When the average American wakes up and tunes into the morning news, more often than not they are greeted by stories of terrible violence, crime, and tragedies of war, both in the states and all over the world. If mass media were the only lens through which we could view our existence on this Earth, than surely we would come to the conclusion that human existence on this planet was, as Thomas Hobbes famously stated, “Solitary, Poor, Nasty, Brutish, and Short.” And yet, as we go about our daily lives, how many of us are actually involved in, or have even bore witness to, acts of horrific violence?
While it might be easy to assume that with advances in military technology and transportation, and the increased ease with which weaponry can be acquired would logically come an increase in violence globally, Steven Pinker argues in his book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” that in reality we are currently experiencing by and far the most peaceful era that man has ever known. He calls this time period the “Long Peace,” and sets its dawn upon the ending of World War II.
Pinker argues that, while violence and war have not been entirely eliminated, not even close, the rates of violent deaths and the frequency of conflicts and wars have gone down sharply from the levels we perpetuated in the past. Statistically, it can be seen that this downward trend is continuing to this day. However, when we watch the news or listen to the radio, we are overwhelmed by stories of murder, rape, mass shootings, kidnappings, armed conflict, and war, as well as news anchors opining the perceived hostile natures of countries with which we may in the future “need” engage in war with. While the numbers clearly show that we are currently living in the most peaceful time man has ever known, we are more than ever inundated by news of violence.
Could there possibly be a correlation between increased media coverage of violence of war, and its decline? Or could their decline be attributed to more peaceful schools of thought being passed down to younger generations, as well as the ongoing endeavors of organizations devoted to upholding peace and providing relief, such as the United Nations or the Red Cross? It is questions like these that highlight the relevance of Pinkers argument to discussions regarding conflict and security. If we were to delve more deeply into the trends discussed by Pinker, and uncover the root causes of the Long Peace, we could perhaps gain a better understanding of what drives humans to inflict harm upon one another, and in effect a better understanding of how to perpetuate an even more peaceful existence for humankind than we are currently experiencing, and continue onward as peace loving citizens of a brave new world.