Sunday, July 1, 2007 36 Comments

The mystery of pacifism

Having dealt with Social Justice, we move to the next Ideal in the cryptocalvinist pantheon - Peace.

Again, our task is to identify the theistic roots of the modern idealism. Given that the Prince of Peace is not Edward, Rupert or Charles, this is hardly an onerous task. But I think there's still some good meat on the bone.

It should be clear that by the standards of the 19th century, post-1945 Westerners are astoundingly pacifist. Or, to state the same proposition in the other direction, by 2007 standards our ancestors were remarkably bellicose. Anyone who doubts the proposition should recall the Ems Telegram or the Don Pacifico Affair, and wonder how a Palmerston would describe the case of Cleo Noel. (I'm not sure "pacifist" is the word he'd use.)

We are so familiar with pacifism that it's easy to take the concept for granted. In reality, I think, it's one of the weirdest animals to ever inhabit the human mind. It makes the Virgin Birth (which is not the Immaculate Conception) look positively straightforward.

The problem is that everyone believes in peace. Okay, perhaps not everyone. There certainly have been cultures that glorified war, generally for its well-known character-forming effect. Since we were all brought up on Erich Maria Remarque, it's a mind-expanding experience to read the likes of Ernst Jünger, whose The Storm of Steel I recommend to anyone.

But to even the most die-hard of militarists, the object of war is peace. That is, the object of war is victory, and victory implies peace by definition. Few soldiers are prepared to give their defeated enemies back their weapons, so they can enjoy fighting them again.

In any conflict between X and Y, there are three paths to peace. X can prevail, Y can prevail, or X and Y can agree to leave the battle lines where they are now.

For example, one conflict that has been ongoing more or less since the founding of the postwar world is the Arab-Israeli war. One way to achieve peace in this conflict would be for the Israelis to leave Israel and live somewhere else - such as Guam, perhaps, or West Palm Beach. Another option is for the Israelis to conquer the Arab world plus Iran and compel its submission, installing military governors and teaching Hebrew in the schools, and eventually becoming the new ruling class, like the Manchu in the Qing Dynasty or the Mamelukes in medieval Egypt. And a third possibility is that the Arabs and Israelis could accept the current de-facto borders and leave each other alone.

Peace, in other words, is an ambiguous concept. Since everyone supports peace, claiming to support peace does not communicate information. It conceals information. Thus the mystery.

We know there is such a thing as a pacifist, because they hold marches and such. We know they tend to agree with each other, because we see few pacifist-on-pacifist wars. And it is pretty clear that they're cryptocalvinists. But how can we predict, given a certain conflict, which of the three paths to peace our pacifist will recommend?

My theory is that what pacifists mean by Peace is actually the victory of righteousness.

The Calvinist doctrine that leads to pacifism is Providence, which is not just the Mafia-ridden slum where I went to college, but also God's plan for the earth. God apparently takes a great interest in affairs down here, and he certainly doesn't want his work to go to waste. Therefore, although his plan is of course mysterious, it tends to favor the victory of good over evil.

If you buy this theory, which was certainly quite popular among the Puritans (Lincoln stated it perfectly when he said "let us have faith that right makes might"), peace cannot be achieved except by the victory of righteousness. If the armies of righteousness fail to prevail, if they experience temporary setbacks, if their tank divisions are cut off and encircled, their bombers shot down and their convoys sunk, this may be a test, but it cannot be the final result. Because God himself has yet to step onto the field. And when he does, buddy, look out.

Therefore, any outcome that is not righteous is a recipe for more war. And therefore, peace and the victory of righteousness are synonymous. Assuming, of course, you believe in Providence. (And assuming you didn't roll a bowling ball down the College Hill bus tunnel.)

This is why pacifism seems to make so little sense. In reality, just like Rawlsian distributive justice, it makes perfect sense. It just depends on a theological doctrine which has long since decayed. If you find arrowheads in an archaeological dig, it does not mean our ancestors went around hurling little chips of stone at each other.

Once we start looking for the arrowshafts, we find them everywhere.

A simple example is the set of disturbances in the US in the 1960s, which included violence by black militants in the inner cities, violence by white KKK activists and other advocates of "massive resistance" in the South, and various riots by students on university campuses.

