Pacifism

This discussion-lesson is devoted to Pacifism, its types: absolute, conditional, selective, active. The participants are to think about their position, advantages/disadvantages of being a pacifist.

Questions for Discussion

I. What is pacifism? Why are people pacifists? Is pacifism more than opposition to war?

  1. Pacifism is the attitude towards war and violence as unjustifiable and that conflicts should be settled in a peaceful way.
  2. •religious faith •non-religious belief in the sanctity of life •practical belief that war is wasteful and ineffective
  3. It must include action to promote justice and human rights

II. What types of pacifism do you know? How do you understand the term, absolute pacifism? Are you an absolute pacifist? It is a matter of opinions whether violence always leads to worse results than non-violence. What do you personally think about that?

  1. Absolute, Conditional, Selective, active
  2. Absolute pacifism says that it is never right to take part in war even in self-defense, and unethical to use violence to rescue an innocent person who is being attacked and may be killed.

III. What is the difference between conditional pacifism and selective pacifism? Which one closer reflects your personal belief? Devastating consequences of chemical and nuclear weapons are considered to result in a war without winners; do you stick to this point of view? Conditional pacifism usually bases its moral code on utilitarian ethical theory, which principles of utilitarianism make such grounds possible? How can a true conditional pacifist avoid warlike situations? How can a true selective pacifist avoid warlike situations? Which arguments would you use if you were a (selective, conditional, absolute) pacifist?

Conditional pacifism vs. Selective pacifism
Conditional pacifists are against war and violence in principle, but they accept that there may be circumstances when war will be less bad than the alternative. Conditional pacifists usually base their moral code on Utilitarian principles – it’s the bad consequences that make it wrong to resort to war or violence.
Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing total benefit and reducing suffering or the negatives
Selective pacifists believe that it is a matter of degree, and only oppose wars involving weapons of mass destruction – nuclear or chemical and biological weapons – either because of the uniquely devastating consequences of such weapons, or because a war that uses such weapons is not ‘winnable’.

IV. Active pacifism. What is an active pacifism? Being an active pacifist gets a person better integrated in a society, which ways of integration might be chosen in Ukraine? Your personal concept of active pacifism, what does it consist of? What is the main principle of your personal concept of active pacifism?

Pacifists are heavily involved in political activity to promote peace, and to argue against particular wars. During a war many active pacifists will refuse to fight, but some will take part in activities that seek to reduce the harm of war; e.g. by driving ambulances, but other pacifists will refuse to take part in any activity that might support the war. Nowadays most democratic countries accept that people have the right of conscientious objection to military service, but they usually expect the objector to undertake some form of public service as an alternative.

V. Moral dilemma.

World War II was a blatantly aggressive and unjust; would it be wrong to honour soldiers for their sacrifice in this war? Should we only honour those who give their lives in a Just War, and who followed the rules of war, outlined in the Geneva Conventions, for instance? Is it conscience or cowardice that keeps pacifists out of the military? Are you prepared to work in non-combat roles as medical orderlies, stretcher-bearers, ambulance drivers, cooks or labourers or you would refuse to do anything that might help the war effort? Which religions promote peace and pacifism most?

Some religions, such as Buddhism, promote pacifism. Others have strong pacifist elements, such as Christianity, but have accepted that war is inevitable and sought to provide moral guidance in dealing with conflict.

VI. Weighing arguments!!!

Arguments against pacifism Arguments in favour of pacifism Situational and conditional approach
  1. it works if no-one wants to attack your country
  2. it results in your country rapidly being conquered
  3. Pacifism cannot be national policy
  4. The world is not perfect, so war is not always wrong.
  5. a state has a duty to protect their citizens, and citizens have a duty to carry out military obligations
  6. Pacifism has no place in the face of extreme evil.
  7. Going to war is perceived as fulfilling a citizen’s ethical duty
  1. non-violent solutions to disputes between nations serve as the best basis of peaceful co-existence of human beings
  2. Being a pacifist means Christian belief laid         in the foundation of one’s life
  3. Belief in Christ, moral ethics of the 21st century totally contradict any war
  4. Humans were born for happiness and love. Why then to wage wars?
  5. “blessed are those who make peace”
  6. “those who take swords will be killed with them”
  7. love makes the world go round
  1. It depends.
  2. The pacifists’ refusal to participate in war does not make them noble idealists
  3. wars are inevitable among people with controversial beliefs.
  4. Who knows which outcome will do less harm, the consequences of war or the ones of invasion?

VII. Suheir Hammad: Poems of war, peace, women, power

In her poems and plays, Suheir Hammad blends the stories and sounds of her Palestinian-American heritage with the vibrant language of Brooklyn to create a passionately modern voice.

Is the playwright pacifist? Which pacifism (active, conditional, selective) would properly describe her belief embodied in the poem? Why should we fear the unexploded, not what has blown up?

She is depicting a warlike scene with the string of extended metaphors. Which metaphors speak strongly enough and evoke emotional disturbance?
“Where do refugee hearts go? Broken, dissed, placed where they’re not from, don’t want to be missed. Faced with absence. We mourn each one or we mean nothing at all. My spine curves spiral. Precipice running to and running from human beings. Cluster bombs left behind. De facto landmines. A smoldering grief. Harvest contaminated tobacco. Harvest bombs. Harvest baby teeth. Harvest palms, smoke. Harvest witness, smoke. Resolutions, smoke. Salvation, smoke. Redemption, smoke. Breathe.”
Is there a light in the end of the tunnel? How is this hopeful light worded by the author?