New Telegraph

Shouldn’t We All Become Pacifists?

A pacifist is a person who does not believe that misunderstandings and conflicts as outcomes of incompatibility of goals can be resolved through war and violence. A pacifist is a peace-loving person and a peace builder.

There are many theories that explain approaches to settling disputes and conflict resolution. Most of these theories target state par- ties and thus assume diplomatic and political approaches. Only a few of these theories are founded on practical ethical principles. However, it is not my intention to use this space to discuss these theories. Suffice it to say, human history is replete with theories and various declarations about resolving disputes.

They are evident especially in instances when parties or actors manifest tendencies to seek revenge whenever they are aggrieved or perceive incompatibility of goals. Things that human beings often believe worthy to be revenged on are for example betrayal by friends, contempt, non-recognition or unlawful appropriation of property, technology or ideas.

The need for revenge is a major contributor to conflict and misunderstanding in the world. These conflicts manifest themselves in different permutations. For example, they could be inter- personal or interstate in nature, or they could be between a particular state and an international institution. They could as well assume an interregional character, or they could pit a state against a coalition of several state actors.

Despite the existence of robust international instruments and global organs to regulate the rational choice proclivity of state actors against domineering tendencies on economic and security matters, the world is still a theatre of active wars and intrastate violence.

The attitudes and socio-economic goals of many countries have been strongly influenced by their underlying economic policies, history, culture and religions. This explains why many countries are heavily investing on security as well as initiating massive up-scaling of their military hardware and range of weaponry for both offensive and defensive purposes or to protect their sovereignty against perceived threats.

The increase in the scale and sophistication of the global situation of war and violent conflicts is an indicator of a deficiency of a philosophy and mechanism to sustain a global infrastructure of peace. It is therefore evident that our world needs to internalize ethical values of pacifism.

States are not autonomous actors; their behaviour is an outcome of a series of strategic decisions made by human beings as individuals or as a collective. Therefore, a warring state is a microcosm of internally warring and conflicted individuals. Given that there is a strong correlation between the inner peace and externalized peace at the global level, the intrapersonal space becomes the first space of internalizing and practicing ethics of peace. This then finds its translation in inter personal peace spaces as well as communal, national, regional and global spaces.

Ideologies and perceptions that conflict with our values must be tolerated and dialogued as they cannot be totally resolved through acts of aggression and war. Inner peace and tranquillity are what really makes a person a pacifist. It demonstrates that one has built the internal capacity to remain true to ethical principles of peace as she/he non-violently navigates through the complexities of incompatible interactions.

Currently, the world is experiencing an intense war following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. One of the major causes of this war includes the attitude of revenge or retaliation.

In a context of multi-polar global power contestations, Russia assumes that it reserves the unquestionable right to be the political, historical, and military big brother to Ukraine.

Given its proximity to Ukraine and the strategic economic location along the black sea, Russia interprets Ukraine’s unilateral action to join NATO as not only a demonstration of historical and cultural betrayal but as a strategic security threat.

It is my submission that the abstinence of some countries to vote in favour of Ukraine during the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) should not implicitly be interpreted as a vote for Russia. It is possible that they didn’t abstain because they don’t believe in pacifism but because they do not want to be perceived as political and economic allies of Russia’s enemies.

There are other countries that are supporting Russia not because they believe in war as a solution to tensions, but because they have decided to make a global statement to their historical enemies who are currently supporting Ukraine. Ultimately, whether they get directly or indirectly involved in war, their attitudes amount to being anti-pacific. I see the need for all people to be pacifists. As it should be for all pacifists, I don’t advocate for just war. I believe in the sanctity of life and that no one has the authority to take the life of another, to destroy another’s property or to destroy the infrastructural investment of another state. I believe in peace and consider war as an act of externalization of inner tyranny and not a way to seek true and sustainable peace. I believe in pacifism, a word whose origin is the Latin word ‘pacific’ meaning “peace-making” (paci-from pax, meaning peace and ficus meaning, making). If everyone became a peacemaker, the world would be a safer place to live in. Strange enough, many countries have been upgrading their armed forces and increas- ing and diverting budgetary allocations from social protection to security or making modern weapons of mass destruction for defensive or deterrent purposes.

Basically, what is concealed under the guise of ‘self-defence’ is an act of aggression and domination between two human beings. Because of their egoistic nature, humans always like to be above their fellow human beings. My call to action to the whole world is, ‘we should all become pacifists’. Pacifism, how- ever, does not mean passivity in the face of evil. There is a Swahili saying “funika kombe mwanaharamu apite” with a literal meaning of “cover up your mouth for the bastard to pass”.

The spirit of this saying sometimes motivates people to let evils pass unaddressed just for the sake of ‘peace’. Apathy or indifference does not add value to peace making in a pacific sense. Pacifism is not passive to violent ways of settling disputes. All people in the world have the obligation not to remain silent in the face of war. We are called to be non-partisan and non-violent yet active

in condemning and persuading people and nations who use violent means to settle disputes.

Our world should have people who are peace-loving is the response to my question ‘Shouldn’t we all become pacifists?

Coy is an Assistant Lecturer of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam, where he is also working on his PhD thesis on a topic in medical ethics. He can be reached at, and you can find him on Twitter @JacksonCoy2

Read Previous

Soludo: 365 Days of Work And No Excuses

Read Next

EU sanctions, forex dynamics push up diesel price by 168.26%

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular