Responding to according2grayson’s passionate defense of non-violence and the Golden Rule while encountering bullies (as well as while opposing despots on the march), Steve-O-in-NJ enriched Ethics Alarms with an epic response including historical perspective, ethics and personal experience.
Here is his terrific post—long but not to be missed—and the Comment of the Day, on Comment of the Day: “An Unethical Website, Golden Rule Malpractice And The Worst Anti-Bullying Program Ever”:
I question this litany of life experiences, since it sounds a bit too pat and a bit too neat to be real, or at least it sounds sanitized/incomplete. Those with truly outstanding records usually don’t feel the need to trumpet them. That said, I wasn’t there, so maybe it is all true.
I know I tried the non-violent approach a few times, and it just lead to more bullying. I also tried the fight-back approach, smashing one bully’s head against the sidewalk and nearly strangling another, and it frankly didn’t get much more done beyond getting the bullies off my back temporarily. That said, a temporary respite from abuse is better than absorbing abuse every day without a respite. What really broke one group of problem people was a combination of finally going to the authorities and the people overreaching.Despite the justified criticism of Catholic schools (a whole separate discussion), they did have one very big thing going for them: no one who was enrolled had to be, or had any right to be, and dismissal or necessary discipline was easily accomplished.
One day after a particularly difficult bus ride in, I finally took things, with names, to the dean of discipline. Somewhere in the week around this complaint one of the same people bullied another student, who weighed maybe 110 pounds soaking wet, by grabbing his nose and twisting it almost to the point of breaking. Needless to say, there was no hiding what had happened when that kid’s parents saw him coming home with a nose the size and color of a beet, and frankly I question the gray matter of someone who would inflict a visible injury like that in front of witnesses and expect there not to be consequences. The bullies were subsequently suspended and in the case of the nose-twister removed from the bus permanently, with a warning that one more infraction would result in his dismissal, and the entire busload of students got a stern talking to by the dean. Bottom line: unless this crap stopped forthwith, more people would end up finding their own way to school, and no refunds would be made for the bus transportation. That was the end of that, and my conscience is clear for taking action that I probably should have taken earlier.
I have in fact received at least three Facebook friend requests from people who I had problems with in the past, one the jerk I nearly throttled to death after CCD, one an idiot who was thrown out of Scouts after pouring Vienna sausages inside a tent and getting caught (he later got into drugs), and the third a then-nascent thug who attacked me for no real reason after school and was finally physically restrained by a crossing guard after ten minutes of verbal and physical bullying. All three were denied and blocked, and I ask myself why these people think I would even want to talk to them after all these years when they don’t offer an apology or even an excuse, not even a lame message to the effect of “can’t you take a joke?” Sometimes the right thing to do is take action, and, although carrying a grudge is probably counterproductive, no one’s under an obligation to let someone back in their lives who brings nothing but grief to the table.
As for the Gandhi/Berrigan question of pacifism, here is part of an earlier note I wrote, starting with WWI:
I’m not sure in the aftermath of World War I that we quite knew what we were getting into with the nascent Communist government in Russia. Lenin ruled with an iron hand, although he disguised it with propaganda, and Feliks Dzerzhinsky, initial leader of the Cheka, which later evolved into the KGB, was blunt about being in the business of state terror. I’m not even sure we cared if we did know. After the brutal trench warfare in France and Flanders and Wilson’s posturing to try to achieve some grand peace, a return to normalcy, even a withdrawal, sounded good to most people. Pacifism sounded like a good alternative, and many attempts to outlaw war, and so forth were tried. However, all this did was allow Mussolini and Hitler and the Japanese the breathing room they needed to rebuild and start conquests, small at first, but then growing bigger and bigger, till Japan turned Manchuria into Manchukuo and the Germans stood ready to take Poland. Still we didn’t take action until the Japanese moved against us. What had the pacifists to say to that, other than Jeanette Rankin, who stupidly cast the only vote against fighting WWII?
