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Pacifism


Asimov
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Obviously, the verse means that violence begets violence, but Jesus had his violent moments. Let's remember the temple and his tirade with the whip made of cords. Jesus wan't a pure pacifist, no matter how you slice it.

 

And he died a violent (albeit imaginary) death.

 

True there was the moneychangers -and he also cursed the fig tree. Definitely not an environmentalist :grin:

 

Ok, you got me.

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I'm not really sure where to go with this topic. On it's face it just seems like so much testosterone-driven bull shit, but the issue is of course more complex than that. Surely most of us will embrace a moderate view knowing that there are no absolutes in this world. I would never for instance take one of Jesus' approach and just turn the other cheek under any condition.

 

On the other hand, what are we talking about here? It's almost a fantasy to imagine that intruders are going to enter our homes and attack us at gun and knife point. Of course these things happen in the RW but statistically they are quite unlikely to happen to "me." Realistically I find that it is much better to avoid situations where I might fall prey to violence rather than prepare for them.

 

For example, here in Russia if I were to not be "a pussy" as Asimov implies, I could potentially end up in real danger. Let's say I'm walking down the sidewalk and some guy bumps my shoulder aggressively. Do I defend my honor and confront the situation aggressively? Well here most men spent 2 years in the military getting the shit beat out of them and beating the shit out of others in a twisted system of hazing that goes on here in Russia. These guys will not think twice about getting you on the ground and kicking you in the head until you die. If I carry a gun to protect myself I would be in violation of Russian law and should the police stop me on the street and find the gun I could be sent to prison and then get knocked to the ground there and someone could then proceed to kick me in the head until I'm dead. It occurs to me to take a wise approach and just avoid the confrontation. If someone aggressively shoulders me in a crowd, I just keep on walking.

 

Or, are we talking about war? If this is the case, fuck the god damned government and their stupid wars. I will not put my life on the line to protect the elite and their global strategies. War is sold to the hoi polloi as protecting the homeland, freedom, and all that bull shit. Come on. Germans are not kicking down our doors raping our women folk.

 

Let me be more clear. Here's a passage from the book Johnny Got His Gun, a book about a WWI vet who was doomed to spend the rest of his life in a hospital bed with no arms, no legs, no hearing, and no face to speak out of.

 

Hell's fire guys had always been fighting for liberty. America fought for liberty in 1776. Lots of guys died. And in the end does America have any more liberty than Canada or Australia who didn't fight at all? Maybe so I'm not arguing I'm just asking. Can you look at a guy and say he's an American who fought for his liberty and anybody can see he's a very different guy from a Canadian who didn't?

 

So maybe a lot for guys with wives and kids died in 1776 when they didn't need to die at all.

 

They were always fighting for something the bastards and if anyone dared say the hell with fighting it's all the same each war is like the other and nobody gets any good out of it why they hollered coward. If they weren't fighting for liberty they were fighting for independence or democracy or freedom or decency or honor or their native land or something else that didn't mean anything. The war was to make the world safe for democracy for the little countries for everybody. If the war was over now then the world must be all safe for democracy. Was it? And what kind of democracy? And how much? And whose?

 

Then there was this freedom the little guys were always getting killed for. Was it freedom from another country? Freedom to work or disease or death? Please mister give us a bill of sale on this freedom before we go out and get killed.

 

Death before dishonor. This ground sanctified by blood. These men died so gloriously. They shall not have died n vain. Our noble dead.

 

Hmmm...

 

But what do the dead say?

 

Did anybody ever come back from the dead any single one of the millions who got killled did any one of them ever come back and say by god I'm dead because death is always better than dishonor? Did they say 'm glad I died to make the world safe for democracy? Did they say I like death better than losing liberty?

 

Nobody but the dead know whether all these things people talk about are worth dying for or not. And the dead can't talk. So the words about noble deaths and sacred blood and honor and such are all put into dead lips by grave robbers and fakes who have no right to speak for the dead. If a man says death before dishonor he is either a fool or a liar because he doesn't know what death is. He isn't able to judge.

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My dad is a severe pacifist.

 

I abhor violence, but not the point where I wouldn't even be willing to defend myself or kill someone in order protect others and my own life.

 

My dad contends that there is ALWAYS a non-violent way to proceed with issues. Yea, there is, that doesn't mean that way works at the time or is the most viable solution.

 

What are your thoughts on pacifism. I know Kevin will be one who is against this.

