Author’s note: This is not an attempt to debunk a Harvard professor’s 800 page book with a 900 word article from an underground WordPress Blog. The decline in violence is obvious, and it is over centuries, but the causes of violence are still with us.
Most research shows that we live in a far more peaceful time than previous periods in human history. It’s a complicated topic with a lot of incomplete data for a massively huge period of examination, but the current conventional wisdom follows from Dr. Pinker’s study of the long decline in violence, “The Better Angels of Our Nature.” I agree with Pinker’s specific argument that violence has declined generally, and Pinker does save for a break from the typical 10 o’clock news run about how you might get stabbed to death by some Sureños while walking to your car at night.
Interestingly, Pinker’s research identifies the rise of the modern State as one of the main reasons for the overall decline in violence. He sees the State as a gift of peace to the “species’ existence” because it centralizes the previous Packs of Punishers into a Monopoly on Violence controlled by a centralized State where punishment becomes central management. Pinker doesn’t use this sort of anarchic terminology obviously but what he is largely describing is the impact of the modern State and the ways in which the wide spread fear of the State became the predominant force in the promotion of peace which brought with it wealth and prosperity. He just won’t call it for what it is: the fear of the State.
Now let’s be honest, the main thing stopping you from going out and knockin’ off a bank tomorrow is the fear of the State. Not because you’re a nice guy or the better angels of your nature are advising otherwise. It’s the fear of the State. Pinker proves it, but just won’t say it. He provides graphs, stats, extensive references to facts on facts, examining and synthesizing a boatload of theory and historical data, a fucking tour-de-force on the proofs of declining violence in the modern era, all organized into an unbelievably intelligent and compelling study and to be honest, he did an excellent job, but he won’t admit to what it all means: everybody fears the State.
It could be because Pinker is just a very peachy guy with a linear view of history and an idealistic view of the future; and who swears the world is not going to Hell in a handbag this time. So he cherry picks for acts of kindness, friendly trade, mindfulness or being mindful, etc., but when he asks himself why Peter and Paul are no longer trying to ice each other for the pay, his answer is not because Peter and Paul are just good guys with better angels and less beef nowadays, but rather that Peter and Paul are well aware of the consequences of their actions and the chances of facing punishment from the State.
While it might be true that violence has gone down over time, there’s no evidence from anyone anywhere showing that the problems involving social conflict are being better handled for the long haul. Especially in multicultural societies where people with cultural differences have no way of synthesizing ideas and allocating resources between one another or learning to resolve conflict through free association. Long periods of peace are not necessarily legitimate indicators of human beings becoming more peaceful or solving the causes of violence, or that the tail effect of a collapsing State-system for instance would not result in a nightmare future of ultra violence comparable to that of earlier times. Conflicts aren’t being solved for the future but rather secured by the special interest groups with the most juice in the State, whether they are cultural ingroups with State certified victim status or money men lobbying the State for certain laws and legal monopolies. Every day the groups with the most juice get a good night’s sleep after crushing their enemies without having to worry about any real retaliation from the people being crushed, courtesy of the State.
In my humble opinion, what we are experiencing is a temporary decrease in open acts of violence under the fear of the modern State, while the causes that lead to explosive demonstrations of pure, high intensity violence are quietly cooking on the low. If this is the case, it could very well increase the probability of a very vengeful age of violence following a long period of artificial tightening of populations masquerading as “peace” when tensions finally break the threshold.