Peace In Our Time- A Pacifist

I was reading through the comments on Simply Put on the following post and was struck by Bill, who is an avowed pacifist.

I’d like to grab just a couple of them to remark upon. I’d also like to make clear that I am not doing this to mock or ridicule him. I appreciate someone who stands upon their convictions.

“First we teach our children that it is better to walk away from fights when the opposition is an irrational bully.”

This is a wonderful sentiment and well worth teaching our children, but we also need to teach them that sometimes the irrational bully will keep coming after you. They need to know how to walk away and when to stand their ground.

“We treat revenge as something deplorable and make such crimes of passion illegal.

Someone attacks me I get a bigger stick and hit them, then they get a bigger stick and so on and so on.

Aggression breeds aggression.

Its like the old Itchy and Scratchy cartoon on the Simpsons. The cat hits the mouse the mouse hits the cat they each get bigger weapons each time. It’s a great satire on violence, but is it funny?”

Again in concept I agree with most of this, but I think that it is important to remember that you cannot always apply the same solution to every situation. There are people who operate by a different moral code than our own and that requires us to be flexible and to adapt to the situations as necessary.

“Self defence in my view does not need to include killing your opponent.”

I agree completely with this and think that it is important to live this way as much as possible.

“Also I think that appeasement of Hitler by Chamberlain while being uneffective just delayed the war that was inevitable. I’m not sure Chamberlain was a villain. All he was guilty of was to try peace when peace was impossible.”

There are a couple of things to consider here. First, had Chamberlain stood up to Hitler it is possible that many lives could have been saved. It is important to recognize who and what we are dealing with in every situation. I wouldn’t call Chamberlain a villain but I might call him a fool.

There are times where you cannot sit idly and watch those around you act. There are people in the world who see pacifism as weakness and they will respond accordingly. There is a time for peace and sadly a time for war.

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7 Comments

  1. Jack's Shack July 20, 2005 at 7:04 am

    Zeruel,

    If Hitler had focused his efforts things might have been different. If Chamberlain had stood his ground things might have been different. If FDR had bombed the railroad tracks/camps (as requested)the Nazis might not have been able to murder as many people.

    Interesting questions, but no answers.

    I still see Churchill as a man who rose to the occasion.

  2. Stephen (aka Q) July 20, 2005 at 1:30 am

    I think there’s some merit in Zeruel’s argument, except it overlooks one highly significant point.

    It’s true that England was not in a position to go to war against Germany, so it was rational to avoid a conflict.

    The problem is, Chamberlain was also philosophically committed to pacifism / appeasement as a diplomatic strategy. As a result, England was actively disarming even as the Nazis were manufacturing planes and munitions at a ferocious rate.

    The first great contribution Churchill made to the war effort was to reverse that policy. Before he became Prime Minister, he was already instrumental in persuading England to start arming for war.

    As a result, Britain had barely enough fire power to hold the Nazis at bay when it finally came to war.

    Chamberlain was guilty of bad policy decisions that could have been disastrous. And Churchill is justifiably remembered as a hero — even if his character flaws were as oversized as his laudable traits.
    Q

  3. Zeruel July 20, 2005 at 12:17 am

    Chamberlain was succeded by the historically acclaimed Churchill. But who was he really? Churchill was a bed-ridden alcoholic with a narcissistic personality whose judgment ran through an empty bottle of whisky. England was part of an allied assault against Germany, not Churchills ‘bravery’ but the combined western forces was what dealt crippling blows to Hitlers empire. An allied front that wasn’t there when chamberlain occupied Downing Street.

    If Hitler made an agreement with Stalin, which was a reasonable option if Hitler’s megalomany wasn’t blown up in his face due to his amphetamine habits, allied ambitions might have deflected under the sheer strength of German forces.

    As with all things in life circumstance was ultimately the decisive factor in the second world war. If nazi forces weren’t stretched from east to west allied efforts would’ve confronted a nazi Germany doubled in strength and history might had a different outcome. Allied losses were already dramatically high, if Germany concentrated all war efforts on the western front i don’t know if the allies would have won.