 

I think there's no need to start a fist fight anytime there's conflict, I try to reason with people, let go of grudges, move on, that type of thing. But if my life is threatened, what do you think I'm going to do? Even a girl has gotta stand up for herself. My parents paid very expensive Karate lessons growing up, I'm not going to waste those away if some creep tries to physically hurt me.

 

Then again, being a girl or guy, sometimes you can't fight, sometimes you just gotta use your brain and common sense, and start running. Another thing that I'm good at since I was in track in high school.

 

Guess it would depend on the situation and how bad it was.

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Picking your fights and battles carefully has always been a prudent thing to do.

 

Shiva, I am unsure what your mental picture of me might be, however I'll toss into discussion that "I am well pleased to leave others the hell alone."

 

Don't go about trying to fix all the world's ills, don't try and repair the things broken in all events. Just do for those I may, best I can, as often as I can.

 

Put my body, living, residence, funds and the bit of honor that is mine on the line.

Tend to do so often, just because I can.

 

Reward factor? Often less than Zero. Cost factor? Often higher than it might have been worth.

 

Protected many from taking beatings, further injury mental and physical, helped house the houseless, and done well to those whom the *finer society* wouldn't scrape their shoes off with.

 

Some *fights* aren't just physical blows. Others aren't more than words and a few actions. Sometimes they blend and some asskicking has a can opened up and spread around on all the actors.

 

I've taken several trips to the Doc gettin' fixed for putting my big ass on the line for others. Don't expect others to do as I might, and do not expect others to give fuck why things get done as I do. Can't fix all the problems, but can and do help prevent those which I can.

 

Results count. The games in this world and time I play, violence is a simple part of them and shit happens. Those not prepared, willingly so, for it get swept into the action and often to ill use.

 

"Pure Pacifisim" doesn't exist. Something somewhere will always cause the human animal to rise and fight for something it wants or believes in.

 

My trigger points just happen to be mighty close to the surface..

 

k, mean_old_man, L

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Guest Shiva H. Vishnu
Shiva, I am unsure what your mental picture of me might be, however I'll toss into discussion that "I am well pleased to leave others the hell alone."

 

I don't recall saying anything about you, specifically. I have nothing negative in my mental picture of you.

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How is it hypocritical?

 

They abhor violence let allow it to happen....that is hypocritical.

 

 

I abhor killing yet I allow it to happen... Does that make me hypocritical?!?!?! WTF asimov. :ugh:

 

Mr. Enlightened the Fatalistic Pacifist:

Mr. Enlightened believes that he is going to eventually die and that there is nothing he can do about it. He travels to tabet to become a monk and is trained to seperate his mind from his body(metaphysically speaking) and increases his mental resolve 100 fold vs the normal homosapien sapien. During his time in the monestary he decides that he abhors the idea of physically harming/killing another humanbeing(under any circumstance), but retains the realization that he and all other mortals will eventuall pass on. He feels its ones actions throughout life are more important than one's mortality.

 

Some psyco communist fanatics storm the temple with automatic rifles and start tearing through the monks. Mr. Enlightened sees a little boy is in danger of being shot by the soldiers and steps infront of him to be used as a meat shield for the bullets. Mr. Enlightened dies, however the boy survives and lives a fruitful life as a world renowned doctor. (Mr. Enlightened felt that A. it wouldn't matter if he lived or not, and B. there was a good chance he was infact going to be killed).

 

The definition of hypocritical is to profess in something that you DO NOT believe or hold true.

 

It would've been hypocritical of him to attack one of the riflemen because he believes that one should not harm/kill another humanbeing under any circumstances. Since life is not of "supreme" importance (also lets not forget the idea of responsibility) he's not a hypocrit in that sense the reason he is a pacifist has nothing to do the mortality of a person.

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I'm not really sure where to go with this topic. On it's face it just seems like so much testosterone-driven bull shit, but the issue is of course more complex than that. Surely most of us will embrace a moderate view knowing that there are no absolutes in this world. I would never for instance take one of Jesus' approach and just turn the other cheek under any condition.

 

On the other hand, what are we talking about here? It's almost a fantasy to imagine that intruders are going to enter our homes and attack us at gun and knife point. Of course these things happen in the RW but statistically they are quite unlikely to happen to "me." Realistically I find that it is much better to avoid situations where I might fall prey to violence rather than prepare for them.

