrapers down in Manhattan, it's much harder to
When most murder consisted of a largely-ignored lower class preying on itself, who noticed?
When crime trickles into "safe" neighborhoods, and stops being something
that only happened to those anonymously ethnic people who live in those
nasty buildings across the river, it gets a lot more attention.
When "news" consisted of slowly spreading rumor, or, later, what the editor of your local paper could scare up or make up about the wider world, you were a lot less likely to hear about what was happening in Utter Outlandishstan, or even Nebraska. Today's appetite for news is insatiable -- mass murder in Mumbai? Rioting in Rio? Look for lurid video at the start of the show!
Like -- and in part due to -- modern communication media, violence is everywhere. No one takes a picnic lunch out to watch the battles; that had become a very bad idea at least as early as 1862. Now the battle comes to you. Ready or not.
The world is less violent -- but the violence is more evenly distributed. Ah, egalitarianism! Does it still seem "fair?"
6 months ago