World War II was not something we could afford to fight with kid gloves, either, nor should we have. The other side was murdering innocent people by the minute. I saw up close the planes used to deliver maximum damage as used by both sides, and I have no apologies for the Allies raining death on either Germany or Japan after the damage both did. I saw the Enola Gay, which then-Colonel Paul Tibbets used to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He remained unapologetic to his dying day, and I do not blame him. Neither the Dresden raid, which pretty much burned down that city, nor the atomic bombings occurred in a vacuum. The Germans had repeatedly bombed London and other civilian targets and made no bones about the fact that they were looking to get Operation Sea Lion under way and conquer the UK. The Japanese had attacked the US without declaration of war and then fought us for four extremely bloody years. They were not about to give up, as was clearly shown by their introduction of the kamikaze tactic, and then the manned missile they called the ohka, or cherry blossom, but which we called the baka bomb, the Japanese word for crazy. It was either drop the bomb, or invade the Japanese home islands, there were no other options. Both sucked, but the second one sucked with 300,000 American casualties. The pacifists’ response to our decision to take an action that spared these American lives? The response was to throw blood and ashes at the plane. Those perpetrating this act would rather the Allies had done what? Invaded Japan instead? Halt the war on Japan’s doorstep? Or maybe not respond to the attack on Pearl Harbor at all? None of this makes sense, unless you let your beliefs blind you to facts.
Then came the long drum roll that was the Cold War, armies ready to move, though they never moved, missiles ready to launch at a moment’s notice, and spying and counterspying everywhere. It was here that some of the worst excesses of hard-core pacifism or more likely pacifism functioning as a cover for bad ideology, came to be. Most of the student counterculture was not about bringing peace to Southeast Asia, it was about “turning on, tuning in, and dropping out.” [Editor’s Comment: Don’t forget “not having to serve.” In my experience, that was the primary motive for most campus protestor “idealism” in the Sixties.]
The fact that no one on the political left said word one after the US withdrawal from Vietnam and the relatively easy conquest by the Communists thereafter and that some like Noam Chomsky tried to defend Pol Pot and the “killing fields” gives the lie to the idea that somehow this was all some idealistic young generation reaching out for a cause. It wasn’t. Nor were the many honest-to-goodness traitors to the west who emerged simply misguided idealists.
Some like Kim Philby and the Cambridge Five, who passed any number of secrets to the Communists, were motivated by ideology, which is to say they were blinded by their adherence to the foolish worldview they picked up at liberal university during a time when the West was losing faith in itself because of its own failures and Communist lies. Others, like Robert Hanssen, the villain of the infamous “breach,” were playing games for the thrill of it rather than any other reward. More than a few, like Aldrich Ames, were simply unable to manage their finances and sold out to the other side.
I’m not sure any of these are the worst, though. A special category, I think, should exist for those who use high-sounding ideals to cover up fairly banal evils, which, without the high-sounding ideals, no one would give a second thought to condemning. John Murtha garnered himself a great deal of attention by speaking out against the war in Iraq and proposing legislative initiatives that would have significantly hampered the effort, as well as his failed attempts to smear American marines regarding the Haditha incident. What’s rarely mentioned is his involvement in the Abscam scandal and his attempts to steer government work to his brother, which was still being looked into at the time of his death. Murtha, who voted for the Iraq war, did not have some great moral awakening, he knew he was in trouble and was looking to deflect attention away from what he’d done. Since the hard left and pacifist movement will defend anyone unconditionally who agrees with them, he looked there.
Philip Agee, who died in a run-down apartment in Havana in 2008, after trying his level best to undermine the intelligence capability of this country, including the exposure of literally dozens of agents abroad, was no idealist either. He was someone who had hit a brick wall to promotion because of irresponsible drinking, complete inability to manage his finances, and an inability to stay away from colleague’s wives. So he turned on his former employers, of course saying all the time that the CIA was evil and he was just trying to stop this evil. Again the pacifist sheep flocked to his cause, but at the end of his life he was reduced to attempting to arrange visits to Cuba for American tourists.
And let’s not forget Scott Ritter, the weapons inspector who resigned in frustration over Iraqi cheating and retreating, but who suddenly became almost an advocate for the Iraqi cause after being paid off to write a documentary that said Iraq was a defanged tiger and being nabbed trying to set up a sexual encounter with an underage girl. He got only probation for that, but as the dog returns to its vomit, so did he return to this vile practice, and now he faces up to seven years in prison. Yet some on the pacifist left still defend him.
At last comes the present day with us attacked on our own soil by the man we finally took down ten years later. American forces have done more than their best on the peaks of Afghanistan and in the desert of Iraq. The Taliban regime,who hacked off limbs and forced women into hiding is long gone, as is the psychopathic Hussein crime family. Syria has given up its hegemony over Lebanon and Gaddafi, long-time nemesis of the US and troublemaker, may soon join them in oblivion. Oh, and as mentioned at the beginning of all this, bin Laden is dead, and dumped in the sea, where the fish nibble at his eyes and the lobsters pluck at his feet.
