Sunday, October 23, 2011

Are things as bad as they seem? Apparently not.

I remember, many years ago, standing in the middle of the great ball field at the Mayan ruins of Chitzen Itza, Mexico and trying to imagine being there in that time and place as those ancient warriors played a form of Lacrosse for their lives, literally, as the winning team's captain was sacrificed to the Gods, an honor for which they fought tooth and nail. 

I remember standing there, in that place, and musing on the brutality of sport in that time compared to the brutality of modern-day sports and how far mankind has progressed over the past three-thousand years or so.  Mind you, there are still plenty of barbaric sports around, even in Western society.  Football isn't all that sophisticated and Rugby seems to be only an excuse to fight legally in public.  Add to that a few other winners like boxing and hockey and the degradation of modern-day cage fighting and you have to wonder if things have changed all that much.

But then, there are some bright spots, like the banning in Spain of the most barbaric "sport" I have ever witnessed, bull fighting.

A spate of recent books, "including one by prominent Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker reveal dramatic reductions in war deaths, family violence, racism, rape, murder and all sorts of mayhem." according to an article in this morning's newspaper.

The facts seem to speak for themselves:  
  • The number of people killed in battle - calculated per 100,000 population - has dropped by 1,000% over the centuries.  Before organized countries, battles killed on average 500 out of every 100,000 people.  In 19th century France, it was 70.  In the 20th century, with two world wars and a few genocides, it was 60.  Today, three-tenths of a person per 100,000.
  • The rate of genocide deaths per world population was 1,400 times higher in 1942 than in 2008.
  • Murder in European countries has fallen from 100 per 100,000 in the 14th and 15th centuries to about 1 per 100,000 now.
The reason given for this decline in violence?  Education!  Can you beat that?  Someone has finally figured out that the more educated people are the less likely they are to be violent.  The more educated they become the more tolerant they are, the more likely they are to be concerned about things like the environment and the betterment of mankind.

Damn, you learn something every day.


  1. Actually some real good news for a change!
    Thanks, I really needed that.

    It does make me wonder what things we do now future people will look back at us and wonder what in the world was wrong with them.

  2. Another way to look at it is that population growth is outpacing our technology to kill! I know. I am always the pessimist.

  3. BB... Doesn't seem to really be all that good. I'll try harder next time. Obviously, mankind is creeping forward, but at an agonizingly slow pace.

    LGS... Given weapons of mass destruction, I don't see how we can possibly out-populate our ability to kill. However, it is probably all for naught anyway, as Mother Nature gets madder and madder things like the SE Asian Tsunami are going to become common occurrences that are going to make whatever efforts we make at killing ourselves look pretty lame.

  4. This is good news, bad news, I think, because this is all the more reason to be alarmed at the dumbing down of America that has taken place in the last decade or so.

  5. JJ... I believe you are right. Although, when you think about it, what we are witnessing is the success of Democracy, which finally boils down to the lowest common denominator. Exacerbate that with a consumer-based economy and things only get worse, driven to the lowest common denominator and that is pretty low.

  6. Thank God you told me that; I'd still be puzzling over the reason otherwise.


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