Friday, December 23, 2011

Panglossing it Over

Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychologist, and Joshua S. Goldstein,  a professor emeritus of international relations at the American University, wrote an Op-Ed piece in last Sunday’s Times entitled “War Really Is Going out of Style,” NYT, 12/17/11). For Pinker, the Op-Ed  piece seems to be an extension of the argument that he makes in his recently published The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. The three reasons that Pinker and Goldstein give for the decline of war are 1) political 2) economic and 3)social. In terms of political boundaries, no one is really the winner. “Since shortly after World War II, virtually no borders have changed by force,” Pinker and Goldstein argue.  Further, economic hegemony has been more effective than geographic invasion. “Today, wealth comes from trade, and war only hurts,” they continue. Lastly on the social front mankind has evolved. “Brutal customs that were commonplace for millennia have been largely abolished: cannibalism, human sacrifice, heretic-burning chattel slavery, punitive mutilation, sadistic executions.”  The natural extension of Pinker and Goldstein’s argument is that benevolence has become naturally selective and that mankind has found a better way of dealing with its aggressive impulses, by making love not war to re-invoke the 60’s. The explosion of pornography might evidence the latter, if the majority of sites weren’t so involved with conquest and submission on an ontogenic basis. Not to be judgmental about playful sex, but the sex on makes water boarding seem like a sport. The question is, are Pinker and Goldstein talking about the two new planets discovered orbiting the star Kepler 20 reported by Dennis Overbye in the Times (“Two Earth-Sized Planets Are Discovered, “ NYT, 12/20/11)?  Do we occupy the same planet as these two eggheads ? They sound like  Voltaire's Pangloss, whose reaction to a succession of brutalities, “all’s for the best in the best of all possible worlds," takes aim at another egghead named Leibnitz.  What about the brutalities perpetrated by the Janjaweed militia in thee Sudan, the brutal dictatorship of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, whose fortunes are again on the rise due to a windfall from the country's diamond industry? OK Qaddafi was toppled in Libya and Mubarak in Egypt, but even the reports of Qaddafi’s brutal capture create suspicion about the prospects for peace in that troubled land and the recent accounts of the Egyptian military’s sexual humiliations of women protestors seem to show throw doubt on the old  adage that “every cloud has a silver lining.” Make no mistake the lining of Mubarak regime was a military that controlled the economy of the country. We need turn no further than troubled Afghanistan if we want evidence of the fact that age old customs die slowly. Let the women with severed noses and burned faces testify to the progress of the human race. As for our so-called more advanced Western societies, who walked off with the shekels at MF Global and what made such a sterling institution as Goldman Sachs bet against the collateralized debt obligations it was offering its customers? And what about hazing at FAMU where the drum majors now must bang the drum slowly in mourning for a hard working 26 year old who was beaten to death? Go up to the South Bronx and watch the promoters of cock fights placing razors in the beaks of their contenders and then tell us about mankind tempering its aggressive instincts as two hapless birds run around with heads cut off. Happy Holidays!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.