 

For example, here in Russia if I were to not be "a pussy" as Asimov implies, I could potentially end up in real danger. Let's say I'm walking down the sidewalk and some guy bumps my shoulder aggressively. Do I defend my honor and confront the situation aggressively? Well here most men spent 2 years in the military getting the shit beat out of them and beating the shit out of others in a twisted system of hazing that goes on here in Russia. These guys will not think twice about getting you on the ground and kicking you in the head until you die. If I carry a gun to protect myself I would be in violation of Russian law and should the police stop me on the street and find the gun I could be sent to prison and then get knocked to the ground there and someone could then proceed to kick me in the head until I'm dead. It occurs to me to take a wise approach and just avoid the confrontation. If someone aggressively shoulders me in a crowd, I just keep on walking.

 

Or, are we talking about war? If this is the case, fuck the god damned government and their stupid wars. I will not put my life on the line to protect the elite and their global strategies. War is sold to the hoi polloi as protecting the homeland, freedom, and all that bull shit. Come on. Germans are not kicking down our doors raping our women folk.

 

Let me be more clear. Here's a passage from the book Johnny Got His Gun, a book about a WWI vet who was doomed to spend the rest of his life in a hospital bed with no arms, no legs, no hearing, and no face to speak out of.

 

Hell's fire guys had always been fighting for liberty. America fought for liberty in 1776. Lots of guys died. And in the end does America have any more liberty than Canada or Australia who didn't fight at all? Maybe so I'm not arguing I'm just asking. Can you look at a guy and say he's an American who fought for his liberty and anybody can see he's a very different guy from a Canadian who didn't?

 

So maybe a lot for guys with wives and kids died in 1776 when they didn't need to die at all.

 

They were always fighting for something the bastards and if anyone dared say the hell with fighting it's all the same each war is like the other and nobody gets any good out of it why they hollered coward. If they weren't fighting for liberty they were fighting for independence or democracy or freedom or decency or honor or their native land or something else that didn't mean anything. The war was to make the world safe for democracy for the little countries for everybody. If the war was over now then the world must be all safe for democracy. Was it? And what kind of democracy? And how much? And whose?

 

Then there was this freedom the little guys were always getting killed for. Was it freedom from another country? Freedom to work or disease or death? Please mister give us a bill of sale on this freedom before we go out and get killed.

 

Death before dishonor. This ground sanctified by blood. These men died so gloriously. They shall not have died n vain. Our noble dead.

 

Hmmm...

 

But what do the dead say?

 

Did anybody ever come back from the dead any single one of the millions who got killled did any one of them ever come back and say by god I'm dead because death is always better than dishonor? Did they say 'm glad I died to make the world safe for democracy? Did they say I like death better than losing liberty?

 

Nobody but the dead know whether all these things people talk about are worth dying for or not. And the dead can't talk. So the words about noble deaths and sacred blood and honor and such are all put into dead lips by grave robbers and fakes who have no right to speak for the dead. If a man says death before dishonor he is either a fool or a liar because he doesn't know what death is. He isn't able to judge.

 

 

The concept of honor is outmoded bullshit. I don't fight for honor. But I would fight for fun, for sport (with willing participants), for defense, and I think a declaration of war is alright when it is in defense, or civil strife.

 

There are times where fighting does solve issues. You see, there are some people who use your unwillingness to fight as an excuse to beat on you more, just for their own ego. I learned that lesson a long time ago, and after ending a few fights I didn't start, it stopped.

 

The freedom that is worth fight for is the freedom from tyrrany: the tyrrany of government, the tyrrany of family, the tyrrany of religion, and the tyrrany of bullies. The life of a slave is not worth living.

 

And in the end does America have any more liberty than Canada or Australia who didn't fight at all.

 

They fought for independence, a collective sort of freedom, and they won. We are still independent. Your statement is an ananchronism, not even considering that the idea of absolute monarchy also failed in the UK, Canada and Australia -it's mostly a token monarchy now. Our ideas prevailed. I think the US's struggle for independence and our ideas influenced the world in unimaginable ways -did you forget the Age of Reason? Well, the US was a very successful separatist outgrowth of that, and it was fought for on many fronts. Some of our founding fathers played essential roles in Europe to help bring that about. Even still, Americanized culture exists everywhere. Some countries have even managed to do it better than we have :shrug:

 

But as they say, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. We have not been vigilant, and we're slipping back into monarchy with the tyrranical King Bush and his house of fools.

 

The church and the government have too much power again. We'll just have to bring about another Age of Reason.

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In all honesty, I see neither pacifism nor "militancy" as either cowardly or courageous. It is ratherly cowardly to beat on a lesser opponent for something that doesn't not require a violent response - what honor or regard is there in fighting an inferior opponent or using violence when it isn't at all necessary? It is rather courageous for even a hardened warrior to keep his sword in his sheath unless it is necessary to draw it, if you follow.

