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A Pacifist's Dilemma

(Feb. 26, 2006)

It's tough to be a pacifist these days. Watching the news footage of violent mobs rampaging in the streets, burning, destroying, screaming for blood, makes me wonder what a pacifist such as myself would do - should do - could do - when faced with such intolerable rudeness. The normal tools of a pacifist, such as rational discussion and diplomacy, would seem to fail rather miserably. An enraged mob is hard enough to stop with tanks and guns. What good would mere words do?

Of course the easiest solution is to run and hide, and fortunately, for now, the world is still big enough that one can usually find somewhere to run and hide. But is that being a pacifist, or a coward? Gandhi never ran, and never hid. He was no coward. But he paid the ultimate price for it, didn't he? Is it better to be a dead pacifist, or a live coward? Or is there some sort of middle ground? In Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek future, a pacifist would simply initiate a level three force field around himself, and wade right through the middle of the ugliest bloodthirsty group of thugs, preaching tolerance and understanding, while the sticks and stones and bullets just bounced off him.

But alas, there are no impenetrable force fields. All a pacifist has going for him is his wits, and his running shoes. Is that enough in a world that just seems to get more violent every day? What would Jesus do? He would turn the other cheek, and he would be killed (again). What would Gandhi do? He would calmly sit down in the path of the mob, blocking their way, and he too, would be killed (again). Should we follow their examples? Is it better to be killed, leaving this world of violence, trusting that the next world will be better? What if it isn't? What if it's worse! What if we just come back to this world, and have to deal with it all over again?

gandhi (41K)

How do we handle this violence? Is the only way to handle violence with more violence? Is that the only way? Surely not. What about mass hypnosis? Can we put something in the water? Something that will make these people a little more docile? Or at least make them listen?

Like everything in the universe, the human animal is a blending of opposites. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There is no good without evil. Evil cannot be destroyed without destroying good as well. Somehow we have to learn to live with both. But if we can't eliminate evil, can we at least control it? Should we use evil to fight evil, or is that slope just a little too slippery? Any ideas out there? Because I've got to tell you, it's tough to be a pacifist these days.

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