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On Violence

People hold up pens during a gathering in front of the city hall of Rennes, western France, on January 7, 2015, following an attack by unknown gunmen on the offices of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo. France's Muslim leadership sharply condemned the shooting at the Paris satirical weekly that left at least 12 people dead as a "barbaric" attack and an assault on press freedom and democracy. AFP PHOTO / DAMIEN MEYER

It may seem counter-intuitive at a glance but violence is an admission of weakness. If an individual or group uses physical force to coerce their position, it means they simply do not have the capacity to do so otherwise and that their power is tenuous and would crumble if not held up by violence.

It’s probably a bigger part of our culture than most people realize. Television and movies are full of fictional ‘hero’s’ stopping evil with violence. In reality there are less explosions and lower body counts, still the mainstream narrative of the ‘good’ guy is often someone who uses force.In the global community of nations, when two disagree, the victor is almost always the one with the highest capacity to inflict pain and suffering on the other—even if only implicit.

We are appalled at some violent acts, such as the assault on the French newspaper yesterday, but it’s no wonder that these events continue to happen in a world where too often might equals right, and might always equals attention. These acts will go on so long as we generally continue to support (or willingly ignore and thus implicitly support) coercion by force and violence when it agrees with our own interests.

Still, the use of force signals weakness. I truly believe that to create change the most powerful tool we posses are our ideas. Anyone can point a gun (use a knife, fist, etc.) to provoke a desired reaction, but change by force can only be maintained by force and ultimately is untenable. It means your idea is not strong enough to stand on its own or you are not capable of communicating it effectively. The pen is mightier than the sword—and not just in this one instance, but always.

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