In this hour, the common wisdom is that we’re getting more violent all the time. Witness the genocides and world wars of the last century. But cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker says we have it all wrong. And in his 800 page book The Better Angels of Ourselves he makes the case for how violence has declined. Tribal warfare was actually nine times more deadly as the war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate of Medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishment, and gruesome executions were common parts of life for millennia. Then they were mostly abolished. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the people they did a few decades ago. Rape, battering, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse, cruelty to animals – all down. Steve Paulson asked Pinker why?
Then, the film The Interrupters tells the moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. The work under the belief that the spread of violence mimics the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar: go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source.
Next, Anthony Shadid’s a foreign correspondent for the New York Times. He’s won two Pulitzer Prizes for his coverage of the war in Iraq. He’s the only journalist to win a Pulitzer for reporting in Iraq. You may recall Shadid was also one of the reporters kidnapped in Libya in the early days of the uprising there. He knows the violence of war. As he told Steve Paulson, he also knows, that when the war ends, unintended consequences follow.
And finally, Karl Marlantes was a Rhodes Scholar. And a decorated Marine who was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts. His novel, Matterhorn, won numerous awards and was a bestseller. But before all that, back in 1969, Marlantes was dropped in the middle of a jungle in Vietnam - at the age of 23, put in charge of the lives of 40 other young men. He was not psychologically or spiritually prepared for that or for what came after the war. Marlantes writes about the experience in his book What it is Like to Go to War. [Broadcast Date: December 8, 2011]
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