  4. Jack's Shack July 19, 2005 at 11:26 pm

    And who says that the British didn’t spend time standing alone. Chamberlain gave it up and he did not give a fight.

  5. Zeruel July 19, 2005 at 11:23 pm

    It shows of little historic understanding to make Chamberlain look like a coward because he ‘appeased’ Hitler when he confiscated Sudetenland. What were the alternatives? The US didn’t want to get involved in conflict with Germany, Stalin was still on speaking terms with Hitler. If Britain provoked Germany into action they would have stood alone and they would have been crushed.

    Historically the Munchen agreement might be considered cowardice, in reality it was no more than a logic self-preserving strategy.

    If you want to translate it to current conflicts then do it correctly: do you want to attack a regime and destroy yourself in the process? The answer to anybody who isn’t masochistic would be ‘no’.

  6. Jack's Shack July 18, 2005 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks that was a remarkably civil way of disagreeing with my point of view (no sarcasm intended).

    Pacifists often get called naive or simplistic. If I am reading your post correctly, you are simply saying pacifism does not work in all situations.
    This I accept as an unfortunate truth at the moment, but equally as true is the logic behind pacifism. If all persons were pacifists would there be war? The answer is simply no.

    Hi Bill,

    I think that there is room for multiple perspectives. I think that pacfists get labeled as naive/simplistic because many have tried to make the case that the fighting would cease if one side would refuse to respond. It is a nice sentiment but not practical or realistic.

    I appreciate that you seem to have taken time to consider your position as opposed to some people who act in kneejerk fashion.

    If humankind evolves beyond war and I hope one day it will, then pacifism will succeed. I think we must first believe in a world without war. If we don’t accept that pacifism can work in all circumstances we may never get to this point and may have to accept that war is in the nature of humans. War would thus be eternal and inevitable.I like to think better of the species.

    I think pacifism starts with the individual, one member of the species at a time.

    Ok, this makes sense to me but I disagree. It is sensible to say that pacifism starts with one person and spreads from there. It is also sensible to say that if everyone bought into it then there would be no need for war as well as to suggest that it is a more progressive point of view.

    But the problem is that while we all may want to be progressive we are faced with situations in which ideology will not allow this.

    The radical Islamists will tell you that if you agree to live under their interpretation of Sharia there will be no war and only peace. But I cannot accept their definition of how we are supposed to live. I cannot accept their complete and utter disregard for values that I hold to be dear and because of this they are unwilling to leave me alone.

    Now we could make a case that it will take time for them to establish enough of a presence to get to me, that it could be decades before myself and my family were within their reach and that we would be better served to let them go about their business until it becomes absolutely necessary to deal with them.

    I think that this is a flawed position because you are being painted into a corner. You are being forced to assume a position and then react based upon their behavior. We know what their goals/objectives are based upon their words (written and verbal) and with this knowledge we can be proactive.

    And I think that this is one of those situations that requires a proactive stance. If we let them set the terms we risk more than if we try and work with them to establish those terms.

    So while I applaud your efforts and am happy to support them (including recruiting more likeminded folk) I must also support those who are willing to protect those rights until such time as that protection becomes unnecessary.

  7. Bill July 18, 2005 at 7:07 pm

    Thanks that was a remarkably civil way of disagreeing with my point of view (no sarcasm intended).

    Pacifists often get called naive or simplistic. If I am reading your post correctly, you are simply saying pacifism does not work in all situations.

    This I accept as an unfortunate truth at the moment, but equally as true is the logic behind pacifism. If all persons were pacifists would there be war? The answer is simply no.

    If humankind evolves beyond war and I hope one day it will, then pacifism will succeed. I think we must first believe in a world without war. If we don’t accept that pacifism can work in all circumstances we may never get to this point and may have to accept that war is in the nature of humans. War would thus be eternal and inevitable.I like to think better of the species.

    I think pacifism starts with the individual, one member of the species at a time.

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