Is the world becoming less violent ?


Opened by Ouassila Beni, Business Development Manager, ISIS Papyrus
Apr 20, 2014.

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Martin Goetze Senior Consultant, ISIS Papyrus Europe AG
Apr 20, 2014

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Yes, it is! It is a fact that the world and humankind has become less violent and more peaceful!

Although it could be not too easy to realize the facts, because we are continiously saturated by modern media with information about the latest conflicts, wars and atrocities around the world, the statistics speak a clear and precise language, and all available evidence shows that the world is becoming less violent, and people become more and more aware of each other and the realities of a global consciousness.

Of course we are far away from "world peace", but within a global and long historic scale even the last decade will not make a difference, although here it has been observed that religiously motivated violence was rising quite sharply recently!

Some of the best sources who went a great length to study global violence throughout human history are Steven Pinker and Joshua Goldstein. Their level of detail is far more convincing than any text i would write, so just take an hour and watch their talks, see below.

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Antoine Fournier 67 Antoine Fournier Head of ECM, Input and Output management, Zurich Insurance

Apr 21, 2014

@Martin, there is here a need for deeper though, not statistics.
A time where there is 2 men on earth can be of many violent conflicts.
A time of 16 men on earth will also be, but not 8 times more; it will be anyway more violent.
A time of 2 billions people will not need to be killing 1 billions people to be effectively more violent.
The question of violence is not about percentage of violent death among the population, this is about the reason of violence, this is about the way it is affecting people, how it is part of children's life, this is about forms of violence, this is about influence of non-violent people, and finally, this is about information about violence. After all, it is a matter of perspective...
If the only way human beings can be less violent is to produce more and more individuals so that it becomes impossible to kill in a similar rate, I feel sad ...

Let me tell you a story that you may consider a parable. It is about peaceful Jones family leaving in a peaceful house.They discover a small anthill under the sofa and exterminate it quickly, entirely, and peacefully get diner and peacefully went to bed.
Then two new anthills are finally discovered and destructed the same way, but Jones family starts to worry about the "ant" issue - father and mother Jones had a conversation about it after children went peacefully to bed.
After 3 days out of the house for a peaceful week-end, they found their home invaded by millions of ants from 6 anthills within their house - total extermination starts with special chemistry and tactics to insure they are not coming back.
When some weeks later, the house is totally overloaded with billions of ants, Jones family starts to kill, kill, ant millions per millions without finally being able to reduce the apparent number of ants that live in their home. They put the house on fire and finally realise millions of them survived from the total destruction of the house and are still colonizing the neighbourhood - they had to admit then that they will only leave in a total and daily war against ants for the rest of their lives, spending and organizing their own lives around the activity of killing ants to keep food for them and survive.
In the meantime, some ants went to ants' school and learn about ants' mathematics, history and statistics - they were interested in the history of Jones family. One of those ant statisticians wrote a book about the decreasing violence of family Jones and presented his conclusion at "Tants", a well-known non-profit ants organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading in the ants' world :
"At the beginning of our civilization, the Jones family started an outrageous and excessive violence against our ancestors and almost kills all of them, in a inhuman outburst of methodical violence - historian are still calling this dark period of history a 'Crime Against Antannity' .This behaviour started to decrease toward more and more cohabitation and understanding, even if it ended, at a more recent period of time, by the famous "fire" incident that, most probably accidentally, provoked the death of some of our parents. From that incident, has been established a total peace between our species. This peace is surprisingly stable, and still today ants and Jones family are prospering together in satisfactory harmony, even if, here and there, some incidents cast a shadow over what we can anyway call a good business relationship. Violence is actually decreasing in our world."

Evrything is about perspective. As part of Jones familly, I see more and more violence in our world. As a father, I see 1 child suffering from violence being enough, no matter this child is 0,0001% or 0,0000000000001% of the world population, and if 2 children are today suffering from violence, representing 0,0000000000002% (therefore less than 0,0001%), I personally consider the violence increased by a factor 2.

Our continent and civilisation is currently leaving a long period of peace (as pointed by the statisticians in the given videos) only because we created the worst weapon ever and we've seen that it may kill all of us and make our lands uninhabitable !! Nobody knows how long will this continue.

Steven Pinker cannot be more wrong when he asks about people in middle age "how could they not have empathized with the person they are torturing?".
I explain : Without complete understanding of others' feelings and empathy with people, you wouldn't torture anyone, and without knowing people will "empathize", you would not do it in public and make it an exemple. The only difference between us and them is technical progress, that allows us to kill more people at once ;) and luckily we are many more human beings on earth, so we may kill and stay under the statistical "field of vision" ...
Steven Pinker is right to say that, at middle-age time, this kind of violence looked ordinary, while it looks today like unacceptable. Each period of time has its own definition of what is the ordinary and what is barbarity.

NB: in violence studies, we should also take into account, beyond killing, slavery, torture, humiliation, prison, etc.. that is more difficult to calculate and compare.