 

Pacifism I detest, since it applies a one-size-fits-all solution where reality and logic dictate that many solutions can be applied. It's a sort of extremism of thought that prevents humans from choosing what works when the situation calls for it. Plus, as I've said, I've got my personal reasons for disliking the thought, since it implies being a doormat even when violence is perfectly justified, but that's just my opinion. Being violent in response to every situation is just as stupid and shameful.

 

In the end, each situation dictates what the available options are, and it's up to us to decide.

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They fought for independence, a collective sort of freedom, and they won. We are still independent. Your statement is an ananchronism, not even considering that the idea of absolute monarchy also failed in the UK, Canada and Australia -it's mostly a token monarchy now. Our ideas prevailed. I think the US's struggle for independence and our ideas influenced the world in unimaginable ways -did you forget the Age of Reason? Well, the US was a very successful separatist outgrowth of that, and it was fought for on many fronts. Some of our founding fathers played essential roles in Europe to help bring that about. Even still, Americanized culture exists everywhere. Some countries have even managed to do it better than we have :shrug:

 

But as they say, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. We have not been vigilant, and we're slipping back into monarchy with the tyrranical King Bush and his house of fools.

 

The church and the government have too much power again. We'll just have to bring about another Age of Reason.

 

Dunno, just sounds like more high-sounding ideas that mean nothing to the individual. We are told we fight against tyranny only to replace a despot with a worse despot. We are told we fight for democracy only to prop up friendly dictatorships or open oil lines or suppress competition. If I'm personally bullied, I will do something about it - what I do will depend on the situation. I'm not in jr high anymore and have not faced a true bully in many years, unless you include a few anal retentive bosses. Maybe you're right about the US revolution and maybe not. I personally think you are giving it too much credit. The enlightenment era spurred on a lot of revolutions at the time and had the US not fought theirs I'm not so sure the world would have been much different. Probably the same cannot be said for France. Or here's a thought, perhaps the traditional feudal model no longer worked and the replacement of hierarchical societies in Europe were purely economically driven in an increasingly international trade environment. In this instance, perhaps the European political environment would have changed whether or not the peasants chopped off the head of their king. We can both lay our anecdotal evidence down to prove our points on this matter, but history is a fairly difficult issue to argue as it can be spun a lot of ways. The gist of my post is that I will not fight unless I or someone I love is personally in danger and if there is a way out of danger that is more prudent than violence I will look for it. That's all. As I said, I'm not an idealist, I think there is some middle ground on the issue of pacifism.

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Dunno, just sounds like more high-sounding ideas that mean nothing to the individual. We are told we fight against tyranny only to replace a despot with a worse despot. We are told we fight for democracy only to prop up friendly dictatorships or open oil lines or suppress competition. If I'm personally bullied, I will do something about it - what I do will depend on the situation. I'm not in jr high anymore and have not faced a true bully in many years, unless you include a few anal retentive bosses. Maybe you're right about the US revolution and maybe not. I personally think you are giving it too much credit. The enlightenment era spurred on a lot of revolutions at the time and had the US not fought theirs I'm not so sure the world would have been much different. Probably the same cannot be said for France. Or here's a thought, perhaps the traditional feudal model no longer worked and the replacement of hierarchical societies in Europe were purely economically driven in an increasingly international trade environment. In this instance, perhaps the European political environment would have changed whether or not the peasants chopped off the head of their king. We can both lay our anecdotal evidence down to prove our points on this matter, but history is a fairly difficult issue to argue as it can be spun a lot of ways. The gist of my post is that I will not fight unless I or someone I love is personally in danger and if there is a way out of danger that is more prudent than violence I will look for it. That's all. As I said, I'm not an idealist, I think there is some middle ground on the issue of pacifism.

 

Ok, I'll grant you that much. Would you rather go to jail or accept slavery for the rest of your life, if you were guaranteed never to be harmed so long as you didn't resist, than fight to get away?

 

I would rather fight, because to me personally life without liberty is not worth living.

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Let's say I'm walking down the sidewalk and some guy bumps my shoulder aggressively. Do I defend my honor and confront the situation aggressively?

 

That has nothing to do with pacifism.

 

I abhor killing yet I allow it to happen... Does that make me hypocritical?!?!?! WTF asimov.

 

Are people you love dropping like flies, padreko? Would you defend someone you loved violently in order to protect them?

