War reenactment

Violence & War

Blean Tsige


This essay's objective is to analyze Pinker's (2012) opinion on violence and war.  According to Pinker (2012), apparently, the concepts of war and violence have vanished in the West. This is, due to an increase in the ethical and sophisticated lifestyle adopted there by the people (Pinker, 2012). 

However, Pinker’s (2013) opinion might be wrong because Germany is sending military support to Ukraine for the war. This is due to the fact that Germany's involvement in the war means that there is still some involvement in violence and war in the West (Federal government, 2023). 


Two Opposing Arguments: Pinker vs Gray 

People, such as John Gray (2007), state that "humans can no more be masters of their destiny than any other animal" (pg. 4, Gray, 2007). This indicates the fact that humans are not as powerful as they might think. The human idea of peace is a life without violence or war. But violence is an instinct carried by animals and is innate in humans. This might explain why Gray (2007) states that humans are comparable to animals and that believing that our knowledge helps us to be in control is unrealistic. 


Figure 1. Violence in an image.


These two arguments of two opposing sides from Pinker (2012) and Gray (2007) suggest that there is a divide in human thinking. The one side of Pinker (2012) believes that humans are becoming much better and that there is no war or violence. The other side led by Gray (2007), believes the opposite. However, here it is important to add that Gray (2007), might be right since the West is still involved in war and has armies (Federal government, 2023). 

According to Gray (2007), the Enlightenment offered somewhat of an improvement towards the development of society. Nonetheless, there were ‘dark sides’ to the Enlightenment (Gray, 2007). For example, the issues surrounding technology and how it nowadays might not offer any basic questions to be answered. 


Figure 2. Young children celebrating a TikTok themed birthday party, however 15 children have died due to the platforms algorithm.


This issue, for instance, matches up to the algorithm problems that are happening currently online. Such as the social media platform TikTok suggests videos to young children that are harmful. Until now 15 children have died while participating in online trends (Carville, 2022). However, the problem is becoming more serious, since no one is in control of the algorithm. This suggests also the opposite of what Pinker (2012) states.

He has implied that cruelty against women, children and animals is in steady decline (Gray, 2017). However if one takes into account the more serious issue that has affected more people specifically women, children and animals is drones used by the military. This is another problem that proves that Gray (2007) is more precise with human development because technology does not answer a concrete question. 



To conclude, as much as Pinker (2012) wants to be optimistic and believes that the West has cleansed out violence and war, his statement cannot be considered completely correct. The West is still involved in wars and violence, for example in Ukraine. It is, therefore, suggested, that Pinker's (2012) ideals are still a bit unrealistic for humans to maintain. 



Carville, O. (2022, December 6). TikTok blackout challenge: Meet the families of children who have died after taking part in the deadly social media trend. Australian Financial Review. https://www.afr.com/technology/profits-over-people-tiktok-s-algorithm-ha...

Gray, J. (2007). Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (1st ed.). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Pg. 3-34.

Gray, J. (2017, November 29). John Gray: Steven Pinker is wrong about violence and war. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/13/john-gray-steven-pinker-wr...

Military support for Ukraine | Federal Government. (2023, January 4). Website of the Federal Government | Bundesregierung. https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-en/news/military-support-ukraine-205...

Pinker, S. (2012). The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Illustrated). Penguin Books.