Friday, September 11, 2015

Decline in Violence Worldwide; For Now?

Steven Pinker has an article in the Guardian about the continuing decline in violence within humanity as a whole.
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Last para:
"Though I’m relieved that making myself a hostage to fortune eight years ago has not turned out badly, (at least so far), needless to say my greater relief is for the state of humanity. Despite the headlines, and with circumscribed exceptions, the world has continued its retreat from violence. We need invoke no mysterious arc of justice or end of history to explain it. As modernity widens our circle of cooperation, we come to recognise the futility of violence and apply our collective ingenuity to reducing it. Though a few narcissistic despots and atavistic zealots stand athwart this current, history does not appear to be on their side."

• Steven Pinker’s graphs can be seen in full here

I happened to have the following exchange on FB about this article

 Omar Ali: I don't doubt his data, but as Ali keeps telling us, this trend may not last. I am still optimistic, but as is obvious from Syria etc (and from reading Fukuyama), the modern state is a critical factor in this trend. What if state failures accelerate? and at some point, what if those single disasters coalesce into world war? That would do it for Pinker (and for us)...Maybe more for us than for Pinker. SJWs and postmarxist bullshitters notwithstanding, the core of Western states (and East Asia/China) may still hold.....People in intact states may see a continuation of this trend, even as the shit hits the fan from Morocco to Malaysia. Now THAT may be a more likely outcome than total reversal of this trend. In that case the death toll would depend on whether India has hit the fan or escaped (which pretty much means Pakistan would also have escaped...since if we hit all the way, the splashes of gore would probably get India to slip anyway). Unless India hits the fan, the worldwide toll from a Morrocco to Malaysia hit would still be low (I am assuming Indonesia will find a dictator and escape the trend)...Cheery thoughts. :)

Abbas: We are in for interesting times, as the Chinese say... :)

Ali: I think it is more likely than not that we have lived through a brief liberal interlude in history and the world is about to return to its natural state of universal conflict between neotribal nationalisms. How's that for cheerful thoughts?

Abbas: Keep working on making the singularity real, my friend. The fate of humanity hangs in the balance. (To be read out loud in the movie-trailer guy's voice.)

Omar: Ali, It would be foolish to take any of your guesses (about anything) too lightly, but I remain an optimist (of sorts). I think Europe, China and the Americas may not rejoin the world-war trend even if the waters rise and things get worse. They may see some modestly nasty things, but not a return to universal conflict. They will probably kill a lot of people outside their own countries (and sort of, kind of, fight each other in the middle east and Africa, mostly via proxies), but not descend into total war with each other. Why? I dunno. I just think our brains are somehow wired to prefer the pessimistic view, so our nth-order "considered view" should be deliberately biased towards optimism. Something like that. That's not a very solid basis for optimism, I admit. :)

by the way: I think the US has caused state failure in Iraq and contributed to it in Syria (and now has a supporting role in the attempted state failure in Yemen; in Yemen I think the Saudis are the prime movers of the idiocy. There is no reason to accept the Eurocentric Metropolitan Racist view that only White people have agency. The Subaltern may speak :) )
Why has the US caused these state failures? I dont think it was deliberate. But I do think it shows you that it is not just the SJWs/Postmarxist academics who don't appreciate how important the state is; even the decision makers of the most powerful state in the world don't seem to get it. Or rather, they don't seem to have sufficient grasp of where the asabiya or legitimacy of a state comes from: it comes from genuine fellow feeling, or it comes from colonial structures that happened to be this way and within which the necessary fellow feeling builds over time. EITHER can work. Both together are even better. But remove both, and the shit will hit the fan...
Which is also why groups like the Kurds can fight better than any fake army put together by US advisers alone. US advisers PLUS genuine national feeling (Afghanistan, if the US had not allowed us to mess it up) can work though :)

What do you think? 

PS: another comment on that FB  thread:
Aditya: What a dose of negativity and gloom this morning! And I don't much like Pinker myself. 

Those who have money riding on it are really bullish on Africa. I have some firsthand visibility into a region from Manila to Delhi to Cairo and I can't see really many causes for gloom myself. A bit Edgy White-Liberal? Perhaps, but these are good times for the region. Also a good time to remind ourselves that IF south India were hived off, the remaining portion of north India lags Bangladesh's and Pakistan's development indicators. There's a new tech incubator in Pakistan, there are big data think tanks in Sri Lanka and massive cross regional investments brewing. The rational force against world war won't be the nation state but the increasingly dense network of capitalist self interest.