Pacifism And The Escalation Of Violence

One night there was a discussion amongst my friends about pacifism; it revolved around the passage in the Bible that says to turn the other cheek when struck. The common interpretation is that one should “humble they self” even further, however that is not necessarily historically accurate.  The type of strike is that of a master to a slave; a right arm backhand against the right side of the victims face.  By turning the other cheek it is not a sign of submission but rather one of defiance against one who presumes to be your master.  By the simple act of turning and revealing the left side, one has overturned the master-slave hierarchy without resorting to violence.  The attacker must now either strike you as he would an equal and thus legitimate claims of equality or back down from further acts of violence.

The verses continue with other examples of revolt that are commonly mistaken by modern readers as showing weakness or submission. Such as that about carrying a pack two miles if asked/forced to carry it.  According to Roman law it was illegal for a Roman soldier to make someone carry his pack more than one mile.  Thus if the individual that is forced to carry the pack takes it further he is causing the soldier to break the law and creating the threat of ejection from the military and thus his source of power.
The third is about if one is sued for their shirt they should give their coat also.  In a society where nudity was highly offensive the act of going topless would be an insult to the person who took the clothing as much as it would be for the one who lost them.
This discussion inevitably led to modern day applications of such defiance pacifism on the macro political scale.  An example of the opposite was put forth that (despite any distaste we may have for it) the preemptive violent actions of nation states against those they perceived as potential threats often succeeded in preventing escalated violence.  However, I can not agree with this conclusion because I DO NOT BELIEVE VIOLENCE CAN STOP VIOLENCE.  A POTENTIAL ENEMY IS NOT ACTUALLY AN ENEMY AT ALL UNTIL ONE SIDE COMMITS AN ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST THE OTHER JUST AS A WAR WILL NEVER END UNTIL VIOLENCE CEASES. [oops… unintended caps but I like the effect]
“But how”, it was posited, “can pacifism stop violence?” and I must admit it cant. So what is the point? Well, actually there are two points.
Point one is that if you adhere to pacifism there is a good chance that no violence will occur.  However, if you act on preemption , violence is guaranteed and your chance of avoiding violence directed toward you is not actually eradicated only potentially decreased.
Point two is that violence begets violence, if one nation state attacks another because they see them as a potential threat then all potential threats must be dealt with in the same manner.  Any sign of weakness and that country will become a target for retaliatory violence.  The same is true on an individual level.
Though pacifism may not be able to prevent all violence from occurring it can stop the escalation of violence.
  The person who had pointed out these concepts was Jim, thus it was no surprise that when he spoke on Wednesday night his discourse on life was tightly intertwined with the concepts of social justice and non-violence.  These are things that are very important to me personally and I believe (whether you realize it or not) that they are central to the philosophy that we are creating for the Atangard Community Project.
– dan

1 thought on “Pacifism And The Escalation Of Violence”

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *