Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Pacifism

I have always found pacifism as a general philosophy to be profoundly immoral.

Sure, it can make great sense as a tactic for specific political goals, as under the leadership of Ghandi and MLK. But even then, to be rational, it only makes sense when the government to be swayed is responsive to the will of the people and the media is sympathetic to the cause.

But as a universal moral philosophy it fails even by simple utilitarian arguments.

Now ok, I'll certainly grant that someone might be so unwilling to bear the responsibility for the taking of any life, that they refuse to defend their own. Fine.

But inaction carries responsibility for the outcome as well.

For example, suppose out pacifist comes across a madman about to murder a child, and by some stroke of luck, a gun is handy.

What is our pacifist to do? Calling the police is a cop out -- that just transfers the violence to somebody else, and let's also assume they are too far away to arrive in time anyway.

Both action and inaction produce the same final outcome: somebody will be dead, and the pacifist has responsibility for choosing either way -- he cannot wash his hands of it!

Even leaving aside the relative worths or innocence of the different lives that could be lost (the madman's or the child's), imagine now there are 1000 children within easy reach of the madman. Now action by the pacifist, so repugnant to his delicate sensibilities, results in only one "precious" life lost; but inaction produces 1000 dead.

Yet the standard pacifist position is to essentially do nothing and just look away. Arguments to the effect of reasoning with the madman, or interposing one's self, are not going to work; the pacifist just ends up dead too, along with the innocent victim.

Ah, but the "moral high ground" has been preserved! Yippee!

The bottom line is, pacifism fails to stop the spread of Evil.

And in so doing, aids and abets it.

Indeed, pacifism enables Evil.

A Rabbi, reflecting on Ecclesiastes, makes the case for more Hate; some excerpts from an article which should be read in full (he answers all the obvious objections to such a position):
Evil currently stalks the earth because there isn't enough hate.

Moral people, afraid of being poisoned by hate, are becoming indifferent to evil.

The history of the modern world is a history of genocide and the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents. Historian Paul Johnson estimates that at least 100 million civilians were murdered in the 20th century alone by despotic and murderous tyrants. All too many of the murderers, like Pol Pot and Idi Amin, died comfortably in their sleep rather than at the end of a gallows. The world simply could not summon enough hatred of these individuals or their actions to stop them and bring them to justice.

I have heard all the arguments repudiating hate. Hatred is evil. It is the cause of all wars. It consumes the soul of he or she who hates. Silly arguments all.

Hatred is only evil when it is directed at the good and at the innocent. It is positively Godly when it is directed at cold-blooded killers, motivating us to fight and eradicate them before more people die. Hatred does not cause wars, it ends them.

Because Churchill truly hated Hitler, he inspired a nation to put an end to his blitzkrieg conquests. The French, who did not hate Hitler, collaborated with him, instead. It is indifference to evil, rather than its hatred, that sends a message to the tyrants that they pick on anyone they like for the world will be silent.

While innocence should evoke compassion, evil should evoke only contempt.

What do you think God would prefer? That you use your energy to fight your hatred, or use your energy to fight evil? Now, no one would sanction your running around and indiscriminately shooting people, because that itself is immoral and illegal. That's not hatred. That's rage.

Hatred is not necessarily of the devil. Like any emotion, it is neutral, its morality determined solely by the object to which it is directed.

The demonization of hatred in our time has derived principally from liberalism for which toleration of nearly everything is paramount.

Hatred of evil implies both the right to make judgments, as well as a belief in absolutes, both of which are anathema to liberalism. While it has some redeeming qualities, my foremost argument against liberalism is that it harbors no abhorrence or detestation of evil.

Indeed, liberals hate war much more than they hate evil, which is why Kofi Annan and Jacques Chirac were prepared to leave Saddam in power in order to avoid conflict. But with so much evil in the world, people have grown weary with those who serve as its apologists, and thus liberalism has been largely discredited, with even President Clinton deciding to abandon the term and replace it with "progressivism."

In fairness, however, it is not just liberals who have forgotten how to hate. Many of my Christian brothers and sisters mistakenly believe that God loathes hatred. They quote Jesus' teaching to turn the other cheek and his admonishment to love your enemies as proof that we dare never hate.

But this is a travesty of Jesus' teachings and would make this great Hebrew personality into someone who had contempt for his victims as he extended love to their murderers. Jesus advocated turning the other check to petty slights and affronts to our honor, not to mass graves and torture chambers. Likewise, while Jesus taught that we ought to love our own enemies, this did not apply to God's enemies. Our enemies are people who are our rivals for a promotion at work. God's enemies are those who slaughter his children.

