I am a pacifist; I have been for as long as I can remember. Probably for as long as I’ve been able to fully understand and appreciate the concept of pacifism. I know some people say that pacifism is something that nobody would ever actually use when faced with violence, but it’s come in handy once, or twice, or thrice (and maybe other times which don’t spring to my mind right now.)
But actually, while pacifism is still my general rule for conflict, I’ve recently identified a bit of a flaw in that perspective. Pacifism is a choice and I am free to make that choice for myself when faced with violence, but what about if I were with a friend who was facing violence? Or, indeed, any innocent person? Especially somebody who can’t defend themselves. I don’t believe I have the right to make that choice for others because that could well result in them suffering. If I have the ability to stop an innocent person from suffering through the use of physical force, then I believe I have a moral duty to do so, as much as it may feel at odds with my own morality; wouldn’t it be enormously selfish to do nothing in the name of moral superiority? Ironically, that would make the moral superiority in this case an actual case of moral inferiority.
Of course, things would be a little different if the other person were a pacifist too, but this has been quite an interesting reflection for me who, for years, has subscribed to absolute pacifism. I suppose it’s always important for us to challenge and reflect upon our most firmly held beliefs – I think it’s quite healthy (and important) for people to change their beliefs as they grow older, so I always like to challenge my own perspectives whenever I can.