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We Shouldn’t All Be Pacifist

November 29, 2014

“A lot of people like to think they are “non-violent.” Generally, people claim to “abhor” the use of violence, and violence is viewed negatively by most folks. Many fail to differentiate between just and unjust violence. Some especially vain, self-righteous types like to think they have risen above the nasty, violent cultures of their ancestors. They say that “violence isn’t the answer.” They say that “violence doesn’t solve anything.”

They’re wrong. Every one of them relies on violence, every single day.” – Jack Donovan [1]


Vaunted, popular social campaigns like WhiteRibbon[2] are on record as saying “all forms of violence are wrong”.

These noble campaigners are espousing a radical ideology – pacifism.

Pacifism is an ideology promoting universal disarmament and perpetual non-violence. A radical position. Like any radical ideology taken too far – communism, capitalism, fascism – the full implementation of an ideology is disastrous, even though an ideology grows out of a genuine need for some attribute. Lets be clear:

Pacifism is just as bad as fascism.

Thats a bold claim to make. Lets go about defending it.

Why We Can’t All be Pacifist

All governments are coercive. Order requires violence and coercion.

You can use propaganda, persuasion, moral arguments and emotion to sway people. Lets call these social and ethical norms. Most of the time they work. But sometimes they don’t. Somebody ‘breaks the law’. What happens? Donovan again: [emphasis mine]

“A rule not ultimately backed by the threat of violence is merely a suggestion. States rely on laws enforced by men ready to do violence against lawbreakers. Every tax, every code and every licensing requirement demands an escalating progression of penalties that, in the end, must result in the forcible seizure of property or imprisonment by armed men prepared to do violence in the event of resistance or non–compliance. Every time a soccer mom stands up and demands harsher penalties for drunk driving, or selling cigarettes to minors, or owning a pit bull, or not recycling, she is petitioning the state to use force to impose her will. She is no longer asking nicely. The viability of every family law, gun law, zoning law, traffic law, immigration law, import law, export law and financial regulation depends on both the willingness and wherewithal of the group to exact order by force…

Without action, words are just words. Without violence, laws are just words.”

Think about a prison. Most prisoners probably didn’t turn themselves in. They were forced in. Perhaps a court sentenced them, but the point is that they complied with the court… because there would other consequences if they resisted. They were forced in. Now, do they want to escape? Probably. Do they try to escape? No. There are guards, armed and ready to inflict violence, if they try.

Now, maybe in some distant future we’ll have forcefields, or be able to control every member of society through chips in their brain. Maybe technological advancement can solve our need to use violence to restrain people, and we can use non-contact restraints etc. And as the years have progressed we have become less violent. And that is good.

Yet there’s still a need for violence. Why? To promote peace.

In short, society needs violence. Pacifists simply place the delicate responsibility of violence on others shoulders. As George Orwell argued in Notes on Nationalism “PACIFIST: Those who ‘abjure’ violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.” Pacifists, like naughty children, want to throw responsibility to the wind.

A pacifist society could never work. If every single person today wilfully becomes non-violent and lays down arms and weapons, what happens when the first man picks them up again? He can do what he wants. For peace to exist in a pacifist society, no man, woman or child can ever pick-up a weapon. Forever and ever.

No child, forever and ever, can ever be stopped from taking what isn’t their due. That would be coercion and force. Nobody could be arrested for trespassing. That would be the use of force and restraint. A violation of one’s will.

Forever and ever is the standard of non-violence pacifism requires. It will never happen. In the meanwhile, all pacifism does is, 1: Shift the responsibility of violence to others, 2: Create a power vacuum

Like any power vacuum, instability… and disorder is created.

Ordered and Unordered Violence

You’re probably getting the impression right now that I’m some lunatic supporter of violence. A born-again fascist. Thats not the case.

I’m not in the military or police force, and I know no martial arts. I haven’t ever been involved in a violent scrsp. I don’t think violence is the solution to most problems. I think behavioural economics works much better. I prefer persuasion to force. I admire the pacifist tenet of non-aggression. I think its a good idea to not attack till attacked. I think violence can be immeasurably destructive. I want peace. In fact, I want it as badly as the pacifists. Its just that I disagree on the method.

Pacifists are right to complain about disordered violence. A man stupidly throws a punch. A man sexually assaults a lady. Random riots. Etc. In these instances we should abhor the violence. We shouldn’t instigate it. We should be educated about the consequences of violence. And as I’ll discuss later, we should be able to use non-lethal force to restrain people from further violence.

What pacifists wrongly attack is ordered violence. This is the police using minimal force to detain a thief. This is the police breaking up a brawl, not through blows, but handcuffs and the threat of armed violence.

Here I wish to emphasise that the police and armed forces have codes about the use of violence, and training. They are more inclined to use the minimal force necessary. Why?

Because those who know violence also have a respect for it. Experience teaches. So too is it with violence.

Swing the Sword?

I’d never argue for violence to be used indiscriminately. I’d never argue that violence is the go-to solution. Every person should have the ability to diffuse tension, persuade etc. We should back economic development and new laws that will reduce crime. We should embrace the fact that technology reduces violence, that we live in perhaps the safest society in generations.


But violence must remain the final answer.


We need people who respect the consequences of violence to be those who use it. Ordinarily thats the police. But sometimes the police aren’t there and a threat needs to be resolved. Sometimes, it needs to be us.


Because if we don’t swing the sword, somebody else will.



[1] , NB: I disagree with most stuff Donovan writes. He is a radical on many issues. In fact, he is just the sort of person that could poison the minds of many. But he is right about violence.

2- NB: I would take White Ribbon over Donovan any day on nearly every single issue. I applaud White Ribbon’s work. I support their work. Most of what they do is excellent, but their stance on non-violence I disagree with. I’d never give them the keys to the legislative castle, so to speak. But, on every other view of theirs I’m with them.


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