I tend to disagree with the view that violence is on the decline, because state-sponsored violence is on the rise, and slavery is at an all-time HIGH. Don’t get me wrong, though: while I can support his notion of “the better angels of our nature,” I still find Steven Pinker’s conclusions about violence trends questionable. In summary, his evidence is circumstantial, there are large gaps in his data, and he vastly oversimplifies the social, political and technological dynamics at work throughout human history in order to reach his hypothesis.
For example, in his first graph, Pinker shows “Violent Deaths in Pre-historic Societies,” while his second shows “Violent Deaths in Non-State Societies.” Following this, his next few graphs then review homicide rates. However, murder represents only one (most extreme) form of violence, and certainly does not define the word, nor does it reflect the full spectrum of acts associated with it. The issue of violence is much more complex than murder rates, and such stats should not be treated as clear-cut indicators of a decline in human violence.
In an effort to illustrate his point, Pinker provided figures showing that “violent death” rates steadily decreased. And, yet, this reduction occurred right through the Atlantic slave trade era, and the European child labor era. To those thinking critically, this information easily indicates the possibility that murder rates dropped as the rate of human bondage increased. Either way, slavery and child labor definitely qualify as forms of violence taking place that cannot be dismissed! And, we must recall that during such times, a large portion of the world’s population was being legally, institutionally, nationally and inter-continentally treated as “livestock/property,” making murder a matter of investment/profit/labor loss, with long-term financial incentives to avoid it! Considering the special brand of generational, chattel slavery being practiced cooperatively during at that time by a number of European nations, along with the various scientific, political and other technological advancements contributing to it, a drop in murder rates could easily be a reflection of the use of more sophisticated tools of imperialism and conquest of humanity (as a resource) over time – with more successful, and farm-animal-like, results! There is plenty of room to argue that non-fatal forms violence not only spread, but increased with the rise of chattel slavery – such as brandings, and the use of the whip!
Along with the Atlantic slave trade, Pinker’s figures illustrated that murder rates steadily decreased through the European conquest of the “Americas.” This information indicates the possibility that murder rates decreased with the continued introduction of more advanced, exotic and effective forms of imperialism, including the use of genocidal germ warfare technology, the initiation of the “Great Buffalo Massacre,” and events like “the Trail of Tears,” which resulted in the forced relocation America’s indigenous tribes to reservation/concentration camps! Historically, smallpox and starvation took the blame for most of the murders, while the actual number of victims of such violence will remain forever untold!
And, in consideration of the fact that the above-two mentioned crimes were perpetrated against the aboriginal tribes of the Americas and Africa by the USA, Britain, and other powers-that-STILL-be, it would be prudent not to place such a high value on the accuracy of any figures that have been recorded by history’s “victors,” anyway!
My point is simply this: historically, a reduction in violent murder rates could very well indicate an increase in the use of more and more advanced technologies to control and oppress human populations, as well as an increase in the efficiency of such efforts! And, all the while, violence among our species would NOT truly be on the decline!
It is also worth mentioning that Pinker made no effort to quantify how advancements in medicine would effect rates of “violent death” in modern societies, nor does he even consider how such medical technologies might reduce use of murder simply by creating alternate means of violence to serve the same destructive end!
For example, more recently, in the beginning of the 20th century, the West introduced the world to the pseudo-science of EUGENICS, through which hundreds of millions of “undesirables” were forcibly, surgically sterilized, world-wide, for almost a century! Without a single murder committed, violence and genocide took place on a MASSIVE scale, and yet, Pinker fails to address this important portion of history, for reasons that can only be guessed at!
Now, what about the very inconvenient fact that “there are more than 30 million slaves in the world today, more than AT ANY OTHER POINT in human history”? Why does Pinker make NO mention of this?
In all reality, how can we even begin to factor modern-day human bondage stats into today’s studies and research, when there are no solid numbers or figures being taken about the daily violence being committed within this black market, nor the murder rate it commands? While the answer is unclear, omission of such vital information is NOT the solution to the issue!
And, truly, if slavery is still on the rise, even now, what does this trend continue to say about the correlation between the rates of “violent death,” human bondage, and violence in the world?
Now, in a look at some more modern stats, what about the daily violence taking place within America’s gigantic prison apparatus?
“The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.”
And, as the author in the above article notes, “the United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, MORE THAN ANY OTHER NATION,” and “the United States comes in FIRST, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population.”
Now, it would be wise keep in mind that this is not a matter of reactionary policing. It is mainly attributable to the drug war, along with “mandatory sentencing” and “three strike” laws!
Crime Rate Down, but Prison Population on the Rise in America:
“More than half (55%) of federal prisoners are serving time for a drug offense, and 13% for a violent offense. Nearly three-fourths (72.1%) of the population are non-violent offenders with no history of violence. One-third (34.4%) are first-time, non-violent offenders.”
And, what about the violence that comes from police and prosecutor corruption?
Innocent Americans Spent at Least 10,000 Years in Jail in Just the Last Two Decades:
Besides this, what about the rise in local State violence in America?
Police Brutality Cases on Rise Since 9/11:
And, speaking of the “War on Drugs,” what about the violence it brings?
Mexico Drug War: Guadalajara Sees Surge In Violence
And, in another glaring omission, what about the current violence of the Chinese government?
Since introducing their “one child policy” in 1978, they are currently home to AT LEAST 13 MILLION abortions a year:
On a final note, upon digging a little deeper into Steven Pinker’s seemingly misguided philosophy on human violence, and reading an article about his book on the same topic, I discovered his highly prejudicial, somewhat shocking viewpoint that “the reason so many violent institutions succumbed within so short a span of time was that the arguments that slew them belong to a coherent philosophy that emerged during the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.” Not only is this a completely arrogant, Euro-centric distortion of reality, it is a total slap in the face to the Indigenous tribes of the North, whose highly ENLIGHTENED Constitution the government of America borrowed from (and SEVERELY DILUTED, of course). And, after this, it was soon followed up with absolute GENOCIDE against the very people who had so “inspired” them:
America’s TRUE “Founding Fathers”:
Upon reading his book quote, it’s difficult for me to see Pinker as anything other than an unapologetically pro-establishment shill, seeking to mathematically and verbally justify Europe’s dark and bloody past, under the lofty notion that “the ends justify the means.” And, of course, in order to reach such a vile position, he appears to expertly go about the “business” of skewing historical statistics in his favor, while turning a blind eye to those facts that don’t match up with his predetermined conclusion!