Monthly Archives: August 2009

TED Talk: Pinker on violence and my minor criticism.

I think Pinker is dramatically underplaying the scale of 20th violence, but he makes a great case that the rate of violence and the kind of violence has declined greatly even in recent history. However, I find these sorts of ideas to be dangerously teleological–they assume that because things ARE happening that they will CONTINUE to happen that way. I don’t think that such assumptions always bare out. Still, its good because most people talk about scale of violence and miss that the rate of violence has decreased greatly. Pinker has basically inverted the focus.

David Fraser commenting on Pinker’s argument on TED forums says,

In addition much of the poverty and “non-violent” death in the lake regions of East Africa among refugees is a by-product of the violence of armed militias as well as state forces. CAR is about to collapse into a failed state due to it. The death toll is not limited to those directly shot or blown up. One has to only walk among the displaced and the refugees to see that only some poverty is simply “aggression.” Southern Sudan, Darfur and other theaters are littered with civilian death as a by-product. One thinks also of the poverty of Zimbabwe and the tyranny that is inflicting death on its own population.

The Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research released a report on December 15, 2008. This year there are 9 wars and nearly 130 violent conflicts ranging from low intensity to high intensity. The single most powerful cause of these conflicts is ideological change.

It also seems like violence changes it form into less obvious types of conflict over time.


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