Publisher’s Note: Chris wrote this a while ago but I think it bears repeating. Chris makes the important distinction between pacifism and the act of self-defense. Murder begins where self-defense ends which means that every time the state initiates or condones or subsidizes the murder of human being whether in war, abortion, the statist death penalty or the sadistic and rampant maiming and killing conduct by government police daily. How many times in your travels do you run into the unthinking reactionaries who condemn a religion planet-wide or think taxation is virtuous even though it is based on the creed of the criminal highwayman? How many of your friends and family think voting is fine and the tens of thousands of fellow tax cattle buried deep in the gulag system is a sure sign of law and order? Everyone I just mentioned is an entrenched and committed enemy of freedom and liberty whose collaboration runs in their DNA.
Chris rocks the proposition.
How does a person come to hold the belief of absolute nonviolence? What about this belief draws people to it? Is nonviolence the logical conclusion of non-aggression? These are the question that I have been asking myself as of late, because there is a growing number of people within the liberty movement who are latching onto the belief of absolute nonviolence. I’d like to explore this idea, and try to lay out an argument as to why I think it is not only wrong, but also dangerous to adopt this belief.
One who believes in, and adheres to, the non-aggression principle makes a fundamental moral distinction between aggressive violence, and retaliatory violence. One who adheres to a principle of nonviolence does not make the same distinction. Or, perhaps they do, but they see retaliatory violence as violence nonetheless, and therefore wrong, or immoral, or “against God” or something else. It is important to note here that I will not be discussing non-aggression and nonviolence from a pragmatic point of view, rather I will be discussing these things from a position of principle.
The absolute pacifist paints themselves into a tough philosophical corner. In order to remain consistent they necessarily have to abandon other positions they hold in order to avoid contradictions. For instance, any concept of justice that involves any level of violence must be rejected by one who adopts this belief. It would be a contradiction to advocate for any form of justice that involves capturing and punishing a criminal; any concept of justice that condones the use of physical force to apprehend and contain a criminal must be abandoned. Likewise, any form of government that was not wholly voluntary would also have to be discarded. It may be the case that the entire concept of government will have to be abandoned if it’s not absolutely nonviolent. The only form of government that would be possible if the nonviolent position is adopted is autarchy–absolute self government.
I think it is a non-sequitur to make the jump from non-aggression to the position of absolute nonviolence. I am of the opinion that these beliefs are spawned from two completely different principles. Non-aggression does not presuppose nonviolence, as the person who holds the belief in non-aggression will violently defend the self, while the person who adheres to the belief in nonviolence will not. A person who has chosen to defend themselves using retaliatory violence necessarily believes that their own life is of higher value than a belief in nonviolence. The belief in absolute nonviolence presupposes that the concept of nonviolence is greater than the value of one’s own life. Non-aggresssion is a belief that is founded in the self, and absolute nonviolence is altruistic. This is why I claim it is illogical to jump from one belief to the other, because they are based upon two principles that could not be farther apart from each other. Any person who makes the illogical jump from non-aggression to nonviolence demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the principles involved. I believe that even the doubt of self defense would exhibit that same misunderstanding.
Yet, I claim this is exactly the jump that some are making. I think the focus is being placed on the wrong thing. It is true, that, in some cases, nonviolence is a perfectly reasonable tool, and I believe that these particular instances are being mistaken as nonviolence being the correct principle in all cases, but that is a clear error in reasoning. It is important to remember that one who adheres to the non-aggression principle will defend themselves because their ultimate goal is self-preservation. As I mentioned before, non-aggression is premised on the self, and if there is an instance where utilizing retaliatory violence will endanger the self, then, rationally, it ought to be abandoned in that case.
One of my favorite parts in the movie, Rob Roy is the scene where the MacGregor Clan is contemplating on what to do about the feudal landlord thugs who destroyed their home and property. Rob Roy comes to the conclusion that it is more reasonable to not retaliate, because he fears the retribution from the retaliation will be swift and ruthless. He understands that everyone is still breathing in and out, and that property that is lost can be regained except for the self, once that is lost, it’s lost forever. I would like to expand further on this point, because I think it cuts right to the heart of the matter. In this movie scene, Rob Roy demonstrates that even the concept of personal property is not of higher value than one’s own life. One cannot recreate and rebuild if one is not alive.