Despite the bad news… The world is safer today
News of the bombing of Al Qaeda and Iranian militias and of ISIS’s crimes has left the map of the Middle East bloodied. However, if we looked beyond that and our devastated region, looking at the world as a whole, we would see that the rates of violence have declined to a degree unprecedented in human history. This means that we are more peaceful than our ancestors of decades and even centuries past, when blood has sometimes been spilled because of simple personal insults or even just for fun. The world wars of the past no longer exist (the last world war started 70 years ago) and the chances of new world wars breaking out between the great powers are almost nil. It is a well-established fact that democracies do not go to war with each other, and this is precisely why Western powers strive to transform the majority of the countries of the world into democracies, to reduce the risks of barbaric wars, which are usually caused by regimes (like those of Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein and others).
With all the mistakes made by the Bush Jr. administration in Iraq, the main idea behind the war was to establish Middle Eastern democracies in which citizens could live in freedom and power change hands peacefully, this which would reduce tensions and acrimony. Of course, with hindsight, we can see that this was naive, but the aim was to reduce violence in the short term, even if this required the use of force for a limited period. However, the two world wars claimed more than 70 million lives, and it is hard to imagine seeing such numbers today. The main reason for this is the rise of the United States, a global liberal capitalist force that has made the world in its image and prevented new wars from breaking out. Due to the absence of this overwhelming political force, world wars separated by only a few years erupted in the first half of the 20th century, and they faded away thereafter.
Strangely enough, it was the rise of the idea of the state, which had been the cause of violence in the past, that ultimately reduced violence. After maturing and developing, he tamed his behavior and was defined by his monopoly on the use of violence, which is limited by law, which means that no one else can use violence. . In the past, tribes and ethnic and religious groups themselves enforced their laws and committed large-scale killings. However, the rise of the state as the only entity authorized to use force has ended social, class and other types of violence, and states have become the sole decision makers.
Some states are unable to cope with certain tribal customs, such as honor killings, and we see increasing violence in these places. Some bogus regimes have also contributed to the increase in violence and have dedicated entire apparatuses to committing crimes. Not long ago, a barbaric mob killed a young woman accused of insulting the Holy Quran in Pakistan, an accusation which later became evident was malicious. They applied their own laws, the state being totally absent. It is not difficult to imagine how crime and murder rates would increase if these groups became prosecutors, judges and executioners.
Beyond wars, armies and states, individual violence has also declined at an unprecedented rate. Only a few of us will die from the types of widespread violence seen in the past.
Today, the chances of dying at the hands of another are much lower, and this is what psychologist Steven Pinker calls “the triumph of the best angels in our nature”, by which he means the triumph of good in us on our bad natures. . This happened for material reasons, not by chance. Human behavior has been civilized by the victory of reason over fantasy since the European Enlightenment. This has helped to pose important and unavoidable questions about the logic of issues such as slavery and torture, and the rise of the culture of human rights. The conception of a society based on human rights gave women, children and ethnic groups rights that had been denied them. Of course, the expansion of world trade has also been the root of the long period of peace we live in due to shared interests and common projects that create new opportunities for cooperation and mitigate hostility.
The absence of these political and intellectual developments in other parts of the world, such as the Middle East and Africa, explains the increased number of victims there. Despite this, and in contrast to visions idealizing the past and pessimistic about the future, grandsons are more peaceful and civilized than their grandparents had been, or at least they are less violent. This calls for optimism.