Monday, July 06, 2009

Wherein I Find Myself Defending Pacifism

It's a topsy-turvy world. CarteachO writes that he is always armed because he sees self-defense as not only a right, but a moral obligation:

I carry a weapon because it is the moral thing to do. It meets with my definition of doing ‘right’. Being prepared to defend myself and loved ones is part of being a responsible person.

Please allow me to explain…

I believe people have a ‘moral obligation’ to take responsibility for themselves, not leaving the task as a burden to others. I know this may not be a popular concept in some circles, but that doesn't change it as my belief. I know we are laden with entire generations of people who honestly think they bear no responsibility for their own safety, wellbeing, and actions.


I engaged this idea in the comment thread, asserting that one only has a moral obligation to defend oneself if one insists upon being defended by others. If a person refuses to defend him/herself, but also declines the defense of others, s/he has not engaged in parasitism and therefore has committed no moral wrong.

If people are truly free, then they are free to make bad decisions as well as good ones; they are free to choose to live and to choose to die. If people cannot opt out of a social contract, they are merely slaves, not free men and women.

Some of the commentors whether or not a pacifist has the right to decline to use force to defend his/her children from violence. This is an interesting question which requires contemplation. It is similar to the question of whether or not a parent may ethically decline medical treatment based upon religious grounds.

HT: Hell In a Handbasket

12 comments:

Ed said...

You're not serious, are you?

"Parasitism?" What is that, exactly? The philosophy that it is good to be a parasite? And you're guilty of that unless you are a pacifist, and you count on others to defend you (like the police or the army)? I call BS.

So, let me see. A 90 pound weakling is a parasite if he's a great story teller and he entertains the gang, so they stick up for him in the 'hood. An attractive young single woman had better be packing, too, or she's a parasite. A retired NFL quarterback in his 60s, who has arthritis, had better not let his fans protect him from hecklers or bullies. What a parasite!

Where does this 'moral obligation to pack heat, take karate, or get pwned' come from? From some silly American notion that people ought to pull their own weight?

I could see an ex-Christian like yourself saying, "screw everyone who is too weak to defend herself," but that would be subtly different. That would mean that you could walk by watching a woman being raped and do nothing about it. For all I know, you're fine with that.

But here's what you seem to be saying: "If she didn't have mace or a pistol, it's her own fault if she was raped. Oh, unless--and let me ask her--'are you a pacifist?' If so, you are still screwed, but at least you aren't being a parasite."

Like I say, I call BS.

Carteach0 said...

I have no issue with true pacifists choosing not to defend themselves. It's their choice... so be it.

On the other hand, I have never actually met a pacifist. I've met several people who claimed to be one, but they all fell for the same trap... they would happily call the police to do their violence for them.

TANSTAAFL

John said...

Ed, I can't make heads or tails of what you're saying. Are you arguing with me or CalteachO? Because we're taking two different positions.

John said...

CarteachO, I agree that pacifists who renounce violence but outsource their violence to the state are not true pacifists. If it's wrong to use violence personally, it's wrong to hire someone else to use violence.

jockeystreet said...

Ed, not to speak for John, but I think you missed the point entirely. I think the point is that if you're a pacifist on moral grounds, and yet expect the state or whoever to use force in your defense, there's a contradiction. On the other hand, if you are a pacifist on moral grounds and you do not approve of the state using force to defend you, you're being consistent.

It has nothing to do with the ability to defend oneself. Being 90 pounds and weak is not the same as being a pacifist; not fighting back and calling for someone else to help because you are not able to do it yourself is not the same as a moral objection to physical resistance.

I agree with John on this.

And I am someone very sympathetic and often drawn to a philosophy of pacifism.

The whole moral obligation to pack heat and such, however, is pretty much nonsense. The way it's framed, at least. I would argue for a moral obligation to find ways to protect your family and dependents, I just wouldn't put it anything like this.

Ed said...

@Jockeystreet

I don't think I missed the point. You agreed with MY main point at the end of your response--and so I suppose if I 'missed the point' it's because I communicated poorly.

You wrote, "The whole moral obligation to pack heat and such, however, is pretty much nonsense. The way it's framed, at least." Bingo. That was the point of my examples. If they failed to put that across, well, my bad.

And so, @John,

You say that you are disagreeing with Carteach0. But you don't disagree nearly enough. You seemed to be basically saying in your responses that you accepted his argument except in the case of pacifism. He rightly responded (I think) on his blog with the question, "Do pacifists actually exist?" Meaning, of course, that they are very rare, and I think they are. If that's all the objection you can make, you basically agree with him.

I must confess being rather irritated by the shallowness of thinking that self-defense is a moral obligation. It is certainly a legal right in this country, but if some one wants to tut-tut about your guns, you can't say that you're only doing what everyone OUGHT to do. Any more than a farmer can respond to someone who thinks rural life dull by saying, "you have a moral obligation to grow your own food."

Carteach0 said...

"The whole moral obligation to pack heat and such, however, is pretty much nonsense. The way it's framed, at least."

Morals are slippery concepts, and are generally a true case 'to each his own'. My post explained MY reasons for self defense, from a morality aspect. Nothing in there stated or implied that I think everyone else should do the same.

I'm quite Randian in that fashion. I believe everyone has the right to go to hell in their own fashion, as long as they don't try dragging me along with them.

John said...

Ed wrote:

You say that you are disagreeing with Carteach0. But you don't disagree nearly enough. You seemed to be basically saying in your responses that you accepted his argument except in the case of pacifism. He rightly responded (I think) on his blog with the question, "Do pacifists actually exist?" Meaning, of course, that they are very rare, and I think they are. If that's all the objection you can make, you basically agree with him.


I agree that people have a responsibility to try to take care of themselves. That does not necessarily mean strapping on a Glock whenever you go outside your house, but it means that a person should be prepared to take care of himself and not force an obligation to do so on someone else.

Ed said...

@Carteach0
You don't use language very precisely if you claim that morality is purely a matter of individual choice. Morally speaking, what's wrong for me is wrong for you. You have made a choice to defend yourself--fine. It wasn't a moral obligation, but if you get some satisfaction from thinking that you're pulling your own weight more than people, I suppose that's just gravy. But morality has little if anything to do with it, unless there's some universal mandate involved. Otherwise, why even have a word for it?

At the center of every ethical question is a situation where we must do something that doesn't come naturally. Defending oneself is quite natural for you, apparently. Good for you, and I mean it. Not everyone else is so inclined, and by using moral language to explain your decision, you were in effect claiming that others were being slackers in not doing so--something wrong. Otherwise, why would John have tried to coin the ridiculous 'parasitism' description?

There is simply no way that the idea that 'everyone should pull their own weight' is a moral mandate. It's certainly not true in Western Judeo/Christian ethics, and I challenge you to find any world-level moral system that doesn't tell people to GO AGAINST THEIR BASIC NATURE and help those in need. At best, statements like these are some sort of political reaction to abuse of a system by lazy people. A problem, no doubt, but not one that requires moralizing. Just stop giving the bums the money.

I believe that the right to self-defense is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. It is a legal right that should be defended. It cannot, however, be defended as 'morality.' At best, it reflects a deeply held personal value of many people. Overreach, as I wrote above, is sloppy thinking and doesn't do any good.

James R. Rummel said...

Good post.

Ed Harris said...

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" nails it. Our right to self preservation and defending family out-weighs any collective good to society by restricting the right to defend ones self. As my late father was fond of saying, "a Democracy is four wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner..."

John said...

Amen, Ed Harris. Majority rule must be tempered by limited government.