Yet through it all the nattering pacifists, or those who call themselves pacifists, have been there every step of the way, saying idiotic things like if we did not take action after 9/11 there would be world peace, or that we should not move on Afghanistan because it would interfere with charity work that no one was benefiting from anyway, or that Iraq was somehow a better place before we took action to remove a tyrant to whom rape rooms and acid baths were a way of life. They offer no alternative solution to any of these problems, they simply say no to any kind of action. The capstone to this idiocy was the unhinged Cindy Sheehan’s statement that bin Laden was not dead and that we should put away our flags and wake up. While she simply opposed the Iraq war she might have had some credibility or at least the sympathy factor, but this last statement has revealed her for what she is, simply a contrarian and a media hound.
It’s my conclusion that pacifism at its best is a bankrupt idea that offers no real solutions to any of the world’s problems, and in fact does nothing but stand in the way of the solving of problems and the administering of justice when it becomes necessary. At its worst it’s a cloak for those who would thwart necessary action by those seeking to protect the Western way of life. There needs to be a fundamental realignment of the discussion of war and peace to the point where pacifism is treated as simply no longer worthy of serious consideration, just as you would no longer listen to someone who said the world was flat, and its adherents as those who have forfeited their place in the discussion and do not deserve to be listened to.
Just to add Berrigan’s discussion to things here, neither of the brothers have/had much credibility if you read their writings, which are essentially rants against America’s defense of the west and the western way of life. Philip Berrigan was frankly nothing more than a vandal, who spent about eleven of the last twenty years of his life in prison for attempts to damage the US military’s capabilities that amounted to theater of the absurd and embraced every cause inimical to the west.
I don’t know whether he even deserves the title of useful idiot. Anyone who cites him as an ethical authority is a COMPLETE idiot.
14 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘An Unethical Website, Golden Rule Malpractice And The Worst Anti-Bullying Program Ever'””
G.K. Chesterton’s About Impenitence, in his essay collection As I Was Saying, is highly material to looking into pacifism. One important thing to note is that it’s not hindsight talking; it’s dated 1936, about the time he died and well before many people could see how things were working out.
However, I do think that this post occasionally does overstate matters; sometimes – to paraphrase Chesterton, at the end of one Father Brown story – there are no good guys. It is quite possible, for instance, that a failed C.I.A. agent should be motivated by personal demons and yet choose genuine grounds of attack, even if only because those were tactically sounder. Condemnation should rest on the merits of the case, not on the demerits of the other side.
Well, you certainly know your history. You forget Neville Chamberlain whose policy of appeasement allowed Hitler to take over Czechoslovakia even though the Czechs were willing to fight with some help from France and Britain. One of the reasons I like Eisenhower is that he basically ended the Korean War and stood up to the Russians by implementing the Eisenhower Doctrine.
Bullies will always be with us, both personal and international. I believe is better to stand up to them and take some punches even if you lose. They seek easier targets after a while.
“Peace for our time?” Uh huh.
The question of what’s right or what’s ethical isn’t necessarily the same as the question of good guys and bad guys, which terms are slightly cartoonish and represent a simplifying of the issues involved in questions of war and peace and politics and diplomacy. I can see what you are saying and to some degree you are right, cases should be won or lost on their merits and not on the demerits of the person bringing or defending the case, at least in the legal world. However, in cases that aren’t quite so governed by rules of evidence, procedure, etc., that kind of approach doesn’t necessarily work, nor is it necessarily for the bettr if it is applied. There’s alos a question of the more ethical result vis-a-vis the more ethical approach.
You reference the Philip Agee case, which involved some fairly serious grounds of attack and some very serious ethical breaches, most notably loyalty and the duty not to expose others to danger. Had he merely written a tell-all book that would be one thing, but he exposed the identities of American agents abroad, in at least 2 cases leading to assassinations, to say nothing of the damage done to this nation’s capabilities to get, analyze, and process information, sometimes key information. You also have to think of who was on the other side: the aggressive, predatory, and tyrannical USSR.
