Pacifism is Not Passivism

28/04/2016 15:56

The media, undeniably, has a great deal to merit it. However, there is one annoyance that has been gnawing at me for several months. Jeremy Corbyn, Labour's leader and therefore the leader of the opposition, has openly stated his opposition to Trident nuclear weapons because of his own belief in pacifism - I use this word cautiously because I am aware during an interview with Andrew Marr he actually refused to assign himself with this label. Corbyn concluded "No, I wouldn't describe myself as a pacifist, but I would describe an act of violence, an act of war, as absolutely a very last resort." His avoidance of the word frustrates me, avoiding labels doesn't necessarily mean you don't subscribe to the beliefs of the definition. Media pressure was probably a large part of Mr Corbyn's answer and for the scrutiny of our politicians the media use I am grateful. However, why does the word 'pacifism' always seem to be used so closely to the emphatic, emotive adjective, 'radical'?

With the new leader's rise the idea of pacifism has been debated and described by writers in a number of ways. A Telegraph writer, Julia Hartley-Brewer, in December of last year before the crucial parliament regarding Syria suggested, "Pacifism is not a more moral stance. On the contrary, it is deeply immoral." It took me a moment to mull over her notion before continuing to read. Her article concluding that "pacifists will happily ignore the screams of the innocents." Hartley-Brewer is obviously entitled to her opinion and I will not suggest I am in anyway 'better' because of the ideology I choose to follow. However, I believe her piece is an exhibition of ignorance regarding what pacifism is and the strength the idea can have, something a lot of people don't realise.

Pacifism is not passivism. The walk, led by pacifist Martin Luther King Jr., from Selma to Montgomery of civil rights activists is a prime, but by no means the only, example of the power in non-violence. It took three attempts for the group to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and continue the 54-mile journey but they refused to reduce themselves to violence. No one would suggest these actions were passive in the same way no pacifist would suggest holding this belief was easy. Choosing a peaceful path, does not as Hartley-Brewer and others might suggest, mean doing nothing, quite the opposite. Pacifism is about finding other paths than violence, ones of discussion, cooperation, not running away from conflict but simply the belief we ought to find a resolution that doesn't involve war.

Hippy-like, moronic, idealistic, unrealistic. Descriptions of any belief are thrown around and it is often those who don't understand this belief that use sweeping descriptors of complex ideologies that are held for a variety of reasons. My own faith comes from a Christian stand point, the bed rock of a majority of my ideas, but pacifism is a secular idea embodied by many for reasons such as the financial impracticalities of war or the needless loss of innocent life it often causes. This is obviously an opinionated piece written from a personal perspective, but I've written out of a desire to be open and honest: I'm a pacifist and I will fight for this cause.