Is pacifism evil?
Most of us have seen the pictures (both real and re-imagined). I was exposed to them at too young an age. My parents rented the movie “Gandhi” and the only thing I can remember from it, that stuck in my young mind to the point where I could not get rid of it, was the scene where hundreds, maybe thousands (when you are young you conceptualize it simply as “many” – a number without an upper bound), of native Indians stood like a marching band, each line standing up to the English in turn willingly being beaten down, perhaps to death – sacrificing themselves.
It is easy to see the English as evil. The idea, in part, is to make the good-guy and bad-guy obvious. If you don’t fight back, there is little ambiguity. The idea, in part, is that the people killing you and the people watching them kill you, will not be given the luxury of not knowing who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed. This of course, only works if you have enough people willing to be killed. Somehow this only works if the observers cannot see an upper bound of your numbers. It only works with “many”.
It also gets you statues in the park.
So, enter the current discussion of economic disparity. It’s getting some attention these days. We also know what extreme economic disparity looks like. It’s on display on long infomercials, full of nearly starving children, asking you to sponsor a child. It’s always children they show – because seeing children has a greater chance of creating a hormone in our blood associated with love. It also avoids dealing with the absurd concept in our heads that adults somehow automatically have the power to change their situation regardless of what oppressive institutions and practices, backed by force, are disallowing that. If there is an adult shown, it’s a woman. Men are not allowed to need anyone. In our bizarre emotional landscape, a man has infinite undeniable agency in all situations. I have never seen a man in any of these, unless it is the white-guy narrator swooping down like a gray-bearded god. The non-whites never speak. They look into the camera like a puppy.
These are the people the charity can get to. The country may or may not have enough food and wealth to feed their own people, however, obviously systemic problems exist that allow malnutrition, lack of medical care, lack of economic opportunity, lack of infrastructure, lack of family planning, lack of education, etc. Those problems, with both local and global reasons, fail to be adequately addressed. However, at the very least, the charity workers are not being killed. They are allowed to stay.
Now, enter the ones we can’t get to. Why are they dying? Why do we get to see, watch in horror, as children and adults are thrown on piles of bloat and bones? We blame war. We blame desperate economic systems. We allow our well-fed and well-educated and sheltered selves to feel guilt, but turn away in hopelessness and disgust.
We never blame pacifism.
The food we send is used to feed armies who are able to take it. The armies are the ones who are killing the people. This is an old tactic. All you have to do is circle the castle and wait. No food goes in or out. We’ve used this tactic ourselves for our own political goals. Remember the trucks of food going to waste outside of Gaza when the election didn’t go like we wanted? This isn’t new.
So, what should we do?
We have the means to help. We don’t have the will to become the many – to use pacifist tactics leading to our own deaths. It’s more difficult to conflate humans and puppies when the humans look more like you. So, I suppose if enough white people are killed, are arrested, are tortured, the wealthy Western nations might wake up to our complicity – or not.
In the end, do we just lack the courage and rage to act? Do we hide behind the concept of non-violence to sit on our hands and pretend there is nothing we can do? Did “Never again” turn into “It’s not our place to police” – or did “Never again” always only apply to whites and Jews? The effect is the same – mass graves and genocide.
To choose whether or not to defend yourself with violence: to die staring your killer in the face or to die fighting. That is a sacred personal choice. Do we have the same moral right to non-violence when we are choosing death for the people around us?