Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pacifism: Cheers or Jeers?

So, I was reading this great article about how objective morality is effectively irrelevant, and how the Bible's "morals" have not particularly affected the morality that present American society possesses today. And, in this article was a quote that caught my interest "pacifism is inherently immoral".

Though it surprised me initially, I can now say that it does make sense. Extreme pacifism, in the most dire situations, is akin to martyrdom for the sake of your own beliefs that violence should never be used, which feeds into a sense of moral superiority. Of course, this is sort of a strange thought for me to be having, since I consider myself to be pacifist. I did some more exploration on the subject, to see how I could best frantically justify some form of a non-violent position. And that's when I came across this article.

Pacifists are not serious people, although they devoutly believe they are, and their arguments are not being taken seriously at the moment.
Well, it's good to see his conclusions at the outset. I hope he shows his work...

It is worth it, first of all, because the idea of peace is inherently attractive
True....go on.

because the reactionary left-liberal crowd in America and in Europe has already staked out its ground here:
Tell us how you really feel...

What happened to America is America's fault, the fruits of foolish arrogance and greedy imperialism, racism, colonialism, etc., etc. From this rises an argument that the resulting war is also an exercise in arrogance and imperialism, etc., and not deserving of support.
In the case of America, a history of violence in the name of protecting others could have to do with the "Death to America" sentiment in the Middle East prior to 9/11. And this hatred proved fertile ground for violence directed towards us. We decide, of course, to respond with more violence. And decide to topple Iraq as well, despite it having no relevance to the attack received, thus lending more credibility to the "arrogance and imperialism" justification for hating us (if that was the actual reason...we really don't know).

Of course, this is the problem with paranoia, idiocy, and an over-reliance on violence and military strength, but it does not necessarily mean that pacifism is any better.

Pacifists see themselves as obviously on the side of a higher morality,
And I assume that this is a significant problem, because if they think that pacifism is of such incredible importance in determining whether they can call themselves "moral", which means that they will be hard pressed to abandon it when necessary. Arrogance, stubbornness, and a sense of moral superiority tend to go hand-in-hand-in-hand.

Two wrongs don't make a right; violence only begets more violence.
This is primarily true. And violence does only beget more violence...unless you wipe out everyone who gives a damn about it, and then decide to become (dramatic pause) pacifists.

So, for instance, a German citizen who declined to fight for the Nazi cause could be seen (although not likely by his family and friends) as occupying the moral position.
Why is it moral to refuse to fight for the Nazi cause, exactly? If he is German, and in the midsts of war, it is suicide to refuse to help the army fend off other countries now that Hitler had plunged headfirst into pissing off of the entire planet, and it is immoral to allow whatever unknown fates might await his loved ones and the defenseless populace, due to his own wish to have the moral high-ground. Saying "Nazis bad" isn't good enough.

But in the situation where one's nation has been attacked — a situation such as we are now in — pacifism is, inescapably and profoundly, immoral. Indeed, in the case of this specific situation, pacifism is on the side of the murderers, and it is on the side of letting them murder again.
This is the crux of matter: under what situations is pacifism is a moral position along with a tenable solution, and under what situation is it tantamount to appeasement or outright suicide? It is actually rather hard to tell, but what the author is trying to imply is that violence is a solution, and pacifism is only a route to victimization, in situations where you, yourself, are subjected to violence. As a general rule, violence being justified as a response to UNPROVOKED violence works, but, unfortunately, it tends to lend into the "violence begets violence" cycle due to varying perspectives. Which is our situation now: we have responded to the initial terrorist attacks in a manner that not only escalated it, but involved parties beyond the initial culprits, thus making us the unprovoked attackers of Iraq, and continuing to justify their own violence by remaining there.

In this case, pacifism would be best, because continuing to battle against a bunch of citizens who are only fighting us due to our insistence on continuing to battle is, in fact, immoral and idiotic.

The Nazis wished the British to not fight. If the British did not fight, the Nazis would conquer Britain.
Though diplomacy would be ideal, in a situation where you are in imminent and undeniable danger due to the overbearing presence of an individual or person who is making clear their intent to harm you, violence is also justified. Unfortunately, I would argue that responding to a threat is less justified, but more safe, than responding to actual violence, due to the ability of paranoia to leak in and turn every person or nation you interact with into an "imminent threat" (see: Iraq again).