It's an interesting exercise to reread the contemporary reports on these disturbances - now available for pennies - written by committees of distinguished Brahmin luminaries, such as the Kerner Commission and the Skolnick Report. As Skolnick says:
Almost uniformly, the participants in mass protest today see their grievances as rooted in the existing arrangement of power and authority in contemporary society, and they view their own activity as political action - on a direct or symbolic level - aimed at altering these arrangements.
Indeed. Of course, much the same could be said for Attila the Hun. And though the observation is no longer fashionable, it's an open secret that the Dalit gangsters of today, who are of course cultural descendants of the Panther types so popular with Skolnick and his ilk, tend to view their crimes as not crime, but resistance.

The general recommendation of all these reports is that since the grievances are clearly righteous, the only way to stop the violence is to resolve the grievances. In other words, to find out what the militants need and give it to them. (As Skolnick puts it, "fundamental social and political change.") Otherwise, since Providence will prevail, any resistance will only lead to more violence.

This recommendation held both for black riots in the inner cities, and for student riots on campus. And both, indeed, were largely successful in achieving the rioters' objectives, at least any that a generous observer could describe as sane. Most Americans today don't realize that the universities they send their children to today are the institutional products of this period of mob violence, or that the bizarre "ethnic studies" departments that feature so prominently in their curricula are essentially an occupying force devoted to maintaining this victory.

Of course, this remedy does not apply to (and these reports did not discuss) the violence of white segregationist militants, such as Sam Bowers and his White Knights. Obviously these gentlemen did not "view their own activity as political action," and their various murders, firebombings, etc, were no more than common crimes. Hate crimes, in fact. Therefore, the FBI needed to be unleashed on them, and it was.

Because when you are resisting the forces of unrighteousness - as I hope we can all agree Mr. Bowers represents - meeting force with force turns out to actually be quite effective. Today in the US there is almost no white paramilitary violence. There is some, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who believes that if the authorities had listened to the concerns of the KKK, if they had set up social programs for white people who fled inner cities or couldn't afford to send their children to segregated private schools, there would be even less.

The irony of the postwar age is that this reign of global peace, this universalist millennium, was achieved by the Allied victory in the most ruthless war in modern history, in which neither side displayed the slightest respect for enemy civilians. So much for the legitimate revolutionary aspirations of the German people! If violence never solves anything, why is Germany such a pleasant and peaceful place today, even minus a few cathedrals and other flammable bric-a-brac? Why didn't the German people rise in revolt against this brutal military occupation? Well, because that wouldn't have been righteous, of course. And so on.

If you, like me, don't believe in Divine Providence and instead see history as a mere series of events which often exhibit patterns, but certainly no great plan or purpose, what are we to make of pacifists? Should we support them or oppose them? Is the victory of righteousness such a bad thing?

I believe not. I generally support peace of the third kind - formalizing the military status quo. But who can oppose the victory of righteousness? I am all for righteousness. Sign me up.

However, everyone by definition sees his own cause as righteous. And this certainly includes cryptocalvinists. Ultimately, a pacifist is just an activist whose strategy for victory is to suppress the military efforts of his enemies. If you have the same enemies as the pacifist, you are by definition on his side.

For example, the "peace process" in the Near East is over 60 years old as of this writing. In the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, it has created one of the most militaristic societies in human history, certainly surpassing the Imperial Japanese and perhaps even the Spartans, whose tradition of six-year-old suicide hoplites is yet to be discovered. Predation is by far the primary industry of this state, in the form of payments generally referred to as "aid," which appear to be provided in exchange for refraining from violence against the contributors.

A foolish and atheistic person, ignorant of the ways of Providence, might think that the simplest way to resolve this problem would be to persuade Palestine to accept its current borders, refrain from assaulting its neighbors, and devote its obviously impressive energies to horticulture, software engineering, dance, and other peaceful pursuits.

However, there is no chance of this approach succeeding, because the current borders of Palestine are not just - they are unjust. Therefore, Providence will frown on any attempt to convert the status quo into a permanent peace, and my naive proposal is in fact a recipe for more war, a spasm of pent-up rage from the frustrated national aspirations of the Palestinian people. If these aspirations were unrighteous, they would constitute irredentism and revanchism, but since they are righteous, they are a plea from an oppressed people for the redemption of their stolen lands.

How do pacifists, or cryptocalvinists in general, decide who is righteous and who is not? This is a fascinating question, which I'm afraid we'll have to look at another day.

