"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, April 03, 2009

"Every nation ridicules other nations, and all are right." - Arthur Schopenhauer

***

Pinker on some reasons why people think violence has increased in recent decades and years, though it has instead fallen precipitiously (and that "we are living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence"):

"There are dynamics in the opinion and advocacy markets. No one ever attracted advocates and donors by saying 'things just seems to be getting better and better'.

There's guilt about our treatment of native peoples in modern intellectual life. An unwillingness to acknowledge there could be anything good about Western culture."


More from him about Pax Modernitatis:

"In sixteenth-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire. According to historian Norman Davies, "[T]he spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized." Today, such sadism would be unthinkable in most of the world. This change in sensibilities is just one example of perhaps the most important and most underappreciated trend in the human saga: Violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species' time on earth.

... The doctrine of the noble savage—the idea that humans are peaceable by nature and corrupted by modern institutions—pops up frequently in the writing of public intellectuals like José Ortega y Gasset ("War is not an instinct but an invention"), Stephen Jay Gould ("Homo sapiens is not an evil or destructive species"), and Ashley Montagu ("Biological studies lend support to the ethic of universal brotherhood"). But, now that social scientists have started to count bodies in different historical periods, they have discovered that the romantic theory gets it backward: Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler...

The leading edge has been in Western societies, especially England and Holland, and there seems to have been a tipping point at the onset of the Age of Reason in the early seventeenth century...

According to political scientist Barbara Harff, between 1989 and 2005 the number of campaigns of mass killing of civilians decreased by 90 percent."
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