We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Believe it or not—and I know most people do not—violence has been in decline over long stretches of time, and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species' existence. The decline of violence, to be sure, has not been steady; it has not brought violence down to zero (to put it mildly); and it is not guaranteed to continue. But I hope to convince you that it's a persistent historical development, visible on scales from millennia to years, from the waging of wars and perpetration of genocides to the spanking of children and the treatment of animals.
Interesting talk. I like Pinker's mention of the importance of the rise of states in the repression of violence, something I have argued with some more libertarian sort.
In modern times I think the removal of violence from everyday life also plays a role; the slaughter of animals occurs out of sight, the military is volunteer, office jobs are not physical, and childhood punishment is much less corporal. I expect many a modern adult doesn't really know how to commit real violence. Whether that is a good thing (less violence) or a bad thing (what happens to those folks if everything goes south) is open to discussion.
Some cultures have unlearned their violence - most recently, NW Europe (and thus the Anglosphere) gradually since the 13th C has taken an even greater step in the direction of nonviolence than even the previous civilizations. Not accidentally, these are the cultures which have increased literacy and start keeping track of their actions. Thus, we have records of their wars, murders, and general violence, and so think of them as the worst and most violent tribes, when they are in fact the least.
This is how fools like Chomsky come to be believed.
Side note: As we cannot replay history, we cannot prove that the diminution of violence and the growth of learning and prosperity are the result of Christian ideas penetrating cultures. But we can say that the one time it did happen, Christianity was the nominal religion and had at least some influence.
Assistant VIllage Idiot
Hmmmm...... silly me.
I thought people are/were dying by the millions in wars in Africa. Congo...Sudan...Rwanda....
What about the Iraq/Iran war back in the 80's. Casualties in the millions were there not?
These deaths weren't violent? Or perhaps Pinker can't see beyond The West?
Or maybe they don't count because the victims are not white?
His point is not that violence does not occur any more. What he is talking about is a violence rate. As a percentage of the world's population, fewer people are dying due to violence today than they were say 1000 years ago. Remember, there are 6 billion people alive today. 1000 years ago, there were less than 500 million. So if a million die due to war now, it is a much smaller percent of the population than if that same number died due to war back then.