EdgeWise 5.3.2004


Pacifism Practicalities: Limits and Minimums

Is calling the police hypocritical for a pacifist? Is supporting or relying on a military defense force hypocritical? I don't think so for two reasons.

First, nonviolent coercion is not inconsistant with Pacifism. Physically subduing criminals or the insane is not hypocritical, nor is relying on police to do it for you. Not all of us have sufficient strength and martial arts skills to nonviolently physically subdue someone, and we can hope that the professionals are better equipped with both.

The second reason is more controversial. A peace corps volunteer I know was unable to stay a vegetarian during her stay in an isolated South American village. The available diet possibilities was just too limited in a society that didn't accomodate such a commitment. Her committment to vegetarianism did not become a sham when others made it unworkable. Similarly, if a society or individuals make maintaining a commitment to nonviolence impossible to maintain, it does not render that committment hypocritical or a sham. A warzone, or a country filled with armed bandits, is not conducive to a pacifist lifestyle. A really proactive pacifist would leave such a country or society if at all possible.
posted at 14:54:40    #    comment []    trackback []

Culture Wars Are Over: Lay Down Your Arms!

In the recent discussion over Gay Marriage (which I support by the way) and the Federal Marriage Amendment (which I oppose), there has been a lot of talk of the "Culture Wars". This is a mistake, regardless of your position on anything else.

Using the rhetoric of war elevates the urgency of action, and obliviates the need to justify (moral, effectiveness, etc.) any such action. "All is fair in Love and War" as the saying goes. Using national wars as an analogy implies that there is a demarcation between different cultures along ideological lines. This encourages an us-vs-them mentality and an unrealistic overgeneralization of individuals. These promote hatred.

If you are from the "Deep South" you do not necessarily have a specific platform of ideological positions that distinguish you from the "Northeast". It is easier to stereotype the beliefs of groups that are less geographic and more ideological, such as "religious fundamentalists" but even these groups have nebulous aggregate perspectives.

In reality, culture educes, it does not coerce. There is no war in culture. There are conflicts between cultures, as there are between any differing perspectives. However, individuals that identify with one cultural group cannot be painted with the same brush.

Specific criticism of specific ideas or individuals is the best way to avoid giving into hatred. Each action needs to be justified on it's own merits (effectiveness, cost-benefit, etc.).

Besides, even if there was a "cultural war", how could anyone possibly win it? Victory is consensus, and consensus cannot be coerced.
posted at 11:29:52    #    comment []    trackback []
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