Is the World Getting More Violent?

armed boy soldier standin g in bombedou t city

The Dalai Lama’s book “The Art of Happiness in Troubled World” (the third in a series) has an interesting take on violence in general (and fear). Unfortunately, it is more the writing of the psychologist, Howard C. Cutter, backing up the Dalai Lama with scientific studies than it is the Dalai Lama speaking. Therefore, it is a rather tedious book to read, but worth reading.

Something I found very interesting was that the Dalai Lama believes we are not violent by nature. To back up his views, scientific evidence stated by psychologist, H. C Cutter, indicates that violence is on a decline and at a relative historical low. In hunter-gatherer societies, for example, it is estimated there was a 30% death rate by violence among males. Where they get these numbers I do not know. I was skeptical, so let’s arbitrarily cut one-third to 10%. If you are more than skeptical cut it down to one-sixth or 5 %, as I did. The study then goes on to estimate the slaughters of the Twentieth Century including murders, all wars, and genocides by total population, and arrives at less than 1 % of the total population. If this is true we have made progress!  We have more dangerous weapons of destruction, yet we have less violence by the percentage of the population. That is quite amazing and somewhat difficult to believe.

Another study in the book mentions that as violence dropped in the 1980s media reporting of violence increased by over 450%. This is because violent news sells and our brains are more geared to tune in to violent news rather than happy news due to our inherited evolutionary tendencies such as fight or flight. Our brains are weird to notice danger and things that are wrong as that is what our predecessors had to do to survive. We focus and amplify by nature. In short – as violence has decreased, news reporting on violence has increased exponentially.

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