But how can we put the commonplace into the driver’s seat of history?”

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“History is made by warfare, lust for power, hatred, and xenophobia (with some other, more admirable motives thrown in here and there). We therefore assume that these obviously human traits define our essential nature. How often have we been told that ‘man’ is, by nature, aggressive and selfishly acquisitive?

Such claims make no sense to me – in a purely empirical way, not as a statement about hope or preferred morality. What do we see on any ordinary day on the streets or in the homes of any American city – even in the subways of New York? Thousands of tiny and insiginficant acts of kindness and consideration. We step aside to let someone pass, smile at a child, chat aimlessly with an acquaintance or even with a stranger. At most moments, on most days, in most places, what do you ever see of the dark side – perhaps a parent slapping a child or a teenager on a skateboard cutting off an old lady? Look, I’m no ivory-tower Pollyanna, and I did grow up on the streets of New York. I understand the unpleasantlness and danger of crowded cities. I’m only trying to make a statistical point.”

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