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Ok, I'll grant you that much. Would you rather go to jail or accept slavery for the rest of your life, if you were guaranteed never to be harmed so long as you didn't resist, than fight to get away?

 

I would rather fight, because to me personally life without liberty is not worth living.

 

 

Damn you're fast! :grin:

 

Well, I would rather run to be honest but backed into a corner I would fight to the death to avoid slavery or lifetime imprisonment. Freedom is my highest value so I guess I wouldn't have a choice.

 

What I wouldn't do is fight because some government told me that the war they are fighting is to avoid this sort of tyrranny. I frankly just wouldn't believe them as governments have always lied to get their sons to go and fight for them. If they threatened me with jail because I refused to fight I would hit the road and happily accept the label "draft dodger."

 

Let's say I'm walking down the sidewalk and some guy bumps my shoulder aggressively. Do I defend my honor and confront the situation aggressively?

 

That has nothing to do with pacifism.

 

 

Please clarify.

 

And since when did you become an Ayn follower? Curious your response to Michael Shermer's charge that objectivism is a cult (don't mean to derail, I just noticed your title change).

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Damn you're fast! :grin:

 

Well, I would rather run to be honest but backed into a corner I would fight to the death to avoid slavery or lifetime imprisonment. Freedom is my highest value so I guess I wouldn't have a choice.

 

What I wouldn't do is fight because some government told me that the war they are fighting is to avoid this sort of tyrranny. I frankly just wouldn't believe them as governments have always lied to get their sons to go and fight for them. If they threatened me with jail because I refused to fight I would hit the road and happily accept the label "draft dodger."

 

We're in the same boat, then. I don't know if most of what our history teachers taught us is true -and I know some of it is definitely false, but my ideas of being free came mostly from what I was told. I don't believe in government's "giving" freedom, and definitely would not wage war on behalf of their lies. I think the problem with our country was that we organized a government to ward off an invasion by the crown and from then on we kept inventing new reasons not to disassemble our own government. It's since grown out of control.

 

I'll be a proud draft dodger too. I think a new draft will be the final straw for me, and if any sovereign separatist movement begins in the US, I'll gladly be a part of it. Nothing bloody -just a peaceful movement into the unused territories.

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Please clarify.

 

And since when did you become an Ayn follower? Curious your response to Michael Shermer's charge that objectivism is a cult (don't mean to derail, I just noticed your title change).

 

Well, Vigile, if someone bumps into you roughly, unless they turn around and start threatening you with a knife there is no reason to act like an asshole and start throwing punches.

 

Defending ones honour is not the opposite of pacifism. Passive-aggressive behaviour as far as I know is the only reasonable behaviour.

 

Michael Shermer can make any kind of charges he wants to it. I don't worship Ayn Rand.

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My dad is a severe pacifist.

 

I abhor violence, but not the point where I wouldn't even be willing to defend myself or kill someone in order protect others and my own life.

 

My dad contends that there is ALWAYS a non-violent way to proceed with issues. Yea, there is, that doesn't mean that way works at the time or is the most viable solution.

 

What are your thoughts on pacifism. I know Kevin will be one who is against this.

 

I agree with you. I dislike violence, but if someone was trying to kill me, I wouldn't go down without a fight. Learned self-defense for that reason.

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I have never really been fond of the idea of pacifism. I mean, it seems to me more of an ideal illusion than reality, like world peace.

I enjoy peace just as much as anyone else, but if I belived there was something that needed to be fought for, i wouldnt hesitate to head to fight.

If there is a war going on (a real war, involving real threats or need of help), being a pacifist and staying out of it doesn't help matters. Conflict is going on, they can choose to actually help or maintain "don't fight" attitudes.

 

I don't like confrontations, but I wouldnt hesitate to punch someone who derserved it.

 

I say that there are times for peace and times for violence. A war can't go on forever, therefore neither can times of peace.

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My dad contends that there is ALWAYS a non-violent way to proceed with issues.

I truly wonder about that. My dad was pacifist too, my family, brothers and even me. Not quite as much anymore though. But I'm not sure that all humans can be argued with or there's a non-violent solution for every situation. Now, I'm gonna be the hard ass here, can you provide any evidence that there always could be a non-violent way to resolve issues?

 

Yea, there is, that doesn't mean that way works at the time or is the most viable solution.

True.

 

Of course there's alway one way of solving every conflict... do it chicken style. Run away or lay down and give up. That's alway non-violent. :)

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I abhor killing yet I allow it to happen... Does that make me hypocritical?!?!?! WTF asimov.

