Villainy and violence are quite intimidating and generally do no good to any sort of development anywhere except being a sporadic inspiration for stand-up comedians, mimicry artists, and doodlers on the net. When I commanded Google to fetch for me pictures or images of villains of Bollywood, it surprised me by putting in the US President Donald Trump too in the company of characters like Gabbar. This made me think. Are the shooting violence trends in the US because democracy there could be afflicted? Is there a connect between violence and a decline in literacy and education?
Besides the strange inclusion of Trump in a list of Bollywood villains, there are a lot of other things that are happening in our times. Newspaper headlines are shrieking about the crime rate going up, there is a literal war-like situation in Venezuela, the Middle East has war and strife embedded in its genes by now, Hollywood still makes movies about the holocaust, historians are still wondering about how much is left undiscovered from the two World Wars we’ve had, women are neck-deep into chants of #MeToo, school kids are still hauling too many kilos of books in their bags, Sunny Leone videos have probably been watched even inside the parliament, gang-wars have stepped out of Bollywood screen-plays into real life, and yet I have the temerity to say that we are not living in violent and depraved times. Why?
The answer is simple. To say that modern times have violence and depravity forming its core is not true because both ethnographic evidence and archeological studies have shown that the ancient times and the middle ages were far more violent. These studies tell us that non-state societies in the past were more violent than we are witnessing in our lifetime. The past has records showing that ‘more than 10% of deaths were the result of one person killing another’, and in the words of Steven Pinker, ‘violence has been in decline over long stretches of time and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence.’ Even the PM of Pakistan now declares that ‘it is foolish for anyone think there can be war between two nuclear-armed countries, as there is no winning for anyone.’
Violence and depravity exists only in our imagination. The irrefutable #TruthAboutSociety today is that we have engaged literacy, education, and political freedom to make sure that we remain different from our past so far as violence is concerned. The decision-makers in the modern world are riding more and more on the tenets of democracy to subdue elements of violence that may still be found here and there. Let me take each of the examples that I have mentioned in the opening paragraph to show that violence is indeed declining. Venezuela needs a better penetration of literacy and more political will in its democracy. The Middle East will be far better if informed political conversations were not frowned upon. Women need to come out of stifling and abrasive gender politics and be firm with those who step over to take advantage… well, even men need to do the same as they too suffer just as much at the hands of bullies that abound everywhere. Kids need to actually read the books and not just carry them from their home to school and back. Porn prospers when society is surrounded by restrictive leadership reluctant to promote an open debate on the sort of changes that are essential for society to evolve. Street crime thrives when the gap between education and skill development increases. What is evident thus is that even the low levels of violence and depravity (as compared to the past) today can be effectively countered by literacy, education, and political freedom that comes dressed as democracy. Statistics also show that ‘at the beginning of the 20th century only about 10% of the world population lived in democratic countries – now it is more than 50%’. This is also like saying that violence and decadence afflicting us is much less than its strength and fury centuries ago.
Most of us have heard people say, ‘Hey! The end is near. Even Nostradamus has announced a defined doomsday in his work.’ There are others who believe that the Kalyug with all its violence and depravity is now primed to finally give way to the entry of SatYug and that this cycle of Yugs will continue eternally. I don’t believe things work in such pre-defined chunks of periods. The truth is that we are slowly and with a lot of deliberation inching towards a more progressive society where the violence and depravity graphs are going to keep on with their declining trend.
29 November 2018