As Stephen Pinker argues convincingly in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, our sensitivity toward victims has increased substantially over the last several centuries, leading to a drastic reduction in violence. By way of example, it’s practically impossible today for any government, organization or individual to act in a discriminatory, aggressive or violent manner before before the global community blows the whistle and cries foul. This is particularly true when a huge power imbalance exists between the two parties. As soon as word of potential discrimination or abuse of power gets out, people rally around the victim and seek to shame the aggressor into backing off. This isn’t to say victimization doesn’t still happen. But Pinker assembles a mountain of data that demonstrates not only that the number of such incidents has decreased substantially over the past few centuries, even when such situations do develop, they don’t persist for nearly as long as they once did.
To what should we credit this growing sensitivity toward victims, and its commensurate reduction in violence? Pinker spends much of his book seeking to answer exactly this question.