Re: Just how real is violence? And where does Aikido stands in all of this?
I hope you continue to have a peaceful life - odds are against it. You may have an 'incident' at a family get together, you may have something stolen from you on the subway, you may have on-line fraud steal money from you, you may accidentally walk into a 7-11 while it is being robbed (this has always been my biggest fear - so unpredictable.) You may also not see the violence around you because you are 1) still young or 2) liberal as hell or unfortunately 3) stupid (I don't believe that in your case but it does cover some people.)
As to Steve Pinker saying violence is on the down swing - he is liberal as hell. Great scientist (I have his book, "How the Mind Works") but his latest book must have been written to a) stroke his liberal beliefs and 2) pay for a new vacation house. Went to a talk by Grossman, author of "On Killing" where he uses statistics (kinda like Pinker) to show violence is on a massive upswing because modern medicine is keeping people alive who would have been on the mortality list. When 500,000 people die in Africa from machete it is not a less violent Earth. Evolutionists talks about "punctuated equilibrium" - well nukes are just waiting to fill in the missing numbers on Pinker's graphs. Or Sarin gas in Syria.
As to martial arts and violence, particularly Daito ryu, everybody forgets that a large portion of the curriculum was police based training (see the individual names of the "Soden" books through Hisa) which were used to reduce or restrain violent offenders.
Even Ueshiba didn't come to a more philosophical outlook till Japan was bombed, their carriers sunk at Midway (insuring an eventual defeat in the war) and he moved to Iwama.
Violence is like fire, it must be contained or it runs wild. One way to contain it is to meet it headlong and change it like Lynn says. One of my favorite movies is "Amazing Grace" where by sheer will and hard work, England's involvement (and eventually most of the whole world) in the slave trade was ended. Not perfect (look at American Civil War), not forever (Egypt removes prohibition of slavery from new constitution), not a liberal pipe dream on a graph.