Monday, December 26, 2011

All the Troubles in the World

...are listed here - the source of the graphic below:I find it interesting to note that some of what we think as truly appalling human conditions - chattel slavery, for example - last for years, decades, even centuries...and yet take a relatively small toll in human lives compared to, say, World War 2, which many of us still consider a Good War and one of the United States' "great adventures".

Which, I think, points up the caution needed in placing a price on horror in death alone. Slavery has always been considered one of the truly heinous human acts because of the wealth of misery it contains. There are, indeed, "fates worse than death" and few of them are remitted the slave.

What I do find interesting to note is the apparent increase in horror over the past hundred years or so. But then you stop for a moment and think of the centuries of human atrocity that have simply disappeared into the memory hole. Rome alone fought nearly constantly during her Republican and Imperial periods - Plutarch says
"[Janus] also has a temple at Rome with double doors, which they call the gates of war; for the temple always stands open in time of war, but is closed when peace has come. The latter was a difficult matter, and it rarely happened, since the realm was always engaged in some war, as its increasing size brought it into collision with the barbarous nations which encompassed it round about. But in the time of Augustus it was closed, after he had overthrown Mark Antony; and before that, when Marcus Atilius and Titus Manlius were consuls, it was closed a short time..."
I wonder; what will some future Plutarch write about our own country in our own time?


Lisa said...

Psychologist Steven Pinker thinks the world has gotten less violent recently.

Foreign Policy looks at the idea here:

Think Again: War

Lisa said...

Oh, and as to what that future sage might observe:

One wonders why the populace of the once-great empire elected leaders such as GWB, Obama and Gingrich, who ushered in the unrelenting era known as The Anti-Enlightenment . . ."

And so it goes.

FDChief said...

Overall I'd tend to agree, and not just because we've seen fewer of the big conventional wars.

One thing we tend to forget is what a rough place the world has been for most of it's history. Most people's lives in most of the world for most of human history are what life is like for someone living in Sudan or Somalia today; hardscrabble, tenuous, and often at risk. The threat of hunger, disease, violent death...and in earlier times throw in slavery, was a hell of a hard life.

Even for the hardest up of us today in the Western nations; homeless, jobless - and I'm not trying to minimize the misery of that existence, it IS miserable - it's unlikely that misery will be compounded by the arrival of a wave of horse nomads that will butcher half the population, rape the other half and enslave the survivors!

The germ theory of disease, industrial agriculture, standardized construction...the chances are better that we living now are sheltered and fed and healthy than they ever have been.

Now if we could just figure out why otherwise-intelligent people are willing to elect fatheads like the Newt...

Sigh. Some things simply defy rational explanation...

Lisa said...

Yes, for us in the Western world, life is better. Even the poor have a television, often more than one and often cable (I don't!). There are still, thank god, safety nets, which we all must fight to keep in place.

Per, Some things simply defy rational explanation...

As I mill about the innards of any store I think,"I would probably not understand the rationale of 80% of these people; 40% would probably appear as alien."

And so it goes.