Let not any Christian think that Jesus' sympathy was for anyone other than the oppressed and the poor. True, the Bible commands us to "love our neighbor" as ourselves, but the man who kills children is not our neighbor. Having cast off the image of God, he has lost his divine spark and is condemned to eternal oblivion from which not even a belief in salvation will rescue him. He or she who murders God's children has been lost to God forever and has abandoned all entitlement to love, earning eternal derision in its stead.

The Bible instructs us "rejoice not when thine enemy falleth" and I am not advocating that we dance in the streets when we hear about America killing terrorists in Iraq. But to extend compassion to these impenitent and incorrigible monsters is an act of mocking God who has mercy for all, yet demands unequivocal justice for the innocent. To show kindness to the murderer is to violate the victim yet again.

The pacifist will respond that fighting hatred with hatred accomplishes nothing. They will quote the old Bob Dylan song that says, "If we take an eye for an eye we all just end up blind." But the purpose of our hatred is not revenge, but justice. We do not seek to breed hatred so that it might linger in our breast, but so that it might inspire us to stop murder and bloodshed.

If you don't hate Saddam Hussein, then you will find ample reason not to topple him from power. But if watching him gas Kurdish children makes you see him for the abomination he is, then you will risk blood and treasure to put him on trial for his crimes against humanity.

How bizarre that the French and Germans today hate George Bush more than Saddam Hussein. Their efforts to prevent the United States from invading Iraq, and their treatment of Saddam as nothing more than a nuisance, speaks volumes about their indifference to bloodshed and their troubling neutrality on the subject of evil.

God entrusted humanity with the promotion of justice, enjoining us to turn an immoral jungle into a civilized society.

We seek out the Saddams of this world to prevent further genocides and establish justice. In the words of Aristotle, "All virtue is summed up in dealing justly."

Only if we hate the truly evil passionately will we summon the determination to fight them fervently. Odd and uncomfortable as it may seem, hatred has its place.

It is time for moral people to learn how to hate again.
Amen to that!

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on. I have made the exact same interpretation of the "turn the other cheek" passage. For all their nuance, liberals cannot properly find the nuances in the concept of hate. This made it explicit, hate is neutral; it is the object of the hate that creates the morality.

12:52 PM, November 24, 2004  
Blogger Asher Abrams said...

Beautiful! Reminds me that I don't read Shmuely Boteach often enough. Thanks for posting.

4:54 PM, November 25, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hatred is such an imprecise and muddled word. (and guess who did the muddling?) I think what you're talking about is what the Greeks called "thumos" (lit. spiritedness, righteous anger). Thumos is "hating" evil and injustice.

8:50 PM, November 30, 2004  
Blogger Bandersnatchi said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:20 PM, December 01, 2004  
Blogger Bandersnatchi said...

I'm not 100% behind your statistical arguments and black & white scenarios. I suspect the pacifist - 99% of them - would take action. Pacifists like our perception of Ghandi are few and far between. (Ghandi was much more of a revolutionist than a "live and let live" pacifist. It would be difficult to argue that he didn't have an agenda for considerable change and passive resistance was deemed the most effective tactic to effect that change. The same goes for MLK.)

You must take care (I think!) to not throw out The philosophy of pacifism and tolerance *as* a philosophy. As a doctrine, perhaps, they fit your arguments. But I find it hard to fault as a preferred direction.

I really appreciated the cited material. I think that we have, indeed, turned *our* cheeks toward attributes of being human that we find distasteful, such as hatred. This seems natural when confronted with decades of relative security and abundance. The mass of people change slowly and I fear there is naught to do to expedite the change other than making these sorts of arguments.

That said, playing with hate, war and destruction can be very dangerous tools. Certainly Radical Islam plays, nay embraces, these tools with wanton abandon. Ultimately, we need to be careful to be fueled by hatred yet not be consumed. It is a delicate line that we cross and I feel we are, indeed, far from that line and err on the side of self-delusion because we have been taught to fear the power of hatred.

- MTLChris

4:20 PM, December 01, 2004  
Blogger RDS said...

Anonymous: Good point, yes "thumos" is a good word. That's just like the ancient Greeks to have more varied words for the strong emotions, isn't it? For example, they also distinguished among the various forms of Love: eros, agape, and another one I can't recall at the moment.

RDS

8:50 PM, December 02, 2004  
Blogger RDS said...

MTLChris -- I find your last few paragraphs very well said! I think we're in agreement; I think too that faced with my literal example, yes, so-called pacifists would act. My point was to provide a totally absurd example, in which inaction would be ludicrous -- with my implication being that many real-world situations are really my analogy in disguise, or effectively reduce to the same thing in terms of raw outcome. My challenge to the politically self-described pacifists is to not rationalize such situations away.

RDS

8:57 PM, December 02, 2004  

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