A long commute to work and a surgery that temporarily bound me to the couch have had the positive effect that I read several eye and mind-opening books in the past weeks. Three lessons stood out:
- We live in the most peaceful of times
- All is not lost in international peacebuilding and
- Trust your guts when making a decision.
In case you are lucky enough to live directly next to your workplace, are a very healthy and able-bodied person out to meet friends, enjoy this summer and have not had time to work your way through thousands of pages of scholarship read this brief summary:
1. We live in the most peaceful times ever
Steven Pinker: The better angels of our nature. A history of violence and humanity.
In 1000 odd pages Steven Pinker has managed to answer every single question I ever had about violence and war. Would the world be more peaceful if it is ruled by women? Is the War on Terror justified? Were the dark ages really that dark?
First, Pinker sets out to convince the reader of his main point: Violence is and has been in steady decline. The rest of the book is dedicated to identify, proof and refute several explanations for why that is. Homo universalis Pinker delves deep into history, politics, sociology, psychology and biology to seek explanations. We learn that through the Flynn-effect humankind becomes gradually more intelligent. The literary revolution and globalisation has brought us closer together and made us more empathetic and thus less inclined to hurt each other.
And more Americans condone violence to reach political goals than Pakistanis. His source base is a joy for every researcher: surveys, quantitative data sets, literature from Kant to Nabokov, secondary studies, archival documents and art.