Organized terrorist groups have attacked America. These groups wish the Americans to not fight. The American pacifists wish the Americans to not fight. If the Americans do not fight, the terrorists will attack America again. And now we know such attacks can kill many thousands of Americans. The American pacifists, therefore, are on the side of future mass murders of Americans. They are objectively pro-terrorist.
Ridiculous. Tell me which "pacifists" are not supporting us pursuing bin Laden, and I will concede. Otherwise, you are conflating "wishing the Americans to not fight" with "wishing the Americans would not fight people and countries unrelated to the terror attacks we are responding to". We are not fighting terror anymore. We are provoking people into defending their homes.

The rest of his article is pretty much the same as the above.
Of course, I ran across another article on the subject: a strange article that spends its first half in some hypothetical anecdote scenario where a mugger robs and kills a man who is unwilling to fight back due to being a pacifist, and then mugs another guy who pulls out a gun and shoots him. It is kind of funny if it weren't, you know, kind of contrived. But then, he goes for the nut meat.

The Pacifist claims that he (or she) is too good to fight against evil, and this is the catastrophic intellectual and moral failure of Pacifism. In the guise of being too good to oppose evil, the Pacifist invokes the ultimate immorality by aiding and abetting and encouraging evil, on the pretext of being too pure, too wise, too sophisticated to fight evil,
This is essentially true. Except, I disagree with the idea that "evil" is a clear and pervasive enough of a force for pacifism to be truly wrong. Full-blown pacifism in a scenario involving "evil" however, would indeed be immoral. So I suggest pacifism in moderation; within reason. Pacifism is only a virtue when there are people who are willing to respond to non-violent methods of problem-solving. When they are not, and clearly so, or when it is not possible due to time constraints and the threat of violence, then pacifism should be put on hold. But, keep in mind, if you start thinking that everyone is "evil" and use that as an excuse to use excessive violence, you may have suddenly become the problem yourself, and you better damn well wish that the person who sets you straight is a rational pacifist rather than a paranoid vigilante like yourself.

“There is nothing good worth fighting for. And there is nothing so evil worth fighting against.”
This is the problem with the pacifist. There are things good enough worth fighting for, and there are things evil enough worth fighting against. It is just nigh impossible to tell what those things are with certainty, and it is ideal to try to acheive them through non-violent ends, lest we ourselves become someone else's "evil". As a general rule, your own life is "good" enough to fight for (but not at the cost of other lives), and someone threatening to kill you with sincerity and with the methods of doing so is "evil" enough to fight against (but not at the cost of other lives). If you fight, and it turns out that the good was in no danger, and the evil was non-existent, then you may learn why pacifism is useful in situtations where it is practical and possible.

In order to be a Pacifist, one must hold that Nazism or Islamism or Communism or any other puritanical totalitarian ideology that seeks to slaughter or oppress all the Jews or all of any other race or tribe is no worse, is not morally inferior, to the existence of Jews and Judaism,
LOLWUT? If one is a pacifist, one supports peaceful solutions and does not think that violence is good. Those oppressive and murderous regimes are violent, and the victims are not. So, pacifists hold the victims as morally superior to the killers. Or am I missing something?

For the Pacifist devoutly believes that by refusing to fight against evil he is affirming that he is good, too good and pure to oppose evil, too good and pure to fight evil, to good and pure to kill evil. But in the end, he is the enabler without whom the triumph of evil would not be possible.
Sigh. It is confirmed: black and white thinker.

Anyway, even if they were a little off-base, the articles were enlightening enough for me to realize that complete pacifism (refusal to use violence at all) is a dangerous position, in that it could be outright suicidal in the wrong circumstances. But, if you take a looser pacifism, and realize that violence is sometimes a necessity, sometimes justified, but should still be used only in desperate, life-threatening situations, as it too often makes martyrs and infuriates friends, then you have got something that is practical and workable. Violence as a last resort, and only when provoked is a rather reasonable policy. I am not quite sure that it would qualify as "pacifism" of any kind, since it effectively seems to be an almost universal principle that all but sociopaths tend to act upon. So, I assume that pacifist may be one less label I need to bother applying to myself.

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