Some points for Free$peech:
Your feminists arguments are mute points, because queens used to walk this earth, Cleopatra and Nefertiti to name a few. And I have read of tribes that would consult their women before making macro decisions. Colonization destroyed the acceptance of the woman adviser and the woman in power. Colonization has killed a lot! It has killed the sacredness of everything, from man, to the woman and to the child; from the God and to the earth. In western and religious nations, women fight for their rights, but thank Jah Jah there's an alternative to western and religious.
I think One Term already dealt effectively with your assertions about Nefertiti and Cleopatra. Furthermore, I really don't think that a monarchy in which a female head of state comes to power is at all comparable to the popular election of a female head of state or a majority female parliament in the first place. And so I don't see why you think it somehow counts against my argument that attitudes about the equality of women have changed. I didn't think that was all that controversial. I mean, England had queens too. That didn't mean that women were equal under the law.
Still, even if Egypt were a society in which men and women were considered equals this would not go against my argument. For example, I've read about Native societies in which men and women were assigned different roles by gender but were ultimately equal. If that's true then that's great. But I also know of societies in which women were not equal to men. Most of the tribes of Afghanistan, for example, took the Koran's suggestions about gender roles very seriously. And to go back to the Egyptians, a form of female genital mutilation, one of many that's still performed in parts of Africa and the Middle East is thought to have originated in the Nile Valley a century or so before Cleopatra. And it seems to me, and I'm obviously not a historian, that this sort of situation was largely more prevalent than situations in which men and women were equals. So nah, I don't think that you can blame colonists for bringing that. You can blame them for a lot of things but not that.
But let's go back to violence. Here's an example that I'm a little more knowledgeable about: Mexico. Prior to being conquered by the Spanish, the Aztecs had built up one of the most advanced civilizations in all of the world. And a trip from the ruins of Tenochtitlan to the increasingly violent city that now surrounds it might lead one to come to the conclusion that modernization has resulted in an unraveling of society. But, to be sure, the past was not so idyllic. The practice of human sacrifice was central to the Aztecs. Tens of thousands of people (some historians think the number is higher) would be sacrificed to the gods in a given year in an attempt to appease the gods and allow the continuation of the universe. The most famous of those sacrifices, sacrifices to the war god, Huitzilopochtli, involved the removal of a young man's still beating heart. But there was also the god Tialoc, to whom crying children were sacrificed (and yes, they had to be crying). And so, we might look at the pervasive drug violence in Mexico and be rightly concerned about it. But it pales in comparison to the violence of the pre-Columbian Aztecs. 20,000 people have lost their lives since 2006, whereas that many might have been sacrificed in a single festival. This is what I really want to drive home. We have this image in our head of a past in which there was less violence, inequality, disease, etc but that's just a myth.
Now, I'm not saying that things are better in all places than they were in the past. For example, it's hard to think of a worst time to live in Somalia than now. And the aforementioned Afghanistan has not been the same since the Soviets invaded them. What I'm saying is that things are, on the whole, better. When you take a look at Europe, the Americas and recently Asia, it's hard not to see progress. To be sure, most of sub-Saharan Africa is still dealing with the effects of colonialism and years of very bad self rule, most notably in the case of Zimbabwe. The Congo is the middle of a particularly awful war. The ongoing genocide in the Sudan has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people the displacement of almost 3 million people, most of whom are now in refuge camps in Chad. And then there's the AIDS epidemic. I'd also say that in the near future, Africa's probably going to get worse before it gets better. Increasingly rapid urbanization will mean more and larger slums, more disease, and more crime, etc. I'm not unaware of these things. But my argument is not that things are better in all places. My argument is that, on the whole, things are better.
Some quicker points:
Also, you speak of this being a more peaceful time. This is purely subjective; at best, a guess to make a point.
No. This is pretty objective. We can compare levels of violence today to estimates of levels of violence in history by examining the evidence. I don't know what you mean by subjective.
And lets consider this western and religious freedom for women, the one that includes turning the business of prostitution and sex into industry, packaged for all and comes free with prescription drugs and alcohol. So now children are having children despite having no way to support them. Maybe drachonian laws assured scarlet letters, but if shaming one stopped communities from creating and perpetuating cycles of poverty, then I can hardly say it is an easy choice, to decide between today and yesterday.
Prostitution is called the world's oldest profession for a reason. It's always been around. And personally, I don't have a problem with it, provided people enter into it willingly and are able to maintain their autonomy. In other words, I'd be in favor of legal brothels but not say, the massage parlors where women, almost always immigrants, are held against their will, which is what we have in many places today. But I guess we'll disagree there. With respect to sexual promiscuity, you're oversimplifying things. Western European nations, as far as I know, do not have scarlet letters or anything like that. And yet they have significantly lower rate of teen pregnancies and abortions. So no, it's an easy choice. There are obviously other means available to us to achieve that end.
As far as currency goes, I completely disagree. Currency allows for a complex economy and the efficient division of labor. Still, a look at Zimbabwe does indeed remind us that it can all fall apart. So I can understand where you're coming from even if I disagree.
To One Term:
I agree with you in that the term better is subjective, but the measurements that I use to define what better means are not. In other words, there are either more people being murdered or there are less. There are either more people going to school or there are less. Etc. Maybe people disagree with my definition of better. Okay. I'm prepared to make the argument that it's a good thing that more children are educated today than they were in the past.
Some disagreements might be a little more difficult. I didn't mention religiosity in making my case. But Free$peech brought it up. He and I would no doubt disagree on whether or not it's a good thing for people to have faith in God. And that's fine. I think everyone should go godless. He doesn't. But so what? We can't make arguments unless everyone agrees with what we have to say?
And I also agree that I am applying modern standards, but again, so what? The fact that American whites thought, for example, that the slavery was justifiable does not enter into my thinking about the issue. Nor does the fact that many whites violently opposed Reconstruction. Their opinion is one that does not matter to me. Do they matter to you? Men in Afghanistan probably think it's perfectly acceptable to throw battery acid on little girls. They probably wouldn't do it otherwise. But so what? I still think that I have the right to condemn them and say that what they're doing is wrong. It seems like you're trying to throw some sort of moral relativism at me. And there are few moral theories or theories in general that I have less respect for than moral relativism.
Also, I can almost understand your point regarding the ratio of violence with respect to the population. But I have to ask, how else are we supposed to compare two time periods when the population has changed? To use an illustration, suppose there are two cities. One city has 10 thousand people. The other city has 10 million people. Suppose that in a given year about 100 murders will take place in each of these cities. Does it make sense to object to the large city being characterized as less violent? Would it make sense to say something like:
"I, personally, can not feel that the large city is any more peaceful than the small city because that ratio of kills-to-population is lower. Especially when this is all, again, relative to location of occurrence."
One Term wrote:
Sure, I may not get shot to death in a bar in Texas for touching the wrong man's whiskey today like I would in the 1800's, but would that be the case in all places of the world today?
Yes. If you were to go to Somalia today then, as a foreigner, you are almost guaranteed to be kidnapped and or murdered. If you're unlucky enough to live there, you'll find yourself dealing with young men high on a drug called khat with AK-47s. They sometimes drive around on trucks and shoot people. You'll also find that this is a place where people are still stoned to death in accordance with Sharia law. In other words, it's the worst of all worlds. You get the destructive power of modern weaponry without any of the modern advances in law, society, etc that you outlined. You get the most barbaric implementation of Islamic law without the sort of social stability that it is intended to bring.
To sum up, things are totally rad and getting radder. Appreciate it.