Friday, March 5, 2010

Glenn's Book of Quotes, Number Seventeen

“Those who 'abjure' violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.” -- George Orwell

It's hard not to admire the pacifist. To rise above our violent civilization and to refuse the call of country or community to take arms requires courage. To answer a higher call, be it one of faith or philosophy, is not easy when your family and neighbors say that the defense of home, loved ones, the flag and all that it stands for, is the most noble thing a person can do. But I believe that the hardiest thing, for the honest pacifist, is to acknowledge the truth of this quote. We know that this is a cruel and bloody world. If you doubt it just pick up a history book or read a newspaper. The only thing that stands between us and that bloody world is the cop and the soldier, both ready to fight for us. That is the flaw in the heart of pure pacifism – its very existence depends upon the violent defense of all that makes it possible: relative peace, prosperity, and freedom.

There is no inherent flaw in the concept of peace or the dream of a more peaceful world. There is certainly no such flaw in the logic of those who would stay the hand of violence when peaceful solutions can be found. It is those who will take up arms under no circumstances, who call for peace at any price, who have to face the fact that the price would be their ability to stand on those very principles. The price of keeping them free to “abjure violence” is violence itself, paid by others.

While it is hard not to admire the principled pacifist, it is well nigh impossible to not admire his defender. He knows that some of those he fights on behalf of despise him for it or say that he is wrong for doing so. He knows that they could be with him or supporting him, but that they instead choose to denigrate his sacrifice. And he knows the truth of what Orwell said, and he does his work anyway. That, I think, really is the most noble thing a person can do.

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