Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What’s a Pacifist?

Faraway conflicts fly
right under the radar of my daily life.

Growing up a Quaker, I’ve always thought of myself as a pacifist. But a question posed fairly recently by a friend of mine made me consider what this actually means.

The question: “On a scale of 1-10, how pacifist are you?”

Many of the respondents answered as if pacifism is actually a form of passivism or simple conflict avoidance, considering only how much they support or don’t support forms of violence (as if religious faith is little more than sacred consumerism in which we can boycott ideas we don’t like and lavish attention or money on those that we do).

But I’m convinced that pacifism is really about taking action, putting an end to violence or, even better, working to replace violence as an option with creative and constructive solutions (both socially and politically, privately and publicly, personally and culturally, locally and globally).

Considering my definition of true pacifism, I had to admit that I don’t rate much better than a 5 in spite of what I claim to believe. After all, action (or, as is more often the case, inaction) speaks for itself.

Truthfully, it’s hard to care about anything that isn’t a clear and present danger. I’m ashamed to admit that huge but subtle problems (like global warming) or faraway conflicts (like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) fly right under the radar of my daily life.