I’ve been engaged in a conversation with friends recently on the topic of pacifism, or perhaps more accurately, choosing to be non-violent.
Our discussion centered on the recent incident in Georgia in which Antoinette Tuff, an office worker in an elementary school, successfully de-escalated what could have been a tragedy.
First, a disclaimer: What I am about to say is not intended to disparage or diminish Ms. Tuff, or what she did. I give her full marks for courage and resourcefulness in the face of mortal danger. Without a doubt, she saved many lives through her actions that day. She performed bravely, she is a hero, and I very sincerely salute her.
But I have seen a tendency in the aftermath of this incident to hold her up as some sort of peaceful warrior, as if her actions that day were born of compassionate non-violence, rather than necessity. This observation has been a catalyst for an examination of what it means to be a pacifist, or to be non-violent.
Said jujutsu master Yukiyoshi Takamura:
“A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence. He chooses peace. He must be able to make a choice. He must have the genuine ability to destroy his enemy and then choose not to.”
I submit that…as expressed in the quote above…if you do not have the ability or the tools to respond to violence with violence of your own, then your “choice” to respond non-violently to danger is in fact a non-choice.
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