Is the world less violent now?
As a whole, the world is becoming a less violent place. Amid daily shocking news of atrocious violence it can be hard to forget that simple statistical fact.
I recently read Steven Pinker’s latest book The Better Angels of our Nature and he makes a very compelling case to the effect that the world is more peaceful now than ever before.
I have my own reasons for thinking the world is a gentler place now: Opera.
Most opera–even some of the lighthearted comic operas–are a virtual bloodbath. Almost every major story ends with a dramatic slaying (or four). And in those stories with a “happy” ending there will likely still be multiple times when a love interest threatens to suicide themselves rather than live without a beloved.
I think it’s because I spend so much time with the writings (nay, ravings) and characterizations of those from over 100 years ago that I have this perspective on modern psychology. In opera life is cheap. People are disposable and fleeting and their response to almost any infraction is immediate violence or threats of violence.
I’ve found Pinker’s book fascinating and ultimately comforting.
[Living in an opera world does make it hard when someone acts a fool in real life. I’m tempted to un-sheathe a sword and challenge them to a duel at dawn.]