Loathing is the word. It infuriated me. You'd think that after all these years one would stop being surprised by this style of typical new-atheist/libLoathing is the word. It infuriated me. You'd think that after all these years one would stop being surprised by this style of typical new-atheist/liberal argumentation but when I see this much cherrypicking, oversimplification, handwaving and western supremacism shoved into a single book, I still get all worked up. And of course, it doesn't help that they call themselves "The Brights" and "The Enlightened" etc. I mean, who does that? Even if I was intellectually convinced by their arguments, I still wouldn't wanna hang around these jerks.
His main thesis is simple and for anyone brought up after the 19th century, overly familiar: We were savages, then we were saved by Science and Reason. Not all of us, of course, only Europeans and Americans at first, but thanks to Capitalism (or as he labels it, the gentle commerce), everywhere else is catching up slowly, too. One time this evil thing called Communism had suddenly sprung up out of nowhere and caused many deaths and suffering but it was ultimately defeated by the Allies of Light. Etc.
"If you'd suggest occupying another country today, everyone would laugh at you and they'd think you were crazy; it is a thing of the past", he says (paraphrasing). So what about Iraq or Afghanistan? Panama, Bolivia, Vietnam, Libya and countless other bloody conflicts and interjections by the Western forces, mainly USA? Oh, they are not "wars", he says, but merely unfortunate but "defensive" actions taken by civilized nations to protect their democratic ways. Isn't it incredibly telling that in an EIGHT-HUNDRED-page book about the history of world politics and violence, the word "imperialism" is not uttered at all. Not even once.
There are a myriad of graphs and numbers stuffed inside. But the way he handles them and the way he chooses the sources he gets them from is so blatantly manipulative that it's cringe-inducing. A source repudiates his claims about "The Long Peace" and "the waning of war", and draws a bleak picture of the condition the world is in outside TheCivilizedNations? Well they are extremist, communist, leftist fanatics, you can't trust their data. Here, we have a government-funded organization that prints out numbers that fit my theory beautifully; surely they're the trustworthy ones. In one of the most embarrasing moments of the book, «we are seriously asked to draw conclusions from a graph of the "rate of battle deaths in state-based armed conflicts between 1900 and 2005" (Figure 6-1) while being instructed to ignore the figures for the first and second world wars»**. Why should we ignore two world wars, while looking at the history of wars, you ask? Because "after all, the world has seen nothing close to that level since". It was a fluke. This is kinda like saying "please don't call it murder just because there's a body lying on the floor with a knife in the back, since it's not like we see something like that everyday". Forgive me for the vulgar language, but this reminds me of a lovely Turkish idiom: "If my aunt had balls, she would be my uncle".
Well, I could go on and on (like this occasionally biased and contrived -leftists!- but very detailed and informative review does) but you get the gist. In the end, it's not that I find the claim that violence in general is getting comparatively subsided (and it's at least partially thanks to Western Civilization) completely worthless. It doesn't even have to be a glorious, total, irreversible change of paradigm to be worth praising. If we are living in a marginally better, more peaceful world, we should know about it, and understand the why and the how so we can push it further. If it really turns out that the Westerners are morally superior and more evolved or something, so be it; it's not the premise that bugs me at all, but if it takes this much deceptive and manipulative "scholarship" to prove a point, maybe we should at least raise an eyebrow in mild suspicion before patting our world of gentle commerce in the back, you know.