I’m not going to pretend that the CIA and related agencies haven’t done some ethically ambiguous, distasteful, and even downright wrong things in the process of performing their duties, and what is more, due to the clandestine nature of their work we’ll probably never know the exact extent of where they went right and wrong. For the most part, though, they were trying to protect this nation’s interests in a very treacherous world with some very treacherous enemies. Whether Philip Agee was motivated by simple petty revenge against the people who denied him promotion or a genuine change of conscience, objectively he not only compromised that mission, he actively turned against it, and deaths resulted that were not of men who were close to murdering others or engaged in activity that put those around them at risk. These compromises and deaths left the United States in an objectively weaker position. I’m almost not sure it matters what he was thinking, since anyone with a functioning ethical compass should have been able to tell that betrayal and exposing others to being murdered are objectively wrong acts. There is simply no defending him or what he did, whatever the reason why.
A goodly amount of those who’ve opposed the US and the West, from without or within simply can’t be ethically defended, but a goodly number of them also throw the mantle of being “for peace” over their acts in an attempt to whitewash them, the thought being no one can argue if someone is for peace, a clear ethics dodge. Jack pointed out above, and rightly so, that a lot of those who claimed to be pacifists/idealists/whatever during Vietnam had more prosaic reasons for taking that stance, notably avoiding service, but also getting into coeds’ panties, which is a lot easier to do when they’re preaching free love and drugs that kill inhibitions, and generally not working too hard because, y’know, why work for the man, man? Laziness, lust, and betrayal are hardly ethical values.
Perhaps I do overstate the cause a bit, but I firmly believe that, flawed though it may be, the American system is so far the best that’s been tried, and it’s worth defending, particularly when the alternative is the tyranny and mismanagement that ended the Soviet experiment after 70 years or the religious oppression of Baathism or bin Ladenism. Those who turn against the best system so far in the name of seeking some ideal of peace that can never be expose the rest of us to the peace of the grave, and that is hardly ethical.
Good analysis. I’d almost forgotten about Scott Ritter.
I remembered him mostly because he was tried and sentenced in Stroudsburg, not too far from my family’s vacation home. Classic case of someone destroyed by his inability to restrain his sick impulses. Yet some of the liberal publications, I think the most notable one was Slate, kept defending him right up to the end, implying that he’d been set up by a government that wanted to see him silenced.
Again, the fact is that not everyone who claims to be on the side of peace is there because of ideals or principles. Some, I’d say a good number, are there only because and as long as it benefits them or gives them ammunition to use against those they dislike. How many folks in Congress and Hollywood who made hay out of Iraq and Afghanistan were just fine with Clinton’s sideshow war in Kosovo and Obama’s undeclared, lead-from-behind conflict in Libya? Not that it’s not possible to think that one conflict is a good idea and another isn’t, but most of those folks never bothered to draw any distinction other than partisanship.
Truly principled peaceful people, who are against violence at all times, are few and far between, I have concluded, and not necessarily ethical though they may be moral. Gandhi may have been a firm believer in nonviolence, but reading his letter “To Every Briton” written in the darkest days of World War II I didn’t know whether to laugh or vomit. Continental Europe was under the boot of the Nazis and the UK was just barely staving off the Blitz, and this man chides the British for trying to counter force with force, warns them they will only win by becoming just like the Nazis, and tells them it would be better to switch to passive resistance, for it is better to be slaughtered than to continue fighting. So the UK should have grounded the RAF, kept the Royal Navy in port, maybe even landed the breech blocks of their guns so they could not fight, demobilized the army, and just allowed the Nazis in, in the hopes that they would become tired of occupying a land that offered no challenge? Does anyone here with a functioning brain think that would have ended well?
Don’t even get me started on Gandhi, Steve! I could write all day on why I consider him one of the sorriest,rascals ever to play a political con game on the entire world.
Feel free. The more we expose pacifism and non-violence for the dangerous dreams they are, the safer decent people are.
Many years ago, someone, and I forget who, wrote a science fiction story based on Gandhi’s letter to the Britons. In it, the victorious Nazi’s had occupied India, and Gandhi attempted to use his pacifism against them. You can, I’m sure, guess how well that worked for him.
I read it. For those not inclined to go looking for it, it does not end well for him.
I read it, too. In the end, they send Gandhi and Nehru to the firing squad. I wouldn’t have mourned them, either. They attempted to deliver India (and the whole world with it) into the hands of savage dictators.
Of particular interest was the scene in which a Nazi Waffen SS tank commander opens up on a protest march with an MG42 (pretty much the standard machine gun for WWII Germany and good enough to be the basis for our own M-60).
But with a VASTLY higher rounds per minute. I toted an M-60 a lot because I was usually the biggest guy in the squad. A M-60 just chugs out rounds like a washing machine. The MG-42 is like a buzz saw by comparison.