Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words

Chapter 9: Extensions of Pacifism

MANY PEOPLE KNOW the simple spiritual law that evil can only be overcome by good. Pacifists not only know it, they also attempt to live it. In their attempt to live it they refuse to use or sanction the use of physical violence. Those who oppose war but would use physical violence in their personal lives I would call war resisters but not pacifists. Those who use the nonviolent method only because they believe it to be the most effective method I would call nonviolent resisters but not pacifists. Pacifists use the nonviolent way because they believe it to be the right way, and under no circumstances would they use or sanction the use of any other way.

The animal nature thinks in terms of using "the jungle law of tooth and claw" to eliminate all opposition. But this law solves no problems for humans; it can only postpone solutions, and in the long run it worsens things.

Some nations, even while they are using the jungle law in their dealings with other nations - while they are at war - recognize that pacifists cannot act that way and exempt them from military service. Instead they usually either serve in non-military ways or spend time in prison. They are often called conscientious objectors. There are, of course, very few conscientious objectors, because very few have attained sufficient inner awakening at such an early age.

When I talk about extensions of pacifism, I realize that I am speaking just to fellow pacifists, a very small group in any modern society. With this small group, a group that I admire and respect very much, I would like to discuss three extensions of pacifism that I have made.

I have extended my pacifism to include non-use of psychological violence as well as non-use of physical violence. Therefore I no longer become angry. I not only do not say angry words, I do not even think angry thoughts! If someone does an unkind thing to me, I feel only compassion instead of resentment. Even upon those who cause suffering I look with deep compassion, knowing the harvest of sorrow that lies in store for them. If there were those who hated me, I would love them in return, knowing that hatred can only be overcome by love, and knowing that there is good in all human beings which can be reached by a loving approach. Those who use the non-violent method without love may have difficulty. If you force people to do things your way without helping to transform them, the problem is not really solved. If you can remember that we are not really separate from one another it may increase your wish to transform instead of subdue. And to extend your pacifism to include non-use of psychological violence as well as non-use of physical violence.

I wouldn't recommend civil disobedience except as a last resort. In general, people can accomplish much more out of jail than they can behind bars. Nor would I encourage any threatening action that advocates psychological violence as a solution to problem solving. What is done to a single person affects us all.

I have extended pacifism to include non-payment for war as well as non-participation in war. Therefore I no longer knowingly pay federal taxes. For more than forty-three years I have lived below income tax level. I admit, of course, that there is a second reason for this: I cannot accept more than I need while others in the world have less than they need. Naturally I have never paid taxes on liquor or tobacco because I have never used these items, but I also don't pay luxury tax because I don't use luxury items and I don't pay amusement tax because I don't patronize amusements.

Now, the federal government may be supporting some things we approve of, but unfortunately it is not presently possible to pay for them and not for war. A pacifist would answer "No" were the federal government to say, "If you will spend half of your time on war activities you may spend the other half of your time on good works." Yet there are pacifists who answer "Yes" when it is a question of money instead of time. I realize that human beings tend to be inconsistent in one way or another, but since I feel I must be as consistent as I know how to be I have extended my pacifism to include non-payment for war as well as non-participation in war.

I have extended my pacifism to include non-harming of creatures as well as non-harming of human beings. Therefore for many years I have not eaten flesh - not meat, fowl, or fish. I also don't use furs or feathers, leather or bone. I realize that some people are vegetarians merely for health reasons, and are not necessarily opposed to war. Some people may miss the eating of flesh, but I do not. I don't crave animal flesh any more than the average person craves human flesh. I think most pacifists - in fact, most modern human beings - would not eat flesh if they had to kill the creatures themselves. I think if you were to visit a slaughterhouse it might encourage you to extend your pacifism to include non-harming of creatures as well as non-harming of human beings.

There is an awakening taking place today which may very well develop into a new renaissance. Perhaps the wish to survive is pushing us this way...perhaps it is the realization that something must be done about our present plight that motivates us. Groups that have traditionally used violence are talking about nonviolent resistance. People who have participated enthusiastically in war activities are becoming war resisters. An ever increasing number of people are becoming pacifists. I am, therefore, expecting the pacifists to move forward also and make some extensions of their pacifism.

***

The following quotations were among the few notes that Peace Pilgrim carried in the pockets of her tunic:

General Omar Bradley: "Wars can be prevented just as surely as they can be provoked, and we who fail to prevent them must share in the guilt for the dead."

General Douglas MacArthur: "I have known war as few men now living know it. Its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes."

Pope John XXIII: "If civil authorities legislate for or allow anything that is contrary to the will of God, neither the laws made nor the authorizations granted can be binding on the consciences of the citizens, since God has more right to be obeyed than men."

Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who are hungry and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed." Speaking "as one who has witnessed the horror and lingering sadness of war - as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization," he warned against the military-industrial complex.

John F. Kennedy: "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind... War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today."

Lyndon B. Johnson: "The guns and the bombs, the rockets and the warships, all are symbols of human failure."

Pope John Paul II: "In the face of the man-made calamity that every war is, one must affirm and reaffirm, again and again, that the waging of war is not inevitable or unchangeable. Humanity is not destined to self-destruction. Clashes of ideologies, aspirations and needs can and must be settled and resolved by means other than war and violence."

Herman Goering, at the Nuremburg Trials: "Why, of course people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voiceor no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

***

I have never met anyone who built a bomb shelter and felt protected by it. I have never met a modern military man who did not realize that military victory is a concept which became obsolete with the coming of the nuclear age, and most civilians realize this also. Wisdom demands that we stop preparing to wage a war which would eliminate mankind - and start preparing to eliminate the seeds of war.


Previous Chapter // Next Chapter
Back to Index // Home