An extract from Chapter 3 of the book Transcending Politics:
3. Fear and outrage
One important reason why politics is in trouble is because so many people are afraid. They have become preoccupied with risks of bad outcomes ahead. The resulting fear constricts their minds. It pushes them away from expansive, conciliatory politics. Instead, it encourages righteous indignation, lingering resentment, impulsive reactions, and doubling down on perceived certainties. In a fight-or-flight mode, their brains have reduced ability to regulate emotions or pick up subtle cues from the environment. They grab hold of one insight and stick to it through thick and thin.
The real problem here isn’t simply that there are things which make us afraid. After all, humans have lived throughout history in the shadow of violence, plunder, famine, disease, aging, and death. We’ve had ample reason to be scared witless. Literature the world over is full of twisted tales of brother plotting against brother, lovers being unfaithful, allies betraying each other, and leaders failing to keep the promises they made to their supporters. Only the paranoid survive, warned Andy Grove, co-founder of IT giant Intel. That phrase is a modern encapsulation of ages-old wisdom. Fear has been our constant companion.
Violence declines, but outrage increases
Strikingly, it can be argued that we have fewer reasons to be fearful, nowadays, than in the past. That’s the argument made in, for example, the 802 pages of Steven Pinker’s 2011 book The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined. And in his 2016 book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari declares with gusto that humanity’s epic quest against the three great scourges of plague, famine, and war is close to conclusion:
For the first time in history, more people die today from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals combined.
I essentially agree with the interpretations placed by Pinker and Harari on the data they review. Plague, famine, and war are on the back foot. You’ll find further evidence to back up these trends in Abundance by Singularity University co-founder Peter Diamandis.
But that’s not the end of the story. Here are some critical complications: