A Conversation for A Pacifist's Views on Violence

Carnivore Heritage

Post 1


Humans are genetically closer to chimps than to gorillas. This is obvious even to those without a gene sequencer handy. Gorillas are strictly herbivores. Chimps patrol their tribe's area and kill any lone outsider chimps they find.

This article reminds me of an Asimov short story where Earthlings are the only carnivores in a spacefaring federation. The herbivores in the federation were naturally disgusted and suspicious.

Violence is deeply imprinted in us it seems...but not so deep that we HAVE to act on it. Those of us who act on our feelings are greatly outnumbered by those of us who do not.

Just consider: If there were 11 million chimps confined in a space as small as Manhattan island half of them would probably be dead before the day was done. Whereas people can generally live in very close quarters for an extended period of time and are generally kind to each other, even somewhat generous.

Violence is LEARNED with us. One of first things a violent person has to do is DEHUMANISE the person they are doing violence to. Calling them some kind of epithet or not referring to them directly at all, definately not ever saying their NAME.

I've beaten things to pieces. I beat an old alarm clock to pieces once, for example, and I felt absolutely thrilled. I was euphoric. But, in the few fist fights I was in as an adolescent I felt absolutely miserable about hurting people. My parents taught me that violence to others was fool's way out.

This is just personal violence, though. On a grander scale, war and such, things become a bit different. Civilisation created war. When the first people settled down and planted crops, they had to start protecting their crops from hunter/gatherers that just assumed things that grew were theirs.


Very likely, more than 100 million people were killed by war in the 20th century (at least 40 million in the 'great' WWII). If some organisation was around to stop Germany right after they invaded Austria, tens of millions may've been saved from death by violence.

Violence stopping potential violence? Is that what would actually occur? Would the Nazis have ever been stopped by a pacifist world?

Don't ask me. I don't know.

Me? I avoid stepping ants, but when a wasp lands on my arm I freak out and smoosh it.

Carnivore Heritage

Post 2


The wars you speak of (WW I and WW II) have been caused by structural violence by the christian churches.

Carnivore Heritage

Post 3

Tom I.

Lots of interesting views! Of them, let me just follow up this one: What if someone stopped the nazis?

I, myself, am a pacifist. The country where i live, Norway, has conscription, meaning that all boys (yeah, I think it's sexist, too) around twenty years old have to join the army for about a year. If you object due to pacifism or otherwise, you have to apply, and part of the application process is going through a police interrogation. A very common question there, is "what if you could kill Hitler in 1935 or so, would you?" If you say yes, well, you have to enter the military forces, or go to jail.

The answer is not that obvious. If I was given a time machine, and taken back to 1935, to a meeting room where Hitler and his men were making evil plans, I'd shoot Hitler, provided I had a gun, and provided my horrible shooting skills did not make a mess of the situation...

But it's seldom as easy as that. If you and I were living in an Afghanistan village, and were offered a time machine, a gun, and the ability to go back to Sept. 12th 2001, and shoot George W. Bush, we would do just that. At least if it stopped our children from getting killed by a bomb that just happened to land on the wrong spot.

How are you and I to know who will cause the next world war? Who are we going to shoot? And when we have shot, will that do any good? Or will we have provided our enemy with a martyr, and even more lust for revenge?


Carnivore Heritage

Post 4


Hi Tom I,

well, good thoughts!

First of all, let's discuss a common misperception of WW II: Hitler is the only one to blame.

No, it is the German people to blame. After WW I they didn't learn anything. They didn't learn that wars are bad. They didn't lean that the lesson Bismarck thaught them was wrong (to divide Europe in friends and enemies). It was necessary to teach it the hard way to them: to essentially destroy Germany and to question each German about his nazi activities.

In Germany, if you don't want to join the army, you are asked if you'd shot down some hooligans threatening to rape your girlfriend. I said, of course, and explained the difference to the questioning board: it is my personal right of self defence, as opposed to a war, where I fight an anonymous enemy, with whom I even might not have any problem. My application was accepted.

Best wishes for 2002

Carnivore Heritage

Post 5

Monsignore Pizzafunghi Bosselese

Wonko, I took the freedom to quote you here, F48874?thread=169710&post=1858507#p1858507, a PR thread about the reasons of WW II.

Carnivore Heritage

Post 6


I'm honored, Sir Bosssel!

Carnivore Heritage

Post 7

IMSoP - Safely transferred to the 5th (or 6th?) h2g2 login system

A short, disgusted, reply:

In what way can you blame "the German people"? They are not even a conscious entity - can they be said to have guilt? Is it not like blaming everyone who happens to live in Liverpool for its high crime rate?

And on what grounds do you discount the action of the "allies" after WW1: deciding that Germany was solely to blame for the entire war, despite acting according to the same out-dated system of thought and war as them? The French politicians saw to it that they gained as much as possible out of "winning" the war - and as a result, bred a new hatred in many Germans. Sadly, after WW2, they did the same, although West Germany miraculously survived...

I could go on (what about the American stock market system, which crashed and set Europe back years of post-war recovery?), but my point is this - no, Hitler was not solely to blame, but neither were "the German people". If you want to pin blame in that way, you will have to include the whole world - everything and everyone is to blame, or nobody and nothing. Either way, I see little point in trying.

smiley - sleepy

Carnivore Heritage

Post 8


I am German and I can say it: each and every German is to blame. Nearly all of them were happy to start a war (WW I or II), nearly all of them were happy to rob the Jews.

