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Dear Shakespeare: V for violence

My dear Billy, I defy you, my dear Billy, to open your morning newspaper without finding abundant evidence of man’s inhumanity to man. Some of the incidents are so appallingly cruel and violent that they strain one’s credibility - but they happen nevertheless. On all the earth there is no creature as noble as man, and none so mean. To the cynical eye, it appears that evil is triumphant over good and that virtue is being vanquished by vice. The Garden of Eden story clearly demonstrates the basic bad in man. For Adam lacked nothing, yet brought upon himself the blemish. To this day, this streak in man remains – the smouldering desire to act contrary to what he knows to be good. There is a growing concern and complaint over the acts of violence perpetrated in the world today. Even our paradise island in the sun is the stage for a good dose of violence every day. But what is violence, my dear Billy? One dictionary definition is “behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill.” However, there is more to violence than meets the eye or mere “behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage or kill.” All that is against harmony and happiness is violence, and it can be verbal, silent, and psychological. It is such an irony, my dear Billy, that the word “violence and its derivative, “violate” are surrounded in the Oxford dictionary by words like “violet” which is a flower, and “viol, viola, viola da braccio, viola da gamba, viola d’amore, violin, violoncello, violone,” which are all musical instruments. “Viola” is both a flower and a musical instrument, while “viol” which is “rape” in French is a musical instrument in English. Violence rears its head from the simple negation of leave to a subordinate in the office, to the great havoc caused on the battlefield. People have the tendency to associate violence with war, mass destruction, crime, rape, assault and the other despicable doings. But there are also worse intangible forms of violence. One can be violent by cunning implication, by a clever distortion of the facts, by a calculated use of silence when one’s voice is of utter importance to someone else. You can be violent, my dear Billy, by neglecting to answer a letter if the person awaiting it is thereby caused needless anxiety. It is pointedly violent to sow doubt in a person’s mind when it is obvious that his faith brings him serenity and joy. It is equally violent to condemn or decry another’s way of life merely because it is different from one’s own. Character assassination, mudslinging, backbiting, spreading gossip, are other forms of violence often used by seemingly honest and honourable people. Needless to say, my dear Billy, that it is mostly people who are in positions of power, or who hold some other advantages, who apply violence in their transactions. Thus, the butts of violence are minority groups, vulnerable people like children, the elderly, women, who can’t protect or defend themselves. Cases of domestic violence, and violence against children, the elderly and innocent, defenceless animals are daily occurrences. Murder, killing in all manners and styles as taught everyday on television, the internet and in cinema halls, mass destruction of human life in wars or by terrorist groups, arson, rape, torture and violence of all imaginable and unimaginable types have become the daily diet of the whole world. Violence on the screen causes anxiety everywhere. The question is increasingly asked whether the growing incidence of everyday violence, among children especially, is not induced by screen violence. A study carried out by the Centre for Communication Policy at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) highlighted the rising presence of “sinister combat violence” in a large number of cartoons screened daily for children. Pornography is another major concern. It is debasing women and children by mixing violence and cruelty with sensuality. Today’s media do deliver messages and symbols directly into every home. Even the tiniest fingers can press the wrong buttons making parental control difficult, if not impossible. Violence is not found in the broadcasting media alone, but also in electronic games, independent video productions and increasingly, the Internet. Children are tempted to practise the violence they watch on their toy screens. Jobless youngsters become demoralised and a potential source of violence and social upheavals. A spark of violence peeps out of the best of us, my dear Billy. If we cannot abolish violence altogether, we could at least reduce its effect by trying to eliminate its causes. If mankind cannot end violence, violence will end mankind.
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