Exploring Pacifism, Pt. 2

As I begin to explore the issue of pacifism in greater depth, I do hope that you, my readers and discussion partners, will show civility and patience. As we are all aware, this is a very touchy subject for some and oftentimes when this issue is addressed in the public forum, emotions can override common sense and zeal can overtake civility and thoughtfulness. Remember, this is an "exploration" of pacifism and as such, I do not believe I already have all the answers. Just as well, I choose the term "exploration," because this is a viewpoint I hold but which I want to see if I can substantiate further, especially, as I said in Pt. 1, from social, economic, historical, theological, philosophical, exegetical and other vantage points. In addition, I would say that regardless of your viewpoint on this matter already, I think that pacifists and non-pacifists alike should admit that within their belief systems there are tensions; neither belief system is without its debatable points! This being the case, however, does not mean that both are equal or that it is not a matter worth discussing.

It might seem beneficial to begin by defining pacifism, however, this is a definition I'm still working out and until I have a clear-cut definition, I do not want to offer a definition. I should be able to give a definition soon, however. So, here, I want to start by exploring the topic of violence. It seems to me that at the core of violence is the belief that if one can physically manipulate an other, then they will not be subject to that other's will. Thus, when we get into macro-level, large-scale issues like war, we see this viewpoint intensified; one country physically manipulates another so as to make them the subjects of their will. Typically, the manipulated subject will strike back with violence, even if in defense, so as to make their manipulator their subject. Ironically, though, when the defender strikes back, they must use more violence than their attacker! Thence begins the escalatory cycle of violence on an international level. The result of this massive amount of violence is basically, whoever has does the most damage or kills the most first or until the other one gives up, wins.

The adoption of violence as an ethic, is very troubling to me personally. On a macro-level, the results are beyond devastating! At this juncture, the average person would make the jump from the macro-cosmic view and ask, "But what if someone was breaking into your home and attempting to hurt your spouse or children, would you not do all you needed to, even use violence, to stop the intruder?" To such an inquiry I would suggest that it is fallacious to compare the macro-level example to the micro-level one. For starters, in the macro-level example, the first attacker is initiating violence with the view to doing so on a massive level. This is not the intent of an intruder. Secondly, on the macro-level, the attacking nation is launching their assault with the hopes of making their enemy their subject forever. An intruder into a home does not generally have the mentality that he or she will make the victim their subject forever.

Thirdly, I think it is a misnomer to suggest that the massive level of killing on the international level is the equivalent to that of the mirco-level. Fourthly, destroying cities, ruining economies, destabilizing countries and killing on a large scale level, is not all that comparable to a house being broken into or an individual being harmed. Fifthly, it would seem to me that there is a difference between the use of temporary force and lethal force. Breaking an intruder's leg or using force to tie him up until the authorities arrive is not even comparable to dropping bombs on a nation, especially when hundreds of thousands of civilians who are totally removed from the situation may be harmed. For all these reasons and more, the jump cannot just be made from the macro-level example to the micro-level one!

I think this is a very important point to make at the outset because in general, this is the first response by the non-pacifist to the pacifist. However, the logical and comparative leap just cannot be made so easily. Further, in the micro-level example it is always assumed that no sort of agreement can be worked out between intruder / attacker and victim. However, there are many examples which would suggest otherwise. Off the top of my head, I think of police negotiating with someone who has taken people hostage or of several examples where someone spoke a conscience-convicting word to the attacker and the attacker just stopped. The point I am making is that violence and responses to violence are circumstantial and given the many and varying types of violence (physical, emotional, educational, spiritual, economic, political, etc.), it is problematic to just leap from one example to the next as if they were equally comparable.

Having made the above points, I feel like I am in a position to begin to talk about power, especially as it exists in relationship to violence. In my next post, then, it is likely that I will address this matter. I look forward to hearing thoughts from others and exploring the depths of these matters with you all. For now, feel free to respond to the thoughts above (in a civil manner). Grace and peace. -TMWH

No comments:

Post a Comment