December 23, 2014

NO ONE HAS IT HARDER THAN THEIR FATHER DID:

The World Is Not Falling Apart : Never mind the headlines. We've never lived in such peaceful times. (Steven Pinker and Andrew Mack, 12/23/14, Slate)


To be sure, adding up corpses and comparing the tallies across different times and places can seem callous, as if it minimized the tragedy of the victims in less violent decades and regions. But a quantitative mindset is in fact the morally enlightened one. It treats every human life as having equal value, rather than privileging the people who are closest to us or most photogenic. And it holds out the hope that we might identify the causes of violence and thereby implement the measures that are most likely to reduce it. Let's examine the major categories in turn.

Homicide. Worldwide, about five to 10 times as many people die in police-blotter homicides as die in wars. And in most of the world, the rate of homicide has been sinking. The Great American Crime Decline of the 1990s, which flattened out at the start of the new century, resumed in 2006, and, defying the conventional wisdom that hard times lead to violence, proceeded right through the recession of 2008 and up to the present. [...]

Violence Against Women. The intense media coverage of famous athletes who have assaulted their wives or girlfriends, and of episodes of rape on college campuses, have suggested to many pundits that we are undergoing a surge of violence against women. But the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics' victimization surveys (which circumvent the problem of underreporting to the police) show the opposite: Rates of rape or sexual assault and of violence against intimate partners have been sinking for decades, and are now a quarter or less of their peaks in the past. [...]

Democratization : [...] 

Democracy has proved to be more robust than its eulogizers realize. A majority of the world's countries today are democratic, and not just the wealthy monocultures of Europe, North America, and East Asia. Governments that are more democratic than not (scoring 6 or higher on the Polity IV Project's scale from minus 10 to 10) are entrenched (albeit with nerve-wracking ups and downs) in most of Latin America, in floridly multiethnic India, in Islamic Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Even the autocracies of Russia and China, which show few signs of liberalizing anytime soon, are incomparably less repressive than the regimes of Stalin, Brezhnev, and Mao. [...]

War. [...]

In a historically unprecedented development, the number of interstate wars has plummeted since 1945, and the most destructive kind of war, in which great powers or developed states fight each other, has vanished altogether. (The last one was the Korean War). Today the world rarely sees a major naval battle, or masses of tanks and heavy artillery shelling each other across a battlefield. [...]

Israel and Palestine. [...]

For all the world's obsession with the Israel-Palestine conflict, it has been responsible for a small proportion of the total human cost of war: approximately 22,000 deaths over six decades, coming in at 96th place among the armed conflicts recorded by the Center for Systemic Peace since 1946, and at 14th place among ongoing conflicts. That does not mean that the violence is acceptable, only that it should not be a cause of fatalism or despair. Worse conflicts have come to an end, not least ones that have embroiled Israel itself, and a peaceful settlement to this conflict should not be dismissed as utopian.





Posted by at December 23, 2014 5:34 PM
  

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