First, the past is another country:
1: Gregory, Bishop of Tours:
Sicarius… celebrated the feast of the Nativity… with Austrighiselus and the other neighbors…. The priest… sent a boy to invite some of the men to come to his house for a drink. When the boy got there, one of the men he invited drew his sword and did not refrain from striking him. He fell down and was dead…. Sicarius… took his arms and went to the church to wait for Austrighiselus. The latter heard about this and armed himself…. [B]oth parties suffered harm…. Sicarius got away unnoticed… made for his homestead… leaving behind… his silver, his clothes, and four of his servants who had been wounded. After he had fled, Austrighiselus broke into the building, killed the servants, and took away with him the gold, the silver, and the other things. When they appeared later before the people's court, the sentence was that Austrighiselus was to pay the legal penalty for manslaughter…. Sicarius, forgetting about these arrangements… broke the peace… invaded the home, killed father, brother, and son, and having done away with the servants took all their belongings and their cattle. When we heard this, we grew greatly perturbed…
Gilgamesh strides throughout the city of Uruk, mighty as a wild bull, head held high over others. No rival can arise his weapon against him. The men stand anxious and alert, unwilling to cross him, eager to do what he commands. Gilgamesh does not leave a son to his father. Day and night he arrogantly [missing].
The people of Uruk, they cry out:
Is Gilgamesh the shepherd of the haven of Uruke? Is he the shepherd, bold, eminent, knowing, and wise? Gilgamesh does not leave a girl in the care of her mother, does not leave the daughter of the warrior or the bride of the young man untouched.
The gods kept hearing their complaints.
The gods of the heavens implored Anu, the Lord of Uruk [Anu]
You have indeed brought into being a mighty wild bull, head raised! There is no rival who can raise a weapon against him. His fellows stand (at the alert), attentive to his orders. Gilgamesh does not leave a son to his father. Is he the shepherd of the haven of Uruk? Is he their shepherd, bold, eminent, knowing, and wise? Gilgamesh does not leave a girl in the care of her mother, does not leave the daughter of the warrior or the bride of the young man untouched.
Anu listened to their complaints. The gods called out to Aruru:
it was you, Aruru, who created this man. Now create a [zikru] for him. Let him be equal to Gilgamesh's stormy heart. Let them be a match for each other. And so Uruk may find peace!
Violence And Tail Risk | ThinkProgress: Suppose instead that the apparent decline in violence is like the apparent decline in economic volatility formerly known as the Great Moderation. The first half of the 20th century, after all, seemed to indicate an increase in violence including the episodes Pinker splices up as the First World War (16th worst), the Russian Civil War (20th worst), Joseph Stalin (16th worst), Mao Zedong (11th worst), and the Second World War (9th worst).
Given that those rankings are scaled to population size and include events going as far back as the 3rd century, that’s rather a lot of violence for 50 years.
The cycle has switched back into decline since then. But how do we know that’s a real decline in violence rather than a shunting of violence into “tail risk” through nuclear war? A model in which nuclear weapons make great power conflict much less frequent and much more deadly seems like an obvious suggestion. Looking backwards from the aftermath of the multi-faceted nuclear exchange that devastates the entire Northern Hemisphere in 2043 we’re not going to say the world got “less violent” and then suddenly became “more violent” again. We’ll say nuclear weapons made the world seem less violent while masking the fact that the technologies of stabilization were actually creating new vulnerabilities.
I would say that people have become less violent--a smaller proportion of us find ourselves of broken heads of a Saturday night. But systems--total thermonuclear war most obviously, but also industrialization, bureaucratization, and nationalism--have raised the chances that huge numbers of us will be BBQed into ash. Individuals have become less violent. But the world may well have become more dangerous. It's not a paradox, but it doe require a more than one-dimensional view of the issue.