A Dialogue

"The force and momentum for change in society should be non-violent" - A Discussion

Pacivism encourages debate, and as we talk, we consider and learn from one another. The most challenging discussions occur with those we have little in common with: those who have harmed us, those we have harmed, and those we consider our enemies. Discuss the issues raised on this page with your family, friends and colleagues - return to this page to renew discussion.

There are many reasons why humans are violent. An individual or a group (a nation) may be insecure which leads to a tendency of greed, power, and an assertion of strength. These issues are reviewed on the page Understanding Conflict. This page is dedicated to the arguements for and against non-violence as a means of resolving conflict.

Arguments for Pacifism

The cost of war is too great

The appalling loss of life, the significant economic costs, the destruction of physical and social infrastructure, the depletion of natural resources, and the provision to re-build makes the cost of war too high.

Defense spending is higher today than at any time since the height of World War II. The US Pentagon for example spends more on war than health, education, welfare, and safety across the country.

Meeting violence with violence does not lead to long term peace

Moral and religious texts have taught that meeting violence with violence leads to further violence.

War does not resolve territorial differences which remain for years after a war has been 'won'.

Although victories won through the use of force may lead to a cessation of hostilities in the short term, resentment remains in the vanquished and often leads to renewed conflict over the long term.

War endangers non-combatants

Despite attempts to limit "collateral damage" civilians of all ages are killed in times of war. Supporters of war acknowledge that innocent casualties are inevitable and accept responsibility for each innocent life that is lost.

The threat of conflict is an opportunity for positive change

No society is perfect. When war is threatened, many people become caught up in supporting 'their side' despite its faults.

Negotiating a peaceful settlement provides opportunities to consider those things that can be changed that may be beneficial to all parties.

War is wasteful

When a single child is killed, a potential teacher, a doctor, inventor, composer, a farmer, baker or fireman is killed.

Each human has immense promise to make the world a better place. Each death in war represents an immeasurable loss to us all.

War dehumanizes

In times of war a human's capacity for brutality, cruelty, revenge, vengeance, and vindictiveness is heightened.

The control of conscience is tempered by the threat of danger and the need to survive.

War causes suffering and instability

A direct result of war is that homelessness, sorrow, disease, and consequential death significantly increases.

Large migrations of refugees need to find new places to live, and this adds further pressure on nearby nations to areas of violent conflict.

The importance of pacifism in times of peace

The idea of pacifism, and of seeking non-violent solutions to disputes between nations, plays a significant part in international politics, particularly through the work of the United Nations.

The importance of pacifism in times of war

In times of war pacifists continue their opposition by campaigning against the cruelties and excesses of war - the maltreatment and torture of prisoners, the bombing of civilians, and the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

War destroys and has no regard for other species or the environment

War is a human behaviour which is destructive. In addition to the loss of life, irreplaceable historical and cultural treasures are eradicated in the destruction of war.

As war is human-centred it has no regard for other species, nor the impact or well being of the environment.

Pacifism is noble and nurtures hope

Pacifists argue there is always an alternative to violent conflict.

Showing self control and offering positive choices in the face of danger nurtures hope for a better world.

Arguments Against Pacifism

Pacifism fails to resist aggression and tyranny

It is a responsibility of a nation's citizens to resist and defend a nation against tyranny and aggression.

People can pretend to be pacifists

As it is not possible to prove intention, it is easy for someone to claim they are a pacifist with the intention of avoiding their civic responsibility to defend a nation.

Pacifists are cowardly

Pacifists fail in their national duty and lack the courage to endure the dangers of war.

Pacifism can not be adopted as a national policy

In order for a nation to survive it must at times defend itself with force.

War is sometimes morally right

World religions have sanctioned "just" and "holy" wars as part of their role, thus making war ethical.

Pacifism is an unrealistic and idealistic belief

Pacifism has an unrealistic optimistic view of human possibilities in the social realm.

Although pacifism may be principled, it does not take account of the real world where the only strategy to counter brutality and cruelty is with force.

Sitting back and doing nothing is morally wrong

Opposition to the excesses of war are not the preserve of the pacifist.

Pacifism cannot be national policy

Pacifism as national policy for a nation is not possible as it will only work if no-one wants to attack, or the nation with whom you are in dispute is also committed to pacifism.

War is sometimes necessary to defend those things the people value most in their nation.

Adopting a pacifist stance results in a country rapidly being conquered.

States have a duty to protect its citizens

States may only flourish when their citizens live in extended times of stability and peace. A strong national defensive capability is therefore essential.

Pacifism has no place in the face of extreme evil

In 1941 an editorial in the Times Literary Supplement wrote: "We have discovered that there is something more horrible than war - the killing of the spirit in the body, the Nazi contempt for the individual man.

The world reeks with the foulness of the crimes in occupied Europe, where a Dark Age has begun anew."

There are times when people have a moral obligation to fight in war.

Adopting A Position

It is crucial both sides of the argument approach one another's opinions with respect, and think openly and honestly about the issues.

Pacifism raises uncomfortable moral and social dilemmas that are at the root of identity and nationhood.

It is invaluable to consider and revisit opposing views to adequately interrogate ones own.

Humans are essentially social animals, and when something threatens their way of life, their impulse is to act.

A crucial role of the pacifist is to counter the momentum of potential armed conflict.

Pacifism requires that humans exert control, and this is opposed to our defensive instinct which is magnified in times of crises.