Pinker doesn’t spend much time on the decline of social trust, the breakdown of family life, the polarization of national life, the spread of tribal mentalities, the rise of narcissism, the decline of social capital, the rising alienation from institutions or the decline of citizenship and neighborliness. It’s simply impossible to tell any good-news story when looking at the data from these moral, social and emotional spheres.
Steven Pinker is the Jewish author of the week. Jewish commentators often hype books by Jewish authors. I guess it’s not unethical, but it gets a little tiresome. The latest is StevenPinker and his book, Enlightenment Now. The two Jewish commentators recommending it are David Brooks, in his NYT column “The Virtue of Radical Honesty,”
and Paul Solomon, in his PBS segment “Making Sense.”
Solomon says this book is a favorite of Bill Gates, who is not Jewish. It postulates that we are living in the best times in the history of the world. People are wealthier and healthier than at any time in the past. There are no huge wars going on, although there are some small ones. Democracy has been spreading, although that is slowing down now.
Neither commentary on the book reports whether we are happier now, because we are richer; Pinker wrote his book to counter the general pessimism because people are so unhappy now. Does he posit that society is better simply because people live longer. However, Brooks points out that
At least Brooks criticizes his Jewish fellow, although he closes by saying he likes Pinker because they took a DNA test that showed they were third cousins.