I’ve heard a lot of the arguments for and against various forms of pacifism. I say various forms because not all pacifist arguments stem from the moral dimension. Some, notably a few British pacifists during WW2, stem instead from a numbers argument from a campaign of pacifist non-cooperation with occupiers instead of fighting in a war. For them the success/failure was determined by the ending body counts. A problem with this is the concentration camps of WW2. Six-million Jews were killed and they largely cooperated with the Nazis. Cooperation with evil will get you killed.
This morning I had parked my truck on one end of PSU campus and took my usual route to class. It is a route that takes me behind work sheds and buildings and along the highway for a stretch. More than once I’ve surprised a graduate student or two sneaking a joint on a bench he thought was otherwise hidden. As I took my usual route to class and I quickly turned a corner around a building’s back side. I was in a spot that was not a tactically sound area to be in. The area was cut-off from foot traffic and it was next to the highway making calling out for help difficult. It is a good ambush spot.
I turned the corner and found myself suddenly facing a young woman who was walking my direction. I could tell that I had surprised her, but I also thought that I had detected a hint of panic. It seemed to me that she realized the spot she was in. Had I been an aggressor she was not in a good spot to defend herself, and she knew it. But I kept my body language and speed of a sort to convey to her that I was no harm. As I passed her I looked and made eye contact with her, she smiled.
This got me to thinking about people’s arguments about pacifism. I may concede the moral superiority of pacifism in the larger abstract meanings, but I do not hold that it is applicable to the very real and messy lives we live. If everyone lives as a philosopher, an ethicist, then perhaps pacifism could work as an applicable theory. However not everyone operates from such rational standpoints, but instead come from a variety of positions including a selfish tyrannical approach where other’s needs are less important.
As I walked passed the young woman I thought about the state of affairs where a weaker person were at the mercy of the stronger. It is a sad state of affairs that most violent sexual crimes are committed by men against women. Though I have friends who are both pacifist as well as feminist, rarely (if ever) have I heard them tie the two thoughts of pacifism and protection of women together. It would make for an interesting read.
The question is, what prevents me from attacking the woman and what ought she do in preparation for a possible attack? Should she alter her routes? Take defense courses? Learn critical strike zones on the human body? If she were a pacifist, what would her ideology allow her to do to prepare for or ward off an attack by me?
There is one line of thought that says that the difference is me. That I ought to be educated and enlightened about victimizing women, and so on. But what if I am not? What is to hold me back? What forces, if not self regulatory, are there to keep me from attacking this woman? Police protection? I would like to see a good defense of pacifism that is not at the same time anarchist for to have some hierarchy entails some sort of coercion.
Now, I am not advocating violence here. I am curious as to the marriage of, what I see as conflicting ideas. The same people I hear talk about how military might is bad, how war and aggression is always bad, and that pacifism is morally superior and the drive to world peace and holding peace signs, are also telling me how bad it is that women are attacked by men and men ought not to do so. The same people will express rage at stories of rapists and the need to ‘castrate’ them or incarcerate them, or so forth. The rapists, and for that fact the soldiers and other members involved in fighting a war, are viewed almost as ‘sub human’ and were they to disappear completely then life would be all the better. There is no attempt to understand them or to try to identify problems with one’s philosophy.
If my bias isn’t clear, then I’ll outline it. Aggression is bad, but it is not the worse thing. Women are unjustly attacked by men due in part by strength differences alone. Women have the right to walk the same areas that I walk but due to the number of predatory men out there it is unwise for women to do so. I think that a woman who chooses to do so ought to not rely on a moral certainty that her pacifism is correct, but instead train in aikido so that she can thoroughly kick an attacker’s ass should he attempt to get her. Is this fair? No. But is life fair? No.