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PACIFISM AND HUMANISM

No Humanist worthy of the name actually likes violence in the real world, so does that mean we should all become total pacifists? Many Humanists will say will say yes, but I have my reservations. I believe that there are times when violence is justified. Having been on the sharp end of a few beatings, muggings, and one attack with a shard of glass that left me with facial scars, I am inclined to fight back in self-defence. There are people who are stubbornly unmoved by a lack of resistance, and simply take it that Christmas has come early for them. I have not got the courage to stand back and let someone use me, or any of my friends and family be used as a punch bag, without intervening in any way I can. If I was to see a man running down the street shooting people down randomly and indiscriminately, and I was able to stop him by killing him before his next bullet was fired, I would do so without hesitation.

War is an awkward word. I believe that there is such a thing as just war. WW1 was an unjust colonial battle, which (with the benefit of late 20th Century hindsight) I would have liked to have declined to participate in. WW2 is a different matter. Gandhi believed that Pacifist resistance of the kind he used to help bring down the British rulers of his country, would have worked against the Nazis. I believe not. I think that the Nazis would have simply made use of the lack of resistance to speed up their European Occupation and completion of the Final solution programme. The Jews were relatively easy to subdue for them because they were unable to organise themselves for fighting back, and with the exception of a battle at the Sobibor Concentration Camp, and a brief, tragically abortive attempt in the last days at Auzchwitz, the Jews, Russians, Gypsies and Homosexuals went to their deaths without a struggle against their oppressors. In many ways, their tragedy helped to defeat the Nazis, who wasted much manpower, and armament and vital transportation, and war-money running the Final Solution Programme that they could have spent on the war itself, and then started their slaughter of the civilian population after they had won.

The Korean War, Gulf War, Falklands War, etc could have counted me out, but I would probably have fought in Vietnam, against the Americans. I believe that their attacks on neighbouring Laos and Cambodia, and tragedies like Mai Lai, etc were indicative of a policy of ethnic cleansing. It is good that so many protesters, and draft dodgers in The States helped to grind the U.S. War machine to such a standstill. The Vietnamese didn't stop that war or win it. Americans who had come to their senses stopped it.

I am therefore a sort of choosy pacifist, with a wish to pick and choose my wars. Ultimately though, I could never join an army voluntarily, not from pacifism, but from sheer abject cowardice. If there were less brave men about, the fighting might actually stop. As U.S. poet Carl August Sandburg wrote, "Sometime they'll give a war and nobody will come."

I have every admiration for the courageous non-violence tactics of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, The Dalai Lama, and the quietude and pacifism of the Quakers, but there are times when I have felt the need to fight, and that a war was necessary.

"Give Peace A Chance." (Title of a John Lennon song.)

Arthur Chappell

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