Wednesday, January 22, 2014

On Pacifism

In writing up my post on Quakers, I decided I wanted to write a bit more about my thoughts on pacifism.

Back in 2011, I went and visited the Battleship Texas. Surprisingly, this is what planted the seed for pacifism in my mind. As I was walking around that ship that is a marvel of engineering, I was simply astounded by the effort that went into killing people. I just started to wonder what we could have done with all of that effort had we put it towards construction instead of destruction.

For some reason, thinking about pacifism makes me very uncomfortable. I think there are two main reasons for this.

  • I've always been interested in military history and strongly believed in "just" wars.
  • A lot of my personality is "violent". It's not that I go around punching people, but I used to get very angry easily, I make jokes about violence, and just make comments that objectively are "violent" but most people wouldn't really think this is the case.
These reasons make it hard to reconcile pacifism. However, I think pacifism is more than strict violence, it's about having your default response to people be one of kindness, not aggression.

The "pure" pacifism view is that there's never a reason for violence. I think a quote I heard from Penn Jillette sums this up nicely, "The ends do not justify the means. Because there are no ends, there are only means." In this context, you will never truly get to a place of peace through violence.

I think I'm still in the camp that there is a time and place for violence, but those should be significantly less frequent than they are in American society today. I also think it's a worthy goal for everyone to simply be more kind to everyone else. Having "violent" thoughts and attitudes gets in the way of this.

To get more towards the state of being kind to everyone, I think it's about approaching the natural. I don't need to flip a switch and become your end state. I can take small steps like simply adjusting my language and mannerisms to be more in line with that end state.


Mandy Kubicek said...

I was really hoping for a link to wikipedia on Pacifism. Guess I'll have to Google it myself...

Matthew Brand said...

Fixed :)