Peter van Uhm is the Netherlands’ chief of defense. He knows the art of war. But despite being a man of the sword, he’s not a bloodthirsty soldier with an insatiable desire to kill as some would like to characterize those in the military. Instead, he is a distinguished man with a craft. And in an inspiring TED talk recently, he explained why he “chose the gun.” And he even brought one on stage.
“Ladies and gentleman, I share your goals,” he said while holding a rifle. “I share the goals of the speakers you heard before. I did not choose to take up the pen, the brush, the camera. I chose this instrument. I chose the gun.”
“Let us cherish the fact that most of you have never been close to a gun,” he added. Why? “It means the Netherlands is a peaceful country. The Netherlands is not at war. It means soldiers are not needed to patrol our streets.”
Van Uhm — who lost his son to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2008 — goes on to explain why he chose the military. The TED video description sums it up:
Peter van Uhm is the Netherlands’ chief of defense, but that does not mean he is pro-war. At TEDxAmsterdam he explains how his career is one shaped by a love of peace, not a desire for bloodshed — and why we need armies if we want peace.
Watch it below:
It should be noted that gun ownership in the Netherlands is fairly low: about three guns per 100 people. The country’s regulation of firearms has been categorized as “restrictive.” So it seems that while van Uhm would defend the use of guns on a macro level, his country does not translate that into a micro level. In addition, some could construe his talk as a defense of military monopolization of weapons (over private citizens) in order to keep the “peace.”
But despite some possible pitfalls, van Uhm’s talk in general and his larger point is one that is universal, and his words ring true.
“Sometimes only the gun can stand between good and evil,” he says. “And that is why I took up the gun. Not to shoot, not to kill, not to destroy. But to stop those who would do evil. To protect the vulnerable. To defend democratic values.”
TEDTalks are conferences that give speakers — “leading thinkers and doers — 18 minutes to give the speech of their lives.