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1 Amory Blaine  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 12:18:52pm

Steven Pinker was on Colbert last week talking about this. Good interview.

2 Bob Levin  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 2:52:52pm

This is probably true, sadly. But the glass is half-full, right? Still, we need a Brita filter that turns water into scotch.

3 SpaceJesus  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 4:13:09pm

Interesting list. Practically all of those events were motivated by greed.

4 Bob Levin  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 4:18:43pm

re: #3 SpaceJesus

I'll disagree. Evidently, cruelty is a thing in itself, not a by-product. You can get pretty darned rich without mass murder.

5 SpaceJesus  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 4:28:30pm

re: #4 Bob Levin

Yes, you can get rich without mass murder. How does that change the fact that most of those events were caused by greed? Ghengis Khan wasn't just running around Asia for the fun of it, he was after money, land, and individual power.

6 Interesting Times  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 4:35:56pm

Humans are not "less violent than ever". The tools for preventing humans from indulging their violent natures are more effective. And they can be lost at a moment's notice:

Never, ever, ever take civilization for granted.

7 Daniel Ballard  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 5:12:27pm

re: #6 publicityStunted

Actually, the author agrees with you....

How do you explain the decline in violence?
I don't think there is a single answer. One cause is government, that is, third-party dispute resolution: courts and police with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Everywhere you look for comparisons of life under anarchy and life under government, life under government is less violent. The evidence includes transitions such as the European homicide decline since the Middle Ages, which coincided with the expansion and consolidation of kingdoms; the transition from tribal anarchy to the first states. Watching the movie in reverse, in today's failed states violence goes through the roof.

8 Interesting Times  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 5:26:28pm

re: #7 Rightwingconspirator

Yes, I saw that, which is why I find the original article's headline rather imprecise (it should say, "rates of human violence lower than ever" or some such. I doubt they quoted the author directly, but gave it their own spin - simplified exaggeration sells).

In any case, I think the ultimate takeaway from Pinker's work is that the past is really, really horrid and anything that could plunge us back into those dark times must be squashed at all costs.

9 Romantic Heretic  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 6:44:49pm

What? They weren't the Good Old Days™?

I'm crushed. /

10 Bob Levin  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 11:10:32pm

re: #5 SpaceJesus

I think certain people get just as big of a charge out of hurting others as they do from having gold. You disagree?

11 Bob Levin  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 11:22:19pm

re: #5 SpaceJesus

What do you call this episode--

The new Tangut emperor quickly surrendered to the Mongols, and the rest of the Tanguts officially surrendered soon after. Not happy with their betrayal and resistance, Genghis Khan ordered the entire imperial family to be executed, effectively ending the Tangut lineage.

Some accounts say that Genghis Khan was castrated by a Tangut princess using a hidden knife, who wanted revenge against his treatment of the Tanguts and stop him from raping her.[26][27][28] After his castration, Genghis Khan died, and the Tangut princess committed suicide by drowning in the Yellow River according to the legend.[29][30] In some mythical legends, it is claimed that Genghis fell into a trance after being castrated and is waiting to be sent back to the Mongol people.[31][32]

12 SpaceJesus  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 11:33:19pm

re: #11 Bob Levin

Which part? the killing of the family, or the castration?

13 SpaceJesus  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 11:34:43pm

re: #10 Bob Levin

G. Khan would not have been able to unite the tribes of Mongolia and wage a war against everything under the sun if he had not been driven by the desire for power and wealth personally, and had not promised those same things to those who followed him.

14 Bob Levin  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 11:44:33pm

re: #13 SpaceJesus

I didn't say he wasn't greedy or power hungry. I said that cruelty is a thing in itself, not a by-product of one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

15 Bob Levin  Tue, Oct 25, 2011 11:47:04pm

re: #12 SpaceJesus

You mean the killing of the family and the raping, right? Those are the acts that are cruel for the sake of being cruel.

16 Obdicut  Wed, Oct 26, 2011 2:04:44am

re: #13 SpaceJesus

Actually, he continued to live a very, very simple lifestyle up until he died.

I think you'd like the book Ghenghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.

17 Obdicut  Wed, Oct 26, 2011 2:06:23am

re: #15 Bob Levin

And on, he didn't execute nobles to be cruel, he executed them to destroy the ruling class. He either co-opted or destroyed the nobility where he conquered.

Did he do a lot of terrible mass murder and shit like that? Certainly. Is that at all different from those he was conquering? Nope.

18 boxhead  Wed, Oct 26, 2011 2:17:18am

re: #6 publicityStunted

re: #7 Rightwingconspirator

I agree... The human trait that creates the really violent folks in our history has not been removed. For the most part it has been replaced with folks no better. The difference is that the new empire builders use the rest of us as consumers instead of fodder.

At least that is what I read at a OWS website... :)

19 SpaceJesus  Wed, Oct 26, 2011 1:03:06pm

re: #16 Obdicut

Actually, he continued to live a very, very simple lifestyle up until he died.

I think you'd like the book Ghenghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.

Yes, I'm well aware of the new modern approach to treating G. Khan in a more positive light. Criticism abounds of Mr. Weatherford's work, and the man isn't even an historian.


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