Reading the newspaper isn’t always a peaceful activity in the 21st century. Preceding articles discussing scientific and technological milestones or in-depth analyses of archeological discoveries from Biblical times, one will find roaring headlines that announce violence and more violence: from the terrorism attack on the twin towers, to Joseph Kony’s militia that has kidnapped thousands of children in Africa and to Iran’s nuclear threat. Yet in spite of these explosive events, beginning in the second half of the 20th century, violence has been reduced on a significant scale. In fact, we may be living in the most peaceful era of human civilization. This paper attempts to illustrate, using statistics and analysis, the magnitude of violence in the 20th century and its decreased intensity up to modern times. To analyze this trend of change in violence, we need to first determine the modern perception of violence. Throughout this paper, I will branch the term “violence” into three subcategories; inter-state wars, civil wars, and homicides and assaults. The goal of the paper is to help the reader develop an understanding of and an appreciation for the lessened degree of violence in modern times as compared to the terror of the 20th century.
Why The World Feels Like A More Violent Place Now
Before I plunge into my comparison of different forms of violence over time, I would like to explain why people falsely assume that the world today is more violent than ever before. One main reason is the effective manipulation of the media (Goldstein). Today, one has access to infinite media sources, which makes it very hard to miss out on major news. It is important to note that this large-scale exposure leads to more detailed information about violence, but does not mean there is more violence (Goldstein). Furthermore, advanced technology in the last two decades has enriched the forms of media in which news is delivered, including photos and videos, and an easily accessible network, the Internet. In the context of violence, it is my impression that this media-enhanced news affects the reader more profoundly, giving it a sentimental value unachievable by the previous plain black-on-white text. Social forms of media, combined with the proper equipment for social interaction have made the spread of news almost instantaneous. Nowadays, in addition to professional reporters, mobile devices such as cell-phones have turned citizens into reporters at scenes of violence, facilitating the spread of information (Goldstein). One can capture a photo, record a video, and upload it to YouTube or report about it on Facebook and Twitter. From there the path is very short to almost any place around the globe. The progress of these technological advances and tightly knit society network allow people to see more violence in more-or-less real time. Yet, people do not necessarily ask themselves if more frequent really means more violence. Indeed, it does not.
Decline Of Violence In Inter-State Wars
The 20th century is known to be one of the deadliest periods in the history of humankind. World War I, World War II, Vietnam War, and the Korean War are just a few of the most brutal inter-state wars of the 20th century. It wasn’t until 40 years ago when the frequency of wars, the duration of wars and the deadliness of wars saw a major decline, resulting in an era called the Long Peace (PINKER). Several hundred years ago, great powers were in constant fighting among each other (PINKER). But, as Figure 1 below indicates, the high percentage of great-powers fighting almost vanished completely by the 1900s. Right then, the percentage saw seen another sharp rise, and halfway through the century it decayed back to zero, illustrating the transition between the century’s period of terror and the decline of violence during the Long Peace.
Figure 2 below, showing the frequency of wars between great powers,...