 

Are people you love dropping like flies, padreko? Would you defend someone you loved violently in order to protect them?

 

Ofcourse.. I never claimed to be a pacifist in that sense. I do believe war is foolish and all acts of violence humans commit to one another are equally repulsive. Does that mean I won't defend myself if the time comes? No! However, I will and always have regreted hurting others even if my actions were justified. And I don't think its correct to assume that all extreme pacifists hold life to be of supreme importance(there are some crazy mofos out there).

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Ofcourse.. I never claimed to be a pacifist in that sense. I do believe war is foolish and all acts of violence humans commit to one another are equally repulsive. Does that mean I won't defend myself if the time comes? No! However, I will and always have regreted hurting others even if my actions were justified.

 

 

Then you and I are in agreement, Padreko! :)

 

And I don't think its correct to assume that all extreme pacifists hold life to be of supreme importance(there are some crazy mofos out there).

 

So why would someone be a pacifist then if they don't? Sounds kinda like you're saying a sociopath doesn't have to disregard other peoples feelings to be a sociopath.

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Ward Churchill's essay Pacifism as Pathology is a good read on the subject. While I am against state sponsored terrorism like the Iraq war, I am not a pacifist. I'd kill to end war. :eek:

 

Here is a review of Churchill's essay.

 

Pacifism as Pathology Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America

 

by Ward Churchill (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, Canada, 1999.) ISBN 1-894037-07-3

 

Pacifism as Pathology-Notes on an American Pseudopraxis is the title of Ward Churchill's well-argued and persuasive essay criticising the form and ideology of non-violent political action in North America. The essay was first published in 1986, and is reprinted in this book alongside an essay by Mike Ryan who further develops the arguments in the context of the Canadian peace movement. Though Churchill's essay was written in response to the political scene of well over a decade ago, his arguments are (perhaps worringly) equally thought-provoking and relevant to the contemporary manifestations of non-violent political action that purport to have revolutionary methods and goals. Churchill's main argument is that philosophical on-violence/pacifism-which promotes the idea that the violence of the State can be transcended through purity of purpose, moral superiority and non-violence-is a delusional and counter-revolutionary political movement. Despite recognising the fact that many adherents to non-violence have sincere revolutionary aspirations (i.e: that they reject the present social order and wish to see its total abolition and replacement) Churchill claims that their non-violent methods serve to constrain them to the realm of 'pseudo-praxis' which, at best, is utterly ineffectual and, at worst, maintains and reinforces the hierarchical and exploitative status quo.

 

Churchill argues that this pseudo-praxis of pacifism is rooted in an ideology rife with internal contradictions and limitations and for its internal logic depends upon "fostering a view of social conflict as a morality play." (p.38) In this 'play' the State and its violence are "bad" or "negative", their pacifist opponents "good" or "positive" and it is through the triumph of morality alone that revolution will come about. Hence, "Pacifists, with seemingly endless repetition, pronounce that the negativity of the modern corporate-fascist state will atrophy through defection and neglect once there is a sufficiently positive social vision to take its place." (p.30) Such a view is clearly the stuff of pure idealism rather than realism, for the state is not a moral adversary, it cannot be persuaded to 'wither away'. As Churchill rightly points out; "Absurdity clearly abounds when suggesting that the state will refrain from using all necessary physical force to protect against undesired forms of change and threats to its safety." (p.44)

 

Taking the experience of the Jews in the Holocaust as an in-depth (and highly controversial) example, the author illustrates the ultimate futility of non-violent resistance. He suggests that the pacifist response of the Jews which was intended to promote "social responsibility" and not further exacerbate their persecution, in fact did the opposite and led to the Jews effectively colluding with the genocidal aims of their Nazi oppressors. Whilst not suggesting that the Holocaust could have been prevented by armed struggle on the part of the Jews, Churchill, quoting Bruno Bettleheim (a former concentration camp inmate), says: "Rebellion could only have saved either the life they were going to lose anyway, or the lives of others.Inertia it was that led millions of Jews into the ghettos that the SS had created for them." (p.36)

 

Churchill recognises that this example is extreme yet he suggests that: "it is precisely this extremity which makes the example useful; the Jewish experience reveals with stark clarity the basic illogic at the very core of pacifist conceptions of morality and political action." (p.38) The illogic to which he is referring is the idea that moral superiority can overcome state oppression; the moral superiority being based upon an unwillingness to take up arms and use violence as a tactic. This notion is so central to the 'pathology' of pacifism that the dichotomies between good (non-violent) and evil (violent) are found throughout. Of course, in order to sustain a belief in the ideology examples of good (non-violence) triumphing over evil (violence) are vital. Here, Churchill argues that pacifists are guilty of considerable revisionism in order to make history compatible with their beliefs.

