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View Diary: Republican gun policy: a study in societal decline (34 comments)

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  •  Can I recommend a book here? (8+ / 0-)

    It speaks directly to the issue you raise.  I highly recommend The Better Angels of Our Nature, by Steven Pinker, a leading cognitive scientist at Harvard.

    It's thesis is that now is the least violent era in human history.  Including the world wars.  The first half of the book goes through the voluminous historical data that demonstrate this, and the second half tries to understand why.

    One of the most striking findings is that violence in non-state societies far outstrips anything in places with solid governments. I don't mean just places like Somalia, but tribal societies that still exist in places like New Guinea or Amazonia.  Or mountainous areas where vendettas and blood feuds reign.

    Violence is prevalent in these places because of how human cognition works, and because there's no outside authority.

    Here's cognition's role: Human beings tend to inflate in their minds the wrongs done to them, while minimizing the wrongs they do to others.  So, if person A steals some of person B's pigs, B might feel doubly victimized, while A doesn't see the big deal.  There's no court to take A to, so B gets revenge by killing A.  Well, now A's dead, and A's relatives feel wronged.  They didn't get the harm of A's theft, while B feels okay about A's death because A had it coming.  So A's family kills B.  B's family feels wronged, and so on.  Now you have a blood feud.  

    Two major factors reduce this cycle, both dealing with strong central governments.  One is education, which reduces the inflation/deflation of wrongs by increasing empathy, and inculcating virtues of being nice, etc.  The second is a strong neutral government that can neutrally settle disputes.  

    In a proper state-led society, the state acts as a third party to settle disputes with more objectivity.  Because the state was neither the wrongdoer nor the wronged, it doesn't inflate or deflate it (as much).  So justice is better served, and there is less need for violence.  

    But the historical trend is even more interesting.  In Europe, where records were well kept, murder rates in ordinary cities were FAR HIGHER than even the worst American ghettos today.  The same for American cities, where there are records.  

    In the US, we've had places like this, too--- the Wild West was lawless, and the first thing people did was institute a strong government (and get women to town).  Blood feuds and range wars were once a feature of places like Appalachia (Hatfields and McCoys) and the West.  Dueling used to be common.  Remember that people used to attend lynchings and executions, and even sent family the postcards as souvenirs.  "Big government" gives us a way to settle our disputes peacefully, and dismantling government, especially education, leads people to be more distrustful and hateful of others, and leaves them to fend for themselves.  And that leads to the cycle of violence I described above.  

    So we definitely have to stop this trend. But I recommend this book.

    Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

    by nominalize on Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 04:20:07 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for mentioning this book (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that does sound pertinent, I'll look into it. I've heard of this writer being a good one, too. It sounds like a good description of what benefits we've derived from the systems that Republicans are attacking.

      We demanded a plan to reduce gun violence. Now it's time to demand a vote.

      by tytalus on Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 04:31:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  He also discusses the culture of honor (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        which is more prevalent in the South, which is, no coincidence, more violent than the rest of the country.  

        Good example: The DA slayings in Texas. A JP gets fired for theft, and feels wronged.  So does his wife.  So they get revenge.  And since they inflated the wrongs, the only revenge that will do is death.  

        Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

        by nominalize on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 11:23:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  This brings to mind the era of "La Violencia" (3+ / 0-)

      in Colombia. There's an extraordinary book about by anthropologist Maria Victoria Uribe, "La Antropologia de la Inhumanidad," (The Anthropology of Inhumanity ---I don't know if it has been translated to English.) These were the same factors in place; a certain anarchy or the absence of justice and extreme detachment from the state; radio programming that hyped violence; a cultural system of dehumanizing the "others" and endless "account adjustments" of revenge killings.

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