I just re-read a piece that I originally wrote back in 1999 about how I view and relate with pacifism. This piece was printed in the anarcho-pacifist publication "Ahimsa" and then later on was put up on their website as well. I find it interesting to read this piece, because I still basically believe the same things that I say in it, although I would frame it a bit differently, I could elaborate more on things now that I could then, and would not put words IN ALL CAPS as I often did in that piece.
I also find it interesting that I wrote it back before I knew about and got into Nonviolent Communication, Focusing, Vipassana Meditation and Buddhism. These four sets of practices, among others, provide practical real-life "how-to"s for applied pacifism, which is something that I openly admitted to not knowing about in my original piece from 1999.
I definitely see it as being a worthwhile project for me to update my thinking on pacifism, both in writing as well as for myself. And the field of anarcho-pacifism in general is also something that I see as being in great need of an up-date and revamping. Before I can move further with that, however, I do feel as if I personally have some more learning and exploring to do. So in the meantime, I present to you my original piece on "Pacifism" here.
My version of pacifism is very inter-connected with many of my other views and philosophies, so if you want just my pure isolated "pacifism" explained here, you're probably not gonna get it.
Does my pacifism mean that I am against all war? Yes, of course it does. Does my pacifism mean that I am against all physical violence? Yes, of course it does. Does my pacifism mean that I am against all hurting of people? Yes, of course it does.
The very fact that I include these three already is enough to count me as being a pacifist extremist. But, as the rest of my site shows, I am certainly not one to shy away from "extremism".
My form of "pacifism" basically means universal love, respect and solidarity with all people everywhere, no matter what. If you truly do LOVE someone, if you really do RESPECT someone, if you really have SOLIDARITY with someone, it automatically places you in a mind-set that is the furthest thing from that which commits acts of violence and hurt against others. Being in such a mind-set, you make yourself INCAPABLE of hurting others, because you can never seek to hurt that which you really love. My form of pacifism means seeing the beauty, uniqueness and commonality within ALL people. It means the elimination of ALL concepts of "goods guys" and "bad guys". It means the elimination of the entire "Us vs. Them" mentality. It is the recognition that ALL humanity is already the "Us" and that to solve our problems we need to change OURSELVES rather than seeking to change OTHERS. The minute you view another person as an "outsider", as a Them, then you automatically write off their humanity and make them become expendable in your mind. By mentally distancing and alienating people in such a way, you instantly loose the ability to empathize with them, thus making yourself capable of hurting them in various ways without feeling a thing.
My form of pacifism is an extension of my anarchism, or, my anarchism is an extension of my pacifism, you can look at it from either angle. I believe that it is a basic human instinct, an innate psychological defense mechanism, to resist forms of authority being imposed on you. To fight back against being controlled is natural. I view Authority as being a kind of spiritual disease. The minute Authority invades our psyche, we are willing and able to do anything to fight back against it, no matter how insane or violent it may be. Therefore a kind of spiritual self-healing needs to take place, where all forms of Authority are eliminated from your mind and soul, and from your actions with others as a result. Once you eliminate your authoritarian actions towards others, you make their self-healing process easier as well, as well as eliminating some of the roots of violence and hurt in the world.
So, getting back to "the real world" and "practical matters", what does one do about "self-defence" and dealing with the violent and hurtful behavior of others? Well, in terms of the hurtful and antagonistic behavior of others, I think that an approach of love, acceptance, and trying to understand the other person's side and where they are coming from is necessary. It does not matter how others' response to this is. Regardless of if they change their hurtful behavior or not, what is important is that you maintain your positive peaceful and loving stance no matter what. One person's hurtful attitude never justifies yet another hurtful attitude to be taken. As long as you are doing all that you can within your own personal boundaries to add love, compassion, etc to the world, that is all that matters. To feel otherwise, and be let down by the behavior of others is ultimately an Authoritarian attitude. Because, by doing this, you are seeking to CONTROL other people's attitudes, actions and feelings, which is intrinsically wrong and leads to more violence and hurt, as I said earlier.
As far as "Self-defense" goes, I think that EVERY POSSIBLE EFFORT should be strenuously put into making a non-authority-based, peaceful, loving and respectful social relations, society, culture, environment, etc. But, when the "inevitable"(as the pessimists call it) act of actual real-life violence actually occurs and is right there in front of you, what do you do? Well, I do not know, to be honest. Life is to a large degree a SITUATIONAL and CIRCUMSTANTIAL thing, each particular individual instance is unique and different in it's own way. I say that one's own personal individual judgment is needed in such situations, but that a primary non-violent, non-authoritarian ethical code should ALWAYS be in place as the foundation for all actions and decisions. A variety of different options exist for actual violent cases.
- Number one should be talking and communication.
- Then there is always the "wimp" tactics of hiding and running away.
- There are also a number of non-violent martial arts self-defense tactics and disciplines that one can use.
- And there is ultimately the "human shield" and "martyr" options that one can take, which is always noble, but not necessarily always "practical".
The choice is always YOURS, but I say that a basic non-violent foundation to ALL your thoughts and actions is always necessary.
So, how do you "get things done" with pacifism? How do things really "work" if you operate in such a way? My answer is, I really don't care. I view the ETHICS of pacifism and non-authority as being of primary importance, and the nitty gritty of getting things to "work" as being secondary. If we all die in the process, so be it, as long as we have lived an ethical life. "Give me liberty or give me death!"
I think one of the greatest mistakes of many pacifists and radicals is the using of pacifism as a "tactic," as a way to get others to do what you want. I think Gandhi started a lot of it, and many radicals have taken his example and have even put themselves in harm's way to get others to do what they want. Many people call this kind of pacifism "leading by example". I think that this kind of pacifism is bullshit. Pacifism to me is primarily an ETHIC, a way to live your life. If you look at it in terms of "tactics," you miss the very ESSENCE of what it is all about. It does not matter IF you get there, what matters is HOW you get there. Also, using pacifism as a way to control people, as a way to "lead" people (albeit non-violently) is also inherently wrong, since it is wrong to control people in ANY form. To try to do so naturally leads to counter behavior from those who are trying to be controlled. Controlling people, whether initially using violence or no violence, inevitably leads to violence.
Also, I do not see pacifism as necessarily being detached from "reality" and "practical" life. I think that people naturally respond positively to behavior that is non-threatening and views and treats them respectfully as equals and does not seek to control or manipulate them in any way. I think that the only time when people do NOT respond naturally positive to such behavior, is when they are personally in the midst of dealing with the spiritual disease of Authority and are not left in the most "social" of moods as a result. Sort of like how when one is physically ill, you do not think and inter-act with others in the best of ways, the same goes with the spiritual disease of Authority and the symptoms of hurtfulness and violence that is causes.
Pacifism, love, empathy and anarchy are the natural state of people, it is this commonality that we all share that we need to go back to, broaden, understand - and most of all LIVE in our own personal lives and with others, in order for us all to have peaceful and loving lives.