Truly Powerful People (230)

230.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Last night I went to a lecture given by Harvard professor Steven Pinker. He’s written a new book called The Better Angels Of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. His lecture was a blizzard of data, graphs and charts showing one undeniable pattern: despite what we believe, violence has declined radically over the past few centuries; we now live in the most peaceful period in human history. In fact, compared to earlier times, some of our rates of violence don’t even register on the charts. He left us buried beneath the data with a few big questions about this decline, chiefly “Why the decline?” He had lots of suspicions but who really knows.

It was hopeful in a cerebral sort of way.

I grew up hearing (and believing) that the 20th century was the most violent century in human history. As Dr. Pinker said, “You can only believe that if you don’t compare the 20th to all other centuries.” According to his charts, the 20th century with its two world wars was garden party compared to centuries past. Genocide and annihilation was the game of those days! So, the second big question, “Why?” that came to my data-stressed mind was, “Why the disconnect between the data and our belief that we live in a terribly violent society?”

It is all a story. There is no doubt that violence is present in our world. And there is no doubt that we focus on it; where we place our focus dominates what we see. I know about the power of story and I wonder what we would see if we started telling a story of “the most peaceful time in human history.” I wonder what we would create if we approached our days on earth, not from a story of fear as our media and politicians would have us tell, but from a story of greater and greater cooperation and collaboration?

What is most remarkable is that despite our belief in a hyper violent world, the rates of violence continue to drop. Despite our fixation and belief, we are somehow together telling a story of greater and greater peace.

You can bury me in that kind of data any day of the week.

One Response

  1. the story changes for me, listening to you listen to the professor. As I think about it, Occupy events in the states are much less violent, than the civil rights movement, Vietnam demonstrations, the war on Indians, raising children………

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