Saturday, August 29, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Less Violent World.

World War I
World War II
Battle of Britian 1940

Draw and Quarter execution 16th century

When I ran my blog line today, one of the first things that caught my eye was a post by Thomas Barnett where he links an article by John Horgan in Slate, that makes a convincing argument that the world has become decidedly more peaceful in the 21st century than any time in known history. Barnett introduces the Horgan's article.

Nice version of an argument I've long made: as time progresses, the world gets more and more peaceful.

Or, stated as I did in the original version of the brief that became the PNM-BFA-and-now-GP standard brief: the further you got back into history, the more you find a larger and larger percentage of humans preparing for and engaging in mass violence.

Good stats to keep: first half of 20th century sees wars kills about 190m, and second half sees only 40m.

READ MORE: Yes, the world is more peaceful, and why

Anyone who has followed Barnett's writings will recognize this argument. Barnett introduced this writer to Steven Pinker's History of Violence TED Video several years ago, as well as the MINI ATLAS OF HUMAN SECURITY. My own readings ranging from Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond, where Diamond relates his experiences in New Guinea, where his native friend recounted how in their recent past, a chance meeting in the jungle would either result in finding kinship or death. And more recently, Nicholas Wade's Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors which takes Diamond's observations and draws a connection via the DNA highway back in to humans earliest history. The one thing that can be taken from this limited collection is that humans are evolving into a more tolerant and if you will, tamer species.

What prompted me to write about this today, is the current level of animosity towards American involvement with the world in the history classes I teach. Students, now a product of the 24 hr news cycle and tabloid news feeds, seem to have the vision that all the United States has to do to ensure world peace and have booming prosperity is bring ALL the troops home and transfer defense funds to give Americans jobs, free health care and help to buy things like homes and cars. This view is held by the vast majority of students in every class in the past few years. Trying to introduce a balance view is a challenge, most will respond that they have been taught since grade school that America has always interfered with other countries, Vietnam War; our leaders are corrupt, Watergate and Reagan, the decade of corporate greed; and Bush, Iraq was all about helping the Bush's family oil business.

The reaction when students are introduced to some of the more positive effects of American involvement and the effect that free trade has had in lowering poverty levels world wide, is met with astonishment. There is a direct connection to the decline in large scale violence, a plague for humans since the first brother's disagreed, and the elimination of huge swaths of poverty and the introduction of three billion new capitalist world wide.

It is appropriate in the waning days of summer that we are reminded that two of the most costly wars in history began during the summer of 1914 and 1939. Many expected that the recent global financial crisis would result in a repeat of the events of the 20th centuries bloody summers. Tom Barnett uncovers this myth in an article at World Politics Review.

When the global financial crisis struck roughly a year ago, the blogosphere was ablaze with all sorts of scary predictions of, and commentary regarding, ensuing conflict and wars -- a rerun of the Great Depression leading to world war, as it were. Now, as global economic news brightens and recovery -- surprisingly led by China and emerging markets -- is the talk of the day, it's interesting to look back over the past year and realize how globalization's first truly worldwide recession has had virtually no impact whatsoever on the international security landscape.

The New Rules: Security Remains Stable Amid Financial Crisis

Here is one more thought to add a twig to the fire that violence seems to be on the wane amid societies with rulesets. The news this week that a girl, kidnapped 18 years ago was found living as a virtual concubine with convicted child molester in California Many missed chances to catch kidnapping suspect , set the news cycle spinning and water cooler talk heated and incredulous that something could occur in our midst.

Fifty years ago or more, the reaction would have been thousands of people showing up at the jail demanding instant justice. One hundred years ago, it would have happened. The perpetrator Phillip Garrido and his wife, would have been removed from the jail and hung by an outraged citizenry. 500 years ago, they would have been hanged, drawn and quartered. This is not written to condone that path, but to illustrate that society has mellowed in their thirst for violence. The Garrido's will probably never see another free day, and society will reward their victim with book deals to pay for the counseling that is inevitable.

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