I’m reading Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, which weighs in at a hefty 800 pages, so I’m taking it slow and marking up my mother’s copy (with her permission). He argues that human society is less violent overall than it used to be and the Enlightenment (including novels, woo hoo and yes I’m truncating one tiny part of his overall argument scandalously) is largely the root cause of the drop in the death rate due to violence (current outbreaks of horror notwithstanding).
I’m finding it very persuasive, learning a great deal, and it’s filling me with lots of thinky thoughts.
There are those who argue that he’s full of it (including a really head scratching review by John Gray in Prospect which includes having at the argument by mocking Pinker’s excessive use of statistics, which I find an appalling thing for a public intellectual to do, but whatever.)
I liken the inability to see the drop in violence (how many people per 100000 die due to murder and intra and interstate violence, which has dropped substantially since 1800) to what’s going on with alcohol consumption. There is still lots of alcohol being sold, lots of alcohol being consumed and lots of alcohol involved in premature death. But there’s less drinking and driving causing death than there was when I was a kid, because behaviours have changed, and children learn not to drink and drive as part of their education.
Alcohol, like violence, is still here and there’s still too much of it, but education and opprobrium continue to work their harm reducing wiles.
Also, the quality drop from Season 4 to Season 5 in The West Wing is like being flung from a cliff.
Also, I did 5 loads of laundry yesterday including the kitchen rugs, ran the dishwasher and swept the kitchen floor, which really needed it.
MR2 is still in the Krankenhaus waiting for parts. He is leaking coolant.
No words yesterday but I’m comfortable with that.