 

Churchill looks in particular at the popularly quoted 'successes' of the movements headed by MK Gandhi in India, and Dr. Martin Luther King in North America. In both these instances he argues that the 'success' of the movements in gaining their demands depended massively upon the threat of violence from other sources against the British and American governments respectively. In the case of North America, the pressure came from "the context of armed self-defense tactics being employed for the first time by rural black leaders.and the eruption of black urban enclaves.It also coincided with the increasing need of the American state for internal stability due to the unexpectedly intense and effective armed resistance mounted by the Vietnamese against US aggression in Southeast Asia." (p.43)

 

The importance of the misappropriation of history by pacifists becomes clear when we delve a little deeper into the psychology of it all. Clearly, as Churchill points out, these people do believe in the need for revolution, indeed they pronounce solidarity with those engaged in armed struggles in the Third World.

 

However, if they concede the historical fact that "there simply has never been a revolution, or even a substantial social reorganisation, brought into being on the basis of the principles of pacifism. In every instance, violence has been an integral requirement of the process of transforming the state" (p.45) then pacifists must begin to realize that there is not just an option to accept violence as a method of social change, but an imperative.

 

In the author's view the fact that pacifists are so reluctant to get to this point in their reasoning has much to do with the fact that for most, struggle against the state is not a daily reality. Indeed, their whole concern stems from a moral objection to the 'wickedness' of the state, rather any personal threat to their lives and communities. From such a privileged position, pacifists can espouse non-violent revolution and engage in political action without the risks most political dissidents take. Churchill does recognise that some pacifist practitioners have run real risks for their beliefs-such as the followers of Gandhi beaten to death in pursuit of non-violent revolution and those who have immolated themselves or incurred long prison sentences taking action for their cause. However, in the main, Churchill argues that North American pacifists are caught up in a politics of 'the comfort zone' based on the guiding question of "What sort of politics might I engage in which will both allow me to posture as a progressive and allow me to avoid incurring harm to myself?" (p.49) Not surprisingly, the political practice which ensues from this underlying concern is not-and never can be-revolutionary, since if it were the state would respond with force. Pacifist praxis is therefore necessarily ineffectual and unthreatening.

 

Churchill's description of the kind of praxis pacifists do engage in will seem all too familiar to most of us who have been involved in non-violent activism. The protest march, sit-down blockade, rally etc. is revealed as the charade it really is. I found myself cringing at this point, recognising situations in which I had participated in the spectacle of symbolic action. Crucial aspects of this spectacle include the representatives of the state-the cops-invited to be there by the protest organisers, the elite band of stewards who ensure non-violence and 'responsible' conduct, and the protesters there to take part in a mass arrest for transgressing some minor law. The whole thing is conducted in such a way as to cause minimum disruption to the workings of the state (the police are warned in advance to expect an estimated number of arrests) and to make sure that no-one (cops or protesters) gets hurt. As Churchill comments: "in especially 'militant' actions, arrestees go limp, undoubtedly severely taxing the state's repressive resources by forcing the police to carry them bodily to the vans.(monitored all the while.to ensure that such 'police brutality' as pushing, shoving, or dropping an arrestee does not occur)." (p.54) The farcical ineffectuality of this symbolic protest is further emphasized when we remember that many of these demonstrations-especially in this country-are in protest at the use of state violence in the form of invasions of other countries (resulting in the loss of thousands of lives), production of nuclear weapons and other arms (potentially genocidal), or destruction of the environment (potentially ecocidal).

 

Churchill is also highly critical of the condemnation that non-violent activists make of the 'violent minority' who refuse to play the game of merely symbolic protest. He points out the blatant hypocrisy surrounding the willingness of non-violent activists to 'stand in solidarity' with armed groups in the Third World who are resisting Western imperialist aggression, whilst simultaneously distancing themselves from anyone who dares to suggest a violent response in their own country! Churchill argues that this is more evidence of 'comfort zone' politics which not only leads to ineffective action but is actually racist: "Massive and unremitting violence in the colonies is appalling to right-thinking people but ultimately acceptable when compared with the unthinkable alternative that any degree of real violence might be redirected against 'mother country radicals'." (p.62) By intentionally avoiding any degree of state violence themselves, non-violent activists ensure that the brunt of it is borne by both Third World communities and minority communities in the West.

