Here is yet another speech I gave at my Toastmaster club on the 13th of February 2013. It is based on the great content I found on the following web sites:

Update: here is the presentation I used with this talk: The Myths of Violence

Last year I saw a TED talk by Steven Pinker called "The Myth of Violence" without an 's' at the end of 'Myth'. And during the following month I realized that there are indeed many myths around violence in our developed countries.

In this speech, I choose to talk first briefly about 4 of them, and then to discuss what's wrong with the situation of having many myths about such an important subject.

The first myth, the one Steven Pinker talks about in his TED talk is:

Myth 1: Violence is Increasing

In the Middle Ages, some cities started to report how people had died. So we can compare the rate of homicide between then and now. And the result is that there were around 100 times more homicides.

If you take wars into account, the results don't really change. There are some periods of time when violence is rising but the general trend is a decrease.

Now let's talk about the last period from the beginning of the sixties to the beginning of the nineties when there was a significant increase of violence in the US, with the second myth:

Myth 2: Violence is Intrinsic to Human Nature

What was strange with this increase is that it was followed in the nineties by a very steep decline, a decline by 60% in this decade.

The reason of the increase and then decrease was lead in the gasoline. Lead in the gasoline goes in the car exhausts, then in the atmosphere and then in people's lungs and then in their blood and their brain.

And lead even in very small amount is very bad for small kids. It really poisons their brain. They often suffer from decreased IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral problems and when they grow up from alcohol, drug, teen pregnancy and violence problems.

Unleaded fuel was introduced in the late seventies in the US and this single change is enough to explain a 56% decline in violence during the nineties.

Another myth is the following:

Myth 3: Most Victims are Women

Generaly speaking, it is true that men are much more often responsible for violence than women. But it is also true that men are more likely to be victims of violence than women.

Even about domestic violence, there are studies saying that these days it is a 50/50 thing. Though it is often more serious when women are victims.

And about rape, there are studies saying that in the US, there are more rapes happening inside prisons than outside prisons. So it might not even be true that more women are victims of rape than men.

And the last but not the least of the myth is:

Myth 4: Others are Dangerous

If we look at the suicide rates and the homicide rates together, we can see that, in France, you are 13 times more likely to be killed by yourself rather than by any one else. In the US, you are "only" 3 to 4 times more likely to be killed by yourself rather than by any one else.

So if you think other are dangerous, what should you think when you are looking at the mirror?

In France we often say that we notice it when trains are late but we don't notice it when they are on time. It's even more true with violence. We are very upset by violence, but we notice nothing when it doesn't happen.

And fiction writers, journalists and politicians know this, and are using this to make us pay attention to what they say.

In fact, the more we think that others are dangerous, that we are likely to be victims, and that violence is increasing and intrinsic, the more benefit for them.

And we will be so upset that we will accept any solution one pretending to be "tough on crime". But if politicians really wanted to be "tough on crime", they should address the root causes, like lead, psychological problems, family problems, and there are probably many others.