Dr. Steven Pinker, Pulitzer prize-winning author and Harvard psychology professor, writes, “Today we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence.” He acknowledges: “In a century that began with 9/11, Iraq, and Darfur, the claim that we are living in an unusually peaceful time may strike you as somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene.” Pinker points out, wars make headlines, but there are fewer conflicts today, and wars don’t kill as many people as they did in the Middle Ages, for instance. Also, global rates of violent crime have plummeted in the last few decades. Pinker notes that the reason for these advances are complex but certainly the rise of education, and a growing willingness to put ourselves in the shoes of others has played its part.
This article touches on one of the issues with the human condition in the modern era: we have access to vastly more information about pain and suffering and death than we were ever build to deal with
The level of grief and psychological pain humans can experience from the loss of life can be crippling. By opening our psyche to full and total amount of death and destruction that occurs “normally” in our entire species, we have to a degree overwhelmed ourselves in our conception of what we, as a whole, are experiencing.
The upside to this is that our aversion to pain and suffering, and our awareness of how much of it there is, leads directly to the data Dr. Pinker is highlighting.
The more we are aware of suffering, the more likely we are to combat it, and the less of it there is.