Make sure you know the rules of engagement before reading on…
Anecdote from a Pacifist:
“First, it must be emphasized that nonviolent resistance is not a method for cowards; it does resist. If one uses this method because he is afraid or merely because he lacks the instruments of violence, he is not truly nonviolent…. A second basic fact that characterizes nonviolence is that it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding….The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr. “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” in Stride Toward Freedom (on Amazon)
Etymology of Pacifisim
“Pacifism” comes from the French pacifisme from pacifier meaning to “pacify” like our Pacific Ocean and also like our modern pacifiers that we use in order to quiet screaming children rather abusing or ignoring them. Pacifier descended from the Old French pacefier which came from the Latin pacificare based on pax meaning “peace.” A pacifist resists war by using weapons of peace.
Three famous people who practiced Pacifism:
- Christ Jesus of Nazareth
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- Jim Elliot
List of terms: Who? Where? When? Why? How?
- Who pacifies? Those who cannot stomach injustice and war.
- Where pacify? In the same local and demographic as the oppressed—civilians abused by war or violence. This is called “standing in solidarity,” where the pacifist lives among those who suffer.
- When pacify? For a long time, years or decades until the injustice done to the oppressed shames the oppressor into submission.
- Why pacify? “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” – Martin Luther King
- How pacify? This is the hardest part of pacifism because, though effective, it takes tremendous creativity to invent a third way to fight. This is why most pacifistic movements fail without a visionary like King to initiate human road blocks, Ghandi to initiate mass sit-ins, or Jesus to show ways of protesting like “turn the other cheek” in a culture that shames with backhands, dignifies with fistfights, and refuses under any circumstances to smack with the left hand, the hand of toiletries. Creativity, if it thrives, invents ways of fighting back without the sword.
Three positive tendencies of Pacifism:
- Refuses to solve issues of violence, injustice and oppression through the means of violence, injustice, and oppression itself.
- Never causes “accidental civilian casualties”
- Effective means of ending violence, injustice and oppression even though it takes longer than would killing off every living soul in the area. Expect a timeline of 10 years to a generation to become effective. This is why they say, “Patience is a virtue,” because there’s power in patience, what the ancients called God: “long-suffering.”
Three negative tendencies of Pacifism:
- The term “pacifism” causes confusion because of how similar it sounds to the term “passive”
- Nonviolent resistance takes a very… long… time…
- It takes many bold, visionary people to achieve the desired effects—and bold, visionary people are typically in short supply. You may find boldness to act. You may find vision for arguing the ideal of Pacifism, but rarely will you find both in the initial group that catalyzes a movement.
Healers like the cheerleader in Heroes who run into burning buildings but never use violence. The scene from X-Men 2 where Wolverine disarms a cop by simply rising from death, his claws sheathed.
The Power of Nonviolence edited by Howard Zinn (on Amazon)