During this political silly season, it’s easy to think this country is in serious trouble, that we’re not great anymore, that we have serious problems, especially with crime and race relations.
Well, I lived through the 1960s and 1970s, which means I saw firsthand the civil rights struggles and the Vietnam protests, and anecdotally I see a big difference. The situation then, when civil rights workers were being murdered and many young men were fleeing to Canada, seemed much more dire than today. Even the recent terrorist attacks, tragedies in their own right, have been mere pinpricks to our national culture.
But maybe this is just me. What do others think?
Yesterday I wrote about reading The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria and how it was easy to draw erroneous conclusions just from the title. Recently, I’ve seen reviews to other books that, while I haven’t been able to get them yet, paint a more upbeat picture of the world.
For example, there’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined by Steven Pinker from Harvard University. To date, it’s gotten 537 customer reviews on Amazon with an average rating of about 4.5 stars.
“… violence has been diminishing for millennia and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’s existence. For most of history, war, slavery, infanticide, child abuse, assassinations, pogroms, gruesome punishments, deadly quarrels, and genocide were ordinary features of life. But today, Pinker shows (with the help of more than a hundred graphs and maps) all these forms of violence have dwindled and are widely condemned.” (Quoted from the Amazon promotion.)
There is also Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future by Swedish economic historian Johan Norberg. This is a more recent work, with only five customer reviews and a four-star rating.
“But the rarely acknowledged reality is that our progress over the past few decades has been unprecedented. By almost any index you care to identify, things are markedly better now than they have ever been for almost everyone alive.” (From the Amazon promotion.)
The photos are from the Amazon.com website.