Orlando. Baton Rouge. Dallas. Iraq. Syria. The Gaza Strip. It seems that every day I read the news, I have another reason to feel disappointed in the human race. Another reason to despair that the world I’ll be leaving my daughter is a more dangerous, vicious place than the one she entered.
And yet. The eternal optimist in me struggles to accept that people are meaner today than in the past, that society is growing more and more violent. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker agrees. He believes today’s society is the most peaceful in history. He has actually counted the number of deaths from violence or war per 100,000 per year since the start of WWII, and lists those numbers in his book The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined. In 1940, your chance of dying from violence was about .003; for the entirety of the 21st century, it’s less than .000001! In the last 8 years, crime rates across the board have actually declined, both nationally and internationally. It seems are world is getting safer, not more dangerous.
So why does it feel as if the world is careening toward destruction? Well, the news is a for-profit enterprise that benefits financially from tragedy. Ever heard the maxim, “If it bleeds, it leads”? The news only reports what happens, not what doesn’t happen. Headlines like, “Today in Lexington, no one was murdered” or “Lots of people of all races enjoyed being at Woodland Park” won’t sell papers. Or make you turn up the volume on the TV. Or click on their link.
But I choose to believe that these peaceful, “non-events” are the majority in the world. I believe that there are more moments of love, compassion, and kindness than of hatred and violence. People have always been people. We simply too often let fear drive the brain bus, and then, when faced with uncertainty, we react instead of respond. We choose fear over love. Let fear drive the bus enough, and violence and death follow.
Perhaps we could, in this moment, start a revolution of choosing love. Love is our basic operating system; we must be taught to hate. The more we meditate, pray, or sit in silence with our truest selves, the easier it is to choose love in each moment. The more mindful we become, the more we respond with love rather than react with fear. It doesn’t require dogma, only the simplest, immutable truth. Every single moment is an opportunity to choose between love and fear. Choose love y’all. #chooselove #lovematters