By Aloysus Okoye
It seems that this idea is behind Socrates decision to remain in prison and allow himself to be executed by the Athenians. Since Plato, the Greek tradition has claimed that justice, courage, moderation, and wisdom were needed to overcome hubris. It is conceivable that these virtues would conjoin in a sort of peacefulness. Indeed, one can see the roots of nonviolent social protest in Socrates’ non-resistance to the Athenian state. It should be noted, however, that although Socrates refused to carry out unjust orders, he did serve the state in battle. A non-religious version of virtue-pacifism can be found also in the ideas of 20th Century humanists such as William James. At the beginning of the 20th Century, James acknowledged “that war and military service did produce certain virtues, such as courage and discipline. But James hoped that there could be a non-military way of producing these virtues. This was the basic idea behind his proposal for a “moral equivalent to war,” which was an attempt to find a way to produce virtues without connecting them to militarism.” The conceivable fact from these ancient philosophers and scholars are pointers to the relevant possibility of pacifism but before then, we consider the face of the contemporary world in the matter of violence – pacifism contention. Literally translates ‘retaliating for an evil done to me is not sinful’. It is an Igbo expression in time of revenge and in justifying retaliations.
The face of the contemporary world
The usual tendency of the most nations of the world is that war and violence constitute the most reliable means of acquiring peace in the times of disputes, conflict and misunderstanding. The face of the contemporary world is war and violence and not pacifism. The world in general believes in what this work calls “ I meemu, mmekwaru gi abughi njo” that simply means revengeful disposition in violence. This claim, supports that nonviolent means of producing social change is ineffective, impossible and impractical. This notion is believed to have been born out of several concedes, statements and arguments from some scholars even from the ancient time through the present time.
The problem of justifying war is found in ancient Greek thinkers, such as Plato, who argued in the Laws that war should only be waged for the sake of peace and that “it is peace in which each of us should spend most of his life and spend it best”. That is to say he was positive about waging war. The tendency of the contemporary world is that pacifistic movement is unpatriotic, unrealistic, idealistic, cowardice and self-contradictory. A more subtle version of this argument has been articulated by Jan Narveson who argued that “pacifism involves an internal contradiction that is related to the idea of justice and human rights”.
Pacifists are unwilling to use violence to defend against aggression because they respect life or respect persons. But a contradiction occurs when the pacifist who claims that life is an absolute good is unwilling to take the necessary steps to defend lives that are threatened by aggression. This idea in the contemporary parlance and like George Weigel, are inspired by the Augustinian ideal of using war to defend a tranquil and just social order. It implies then that it is immoral to avoid war. The contemporary world by implication is non-pacifists. They believe that in the face of danger, disputes and violence war becomes a veritable means to salvage the path through.
Thus, social movement of non-violence is ineffective since certain disputes cannot be settled through pacific method and means, other than violence and war. There is that belief that war will remain necessary because of the fallen and sinful nature of human beings. This objection to pacifism also reminds Christian absolute pacifists that there is explicit advocacy for war in the Old Testament and that Paul’s letter to the Romans allows the sovereign to use the sword to execute God’s wrath. Their belief supports that since we are not perfect, we must employ the imperfect means of war and violence to attain moral ends. It means then that withdrawal in the face of disputes and violence is cowardice.
As Anscombe puts this in her critique of pacifism, that “the pacifist holds withdrawal from the world as man’s only salvation”. The non-pacifists (contemporary world) will argue that non-violence will simply not work against Nazis or terrorists; and that those who think so are dangerously deluded. President Barrack Obama articulated this sort of objection to pacifism in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. Obama expressed respect for pacifists such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King jr. He said, “There is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in the creed and lives of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.”
But he claimed that a head of state cannot be guided by pacifism. And he concluded: “A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.” A similar argument about the efficacy of violence has been made by defenders of insurrectionary violence such as Marcuse, Sartre, Fanon Frantz in his Wretched of the Earth, Churchill Ward in his Pathology of the privilege. However, the convictions of the contemporary world on war and violence, have Catholic Church positions on pacifism and war/violence
The Church is emphatically for peace in all places and for all people, and has time and again advocated vocally for the prevention or cessation of war and supports the long tradition of pacifism in the Church. Yet, under certain circumstances, it also believes that war is morally permissible perhaps even necessary. Built on centuries of tradition and scholarship, the Church uses the “just war theory” as the basis upon which it discerns the permissibility of a war and the morality of its conduct and those traditional principles are based on “Competent Authority, Just Cause, Right Intent, Protection Of Innocents And The Acceptable Means Of Conducting War”