“Ah my little girl, what world do we live in?” When Thelma calls her grandfather, he sighs as he turns off his television: “There weren’t all these knife attacks before.” Mobilized for two years during the Algerian war, the 84-year-old Northerner nevertheless witnessed horrors in his youth, seeing “friends being massacred”. “He told me one day that he ate stones with his lentils, he was 20 years old! remembers Thelma. The world he grew up in scares me much more than mine.”
In terms of violence, horror and anguish, is it worse today than yesterday? “There have never really been wonderful periods, nor terrible ones,” Jean d’Ormesson liked to say wisely. If war has resurfaced in the Holy Land in recent weeks, it is experiencing an obvious decline on the scale of History. “Since 1945, the number of people dying in war in the world has continued to decrease,” sociologist Jean-François Dortier recently explained on France Culture. The violence follows the same trajectory. Self-control of aggressive impulses and the general disarmament of populations lead to more peaceful societies. In France, for example, in the 2010s, 800 people died from homicide each year. It was twice as much in the early 1990s and twenty times more in the 18th century.
Terrorism has always existed. In 1892, more than 1,000 bomb attacks hit Europe. In the 1960s, the OAS opened fire on General de Gaulle, then the years of lead stunned society the following decade. Troublesome statesmen sometimes die assassinated, such as Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by the bullets of an Israeli ultranationalist. Of course, social networks today give bloody events unprecedented publicity, but let’s remember that when it comes to violence, things were not necessarily better before.