 

Churchill's argument that the 'comfort zone' practise of symbolic non-violent action is easily accommodated by the State, is further developed in the follow on essay by Mike Ryan. He suggests that far from challenging State power, non-violent action is a valuable means by which the State can reinforce its legitimacy: "The message of civil disobedience as it is now practiced is this: There is opposition in society. The state deals with this opposition firmly but gently, according to the law. Unlike some countries, Canada is a democratic society which tolerates opposition. Therefore, it is unnecessary for anyone to step outside the forms of protest accepted by this society; it is unnecessary to resist." (p.140) Such recuperation clearly has implications for those whose actions go beyond the accepted boundary by allowing the State to simply divide and rule. As 'the violent minority' are isolated and crushed, the State can claim the tacit (or sometimes explicit) support for its actions from those who remain (unbruised and morally superior) within the permitted boundaries of dissent.

 

Having thoroughly and convincingly dispensed with any notion that pacifism represents a serious and revolutionary challenge to the state, Churchill takes his analysis a step further. He argues that pacifism is actually pathological with delusional, racist and suicidal tendencies, and bears more hallmarks of a religious, rather than political, ideology. This makes it very difficult to argue people out of this mindset, as Churchill suggests; "hegemonic pacifism in advanced capitalist contexts proves itself supremely resistant-indeed virtually impervious-to mere logic and moral suasion." (p.93) He claims that the only way to overcome this 'illness' is through a therapeutic process designed to take the non-violent advocate "beyond the smug exercise of knee-jerk pacifist "superiority," and into the arena of effective liberatory praxis." (p.93) He proposes a strategy in which individuals are forced to challenge their ideas through a therapeutic discussion of values (to determine whether the subject really understands the bases of need for revolutionary social transformation), followed by 'Reality Therapy' (time spent living with oppressed communities to get the subject out of the comfort zone) and 'Demystification' (where the subject is taught to handle weapons and lose their psychological fear of guns.) All this should "have the effect of radically diminishing much of the delusion, the aroma of racism and the sense of privilege". (p.101)

 

It is probably right to accuse Churchill of consciously formulating a training programme to create revolutionaries, in fact he concedes that he is trying to aid in the development of "a strategy to win". Indeed I think if the proponents of non-violence were to enter the therapeutic process en masse the state would have more cause for concern than at any time in the preceding decades of pacifist "action". However, it would not be right to accuse the author of attempting to glorify violence and armed struggle, rather he is at pains to emphasise that "the desire for a non-violent and cooperative world is the healthiest of all psychological manifestations." (p.103) Rather the essay is written to provoke discussion and to get to the point where pacifists stop believing that their 'purity of purpose' will achieve the world we want.

 

Churchill's alternative to the pacifist strategy is made clear in a chapter entitled Towards a Liberatory Praxis. Defining praxis as "action consciously and intentionally guided by theory while simultaneously guiding the evolution of theoretical elaboration" (p.84) he argues that in advanced capitalist contexts far more emphasis has been placed on the theory and analysis of revolutionary struggle at the expense of the physical tactics which could be employed. It is partly for this reason that the doctrine of 'revolutionary non-violence' as a theory and practice has taken such a hold. In contrast, in the Third World ".it is considered axiomatic that revolution in non-industrialized areas all but inherently entails resort to armed struggle and violence." (p.85) With the immediacy of State violence to contend with, those engaged in liberatory struggles in the Third World have had to innovate a whole range of tactics-hence the highly developed art of guerrilla warfare. Churchill suggests that we learn from this example, though he is not advocating some 'cult of terror'. Rather we must recognise that ".in order to be effective and ultimately successful, any revolutionary movement within advanced capitalist nations must develop the broadest range of thinking/action by which to confront the state." (p.91) In this 'continuum of activity' non-violent action-crucially divorced from its delusional ideological trappings-has a role to play, but then so too does "armed self-defense, and.the realm of 'offensive' military operations." (p.91) In this situation, rather than non-violence being seen as the antithesis of violence and morally evaluated, both become useful tactics to be used as necessary in the revolutionary strategy. Whether you agree with all of Churchill's arguments or not (and personally I have a few problems with the therapy stuff) his analysis of the pacifist doctrine is both eloquent and truly eye-opening. I spent some time involved in explicitly non-violent activism in the UK without really thinking through the ideological implications-it was simply the first direct action scene I came across. I only wish that I had read this book 7 years ago and hastened the learning process that has led me to many of the same conclusions as the author. Don't be put off, however, if you are happily involved

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