The lie about violence

Pinker’s book paints a remarkable picture that shows the world has evolved over time to be a far less violent place than ever before.  It offers a fresh perspective on how to achieve positive outcomes in the world. Pinker presents a tremendous amount of evidence that shows that humans have gradually become less violent and much more humane. The trend started thousands of years ago and has continued to this day. Many people are surprised to hear that we live in a far less violent time, because you see and read about tons of violence in the news. But Pinker argues convincingly that it’s our awareness and sensitivity to violence that have increased, not violence itself, which is decreasing rapidly. Pinker thoroughly debunks the romantic idea that ancient humans lived in harmony with nature and each other. It’s an overly rosy view of the past and a view that ignores much of the progress we have made.

“We began moving away from violence when we first settled down into stable agricultural communities,” Pinker writes.  After the Enlightenment, governments themselves became less violent, eliminating cruel punishments and other policies that infringed on citizen’s rights. And in the two thirds of a century since World War II, nations have become less war-like, especially as the idea of universal human rights has taken hold. Pinker isn’t saying that peace justice and nonviolence are inevitable. He acknowledges that modern technologies have expanded the lethality of wars. Things can go very wrong, but Pinker is saying the history trends toward less violence, and we should tap into this reality. “The Better Angels of Our Nature” also explains some ideas that should be widely understood; for example that the basis for morality – and the continued decline of violence – lies in empathy, strengthened by rules, codes and laws.

Steven Pinker_website

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