March 29, 2022

What Will Smith, Kanye West & Vladimir Putin have in Common.


*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and can not possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.

All three of them are not too popular right now—maybe because they believe in ancient concepts of masculinity?

We all make mistakes. We all get emotional at times. But we can’t expect the world to celebrate our outbursts.

While I appreciate folks who get passionate about things, I don’t agree with using violence as a way of addressing disagreement. It’s one thing to really care about something and another to go crazy about something.

No conflict was ever solved by men accusing each other of being wrong—unless one man kills the other. But in this case, it’s not the end of a conflict because, most likely, someone will continue the violence in the name of the one who was killed.

At the same time, we can’t look the other way when injustice is happening.

Most of us had been in situations at some point in our lives where we witnessed violence. Let’s ask ourselves, what’s the typical dynamic in these situations?

It’s usually that someone thinks he or she is right.

It’s as simple as that. Someone thinks that there is an injustice that needs to end and decides to use violence.

And that worked well thousands of years ago. It also works for animals. But shouldn’t we be better than that? Most of us know the feeling of wanting to punch someone, but we also know that this type of behavior is not acceptable in the 21st century.

War happens when diplomacy fails. The same goes for two men fighting each other.

The aggressor always has a motive to use violence. We could also call it an excuse. Of course, in some cases, we might even agree with the aggressor.

But it doesn’t make it right.

It actually makes things worse.

Will Smith argued that he wanted to defend his wife. Kanye West says that he wants to protect his children. And Vladimir Putin claims that he wants to defend his country.

And that’s how these three men feel. They think that they are fighting for something that’s obviously worth it. Unfortunately, they are missing out on the most important part: other opinions.

If you really think that someone is assaulting your wife, family, or country, it’s somehow understandable that you feel like taking action.

But if you disagree with someone and that person punches you, you might not speak up the next time. Violence literally prevents a discourse.

There are other (more powerful) ways to respond.


First of all, someone could take care of the victim instead of starting a counterattack.

Our goal should be solving conflicts instead of escalating them with a knee-jerk reaction. And there is only one way to achieve this; it’s called having a conversation.

Imagine Smith not slapping Chris Rock and holding a speech on bullying instead. Imagine West sharing his concerns about the well-being of his children without threatening someone else with violence. Imagine Putin and Western politicians having a discourse instead of killing thousands of civilians.

I know these examples are slightly controversial, but my main point is that humans will always disagree on many things. Disagreement is part of our human experience.

There are two ways to deal with a disagreement: having a conversation or fighting.

If we chose to have a conversation, we might find a middle ground. If we pick a fight, we will deepen the differences and escalate things even further.

Finding a middle ground asks us to reflect on our own actions—fighting doesn’t.

“Hey Will, I am sorry for this joke. I went too far.”

“Hey Chris, let’s start a charity to teach young men to solve conflict without violence.”

“Hey Kim, I am worried about the influence of your new partner on our kids. I would like to talk with you about that.”

“Hey NATO, I would like to talk with you about my concerns.”

Being open to a conversation always comes with the risk that we have to accept other opinions. We might even notice that we are wrong. Fighting doesn’t include these parts.

If we decide to use violence, we admit that we don’t know what to say anymore. It’s the end of diplomacy. It’s the starting point of suffering. It makes us look stupid.

Will Smith said in his speech right after the incident that “love makes us do crazy things.” That’s highly problematic because it somehow implies that a man who doesn’t slap another man publicly doesn’t love his wife—and that’s wrong.

Lovers, parents, and patriots are often blinded by their own emotions. Their intentions might be good. Their heart might be in the right place—but it doesn’t prevent them from misjudging a situation.

There is a reason why we have a legal system. It’s supposed to prevent citizens from taking things into their own hands.

There is a reason why we need international law. It’s supposed to prevent war.

But there is no reason to make our case by using violence—and that seems to be hard to accept for many men and women.

I don’t want to live in a world where an audience feels entitled to slap a comedian for a toxic joke. I don’t want to live in a world where men fight over a woman as if she was a trophy. And I don’t want to see politicians bombing for peace.

We should be able to agree to disagree.

As much as I understand the urge to protect the ones we love, we have to keep in mind that using violence is not helping anyone’s case—it often causes the exact opposite of what we wanted to achieve in the first place.

Dear Will, dear Kanye, dear Vladimir, please grow up.

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