So it was the *only* way to end the fascism in their hearts: to show them (or shall I say us?) that fascism leads to total destruction.

The happiness about war and Hitler had to be turned into deep misery. Had this been done after WW I, then WW II could have been avoided.

A peaceful nation is a humble nation.

Carnivore Heritage

Post 9

Zarquon's Singing Fish!

I came here via Bossel's thread.

I was in Germany for two periods when I was younger and the wonderful young people I spent time with said, in effect 'We're not to blame for WW2', which I readily agreed with. How could they have been? Yet the older people I met also seemed friendly and hospitable and many of them would have been involved in WW2.

Now, many years later, I've read around the subject more. I've heard what happened described as a 'collective psychosis' in which reality was changed for the German people. How difficult, then, to speak out against the prevailing received though. How much easier to say nothing.

Experiments done in America testing how much pain subjects were prepared to inflict on others had to be stopped because of the subjects' predisposition to follow orders. The true subjects were the 'assistants', asked to administer electric shocks to 'subjects' under th guidance of 'scientists'. The assistants carried on although the 'subjects' asked for the experiment to be stopped. Interestingly enough, they thankfully stopped the experiment when the 'scientists' suggested they stopped and the 'subjects' said they were OK to carry on.

Apparently, it had been intended to carry out such experiments in Germany, but the results of the American experiment were so convincing that it was felt that there was no need.

smiley - fishsmiley - musicalnote

Carnivore Heritage

Post 10

IMSoP - Safely transferred to the 5th (or 6th?) h2g2 login system

I'm afraid, Wonko, that I disagree with almost all your points. Let me therefore respond to each in turn:

You start by saying "I am German and I can say it". I couln't care less if you were Hitler living in exile under an assumed name, you cannot claim to know the opinions, thoughts, and reasons for action/inaction of millions of people - one can only *guess* at what anybody but ourselves is thinking, even those we know best.

You then seem to contradict yourself: "each and every German" vs "nearly all of them". The second statement, though disputable, is what you mean - except that you again claim to know their feelings. Perhaps more truthfully you could say that "nearly all of them seem to have been happy...". This still leaves them in the blame, but with two important changes: a)there are always exceptions, and b)there's always more to it than that.

Incidentally, your reference to starting WW1 in the same paragraph is rather debatable, since the war had already been started on other fronts, but that is perhaps another debate.

Your second paragraph is a fair enough opinion, and sadly is perhaps true, though war is such an evil in its own right that I am loth to admit it.

Your next statement however seems to me to be in complete contradiction of the facts: "deep misery" is a fairly good description of what Germany *was* given after WW1, by my understanding. The French government of the time made sure that the main result of the Treaty of Versailles was humiliation and crippling of Germany as a nation. Many people argue that it was partially responsible for the state of German affairs that allowed Hitler to convince the people to adopt such a radical solution.

Finally, I agree that a peaceful nation is a humble one, but not that a humble one will necessarily be peaceful - there is nothing like resentment at previous treatment to foster revenge.

In short, perhaps it is true that much of the German population of the time were to blame, but this only leaves us with a question: who is to blame for them being to blame? There are reasons that so many saw Nazism as a viable idea. To us, with retrospect, it seems obvious that they were wrong, but the circumstances that had already arrived meant that in their minds this was a positive thing.

Zarquon refers, I imagine, to Milgram's experiments on authority (I wouldn't describe them quite like that, though, having been taught about them at University). The clear point being that it is far easier to follow orders than to rebel, so the seeming complicity of the German people takes on yet another facet.

Not that any of this excuses anything, except in as much as evidence suggests (to me, at any rate) that there's a fair chance we'd do the same thing in the same situation.

Carnivore Heritage

Post 11

MotDoc, Temporarily Exiled to Tartu, Estonia

To this conversation I would answer: whose to say it isn't happening again right now? The reference that someone made earlier to Afghanistanis opinions about Dubya might one day be seen as a bit of a premonition. The parallels in many ways are quite clear: for instance in Iraq if America wins Iraq becomes essentially an American terrirtory for many years, guaranteeing American access to cheap oil: if this isn't Lebensraum theory revisited I don't know what else it could be. Patriotism is a dangerous force that should never be taken lightly in its potential for violence and evil.

Carnivore Heritage

Post 12


I think that the point of pacifism is that it resolves these problems. It is not necessarily all beneficial for ending worldwide suffering, since a concrete ethic of pacifism would imply that you'd allow someone to kill a friend without fighting them. However, humans are just too fundamentally cruel and driven by irrational, dark impulses to go around trying to sort out the world's problems and weilding the huge destructive power available to us.

As far as the question of killing Hitler is concerned, hasn't anyone seen the storyline of Red Alert where his death leads to the cold-war becoming a hot war. Our perspectives are just too narrow to assume that we can risk interfering so drastically in anyone's life.

A Distinction

Post 13


Violence is a necessary and normal part of the human psyche. Violence against people or animals is not necessary or good. That is why violence in movies, games is such a wonderful thing. It can allow people to act out the violent urges inherent in all living things. That way, people are shooting up aliens instead of their co-workers. And if you do need the release of beating the bejesus out of something, do it to an inanimate object. smiley - erm Can I say bejesus?

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