36 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

Mecius: Since your avowed intention in formalism is to minimize violence, you should really read what Francis says here http://fromthearchives.blogspot.com/2007/06/i-held-it-together-until-about-half-way.html
and tell us what you think about it.

July 2, 2007 at 6:28 AM  
Blogger Victor said...

Mencius, you are corrosive. I like you!

That being said, you failed to directly address the issues of those who call themselves pacifists, and who demand the cessation of military activity on either side (which would often entail the preservation of status quo). There are enough people out there who think war itself is inherently un-righteous.

Your analysis is fine for people who use pacifism and peace as sociopolitical tools, but you failed to link them to those who [ostensibly] oppose war on principle.

July 2, 2007 at 8:41 AM  
Anonymous George Weinberg said...

Well, there are two general reasons to be opposed to one's own country's involvement in a war: because war in general is bad, or because one's country is on the "wrong side". My understanding is that for literally every war the US has been involved in since the Revolutionary, public opinion was strongly against war before "we" were actually shooting, but after that any "pacifist" talk was seen as aiding the enemy, and (until recently) as such was vigorously suppressed for the duration (although there were plenty of "I told you so's" after the war ended).

I think it's only since Vietnam that one can literally cheer for "the enemy" without fearing getting arrested or beaten, and then only in certain parts of the country. But the fact is, a foreign invader forcibly taking any part of the US hasn't been a realistic possibility at least since the Mexican War, and maybe not then. So people arguing "this war is thousands of miles away, we don't really have to be there' generally have at least an element of truth on their side.

How do pacifists, or cryptocalvinists in general, decide who is righteous and who is not? This is a fascinating question, which I'm afraid we'll have to look at another day.

I'll look forward to it. I get the impression it's mostly not so much "righteous vs unrighteous" as "side with the enemy of my enemy". But that still leaves the question of determining the primary enemy.

July 2, 2007 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Belief in the victory of righteousness is not a specific characteristic of cryptocalvinists or pacifists. Everyone believes that there can be no peace until their legitimate grievances are met. Everyone believes that the unrighteous must be defeated with force. What you describe as "pacifism" is common human stupidity, not a pathogenic meme.

July 2, 2007 at 6:50 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

michael -

Thanks for the link. That whole post is a great discussion. It's so rare to see actual productive conversation on the Internet.

The problem of course is that there is no reason to assume that just because someone is a scientist, engineer, etc, that they are "neutral." In fact the more technical a field, the easier it is to conceal a lack of neutrality.

victor - but those people are real pacifists! Unfortunately, they are so outnumbered that they (or should I say we) need a new name. (While I try to avoid the trap of defining righteousness, it's certainly the case that war is inherently unproductive.)

george - I agree with all of this. I am generally an isolationist myself, but for very different reasons. I think of Iraq and Vietnam as essentially civil wars by proxy - that is, American civil wars. This is such an awful and pernicious phenomenon that hardly anyone on either side can wrap their head around it, except in terms of the deepest euphemism, and it simply has to stop - preferably before anyone realizes the true horror of the thing.

steve - yes and no. The tendency is common and nasty enough without received cultural ideas that tend to reinforce it. Another way to state my thesis is that the belief in Divine Providence has mutated into the belief in Human Progress, and this is certainly not a cultural universal.

July 2, 2007 at 8:24 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

Storm of Steel is indeed a fantastic book, even if it is essentially just the diary of a very deranged (by 21st century American standards) man. I found myself totally absorbed near the end, where the adoring men under Junger's command are sacrificing themselves to prevent his best efforts to fulfill a death-wish. I was taken aback, even after having read about he and his chums having a round of drinks to celebrate their coming noble demise in a war they already know to be lost. I have not read "All Quiet on the Western Front", but it is worthwhile to note that it was far outsold in post-Versailles Germany by Storm of Steel. That kind of attitude wasn't confined to Germany, as part of the edition I has contains a passage mentioning the congratulatory letter Junger received from a Scotsman who recognized a passage in an earlier edition discussing his own shooting by Ernst. When I was young I thought if I were ever in a war, I would keep the Bible with me for support. I have replaced that with Storm of Steel.

I really like your point about the "violence never solves anything" claim to be utterly contradicted by history. I would only like to note that the FBI did work against civil rights and campus radical organizations. It is other parts of the Polygon that handed them concessions.

July 2, 2007 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

tggp,

Why am I not surprised that you've read Juenger? Try The Glass Bees, too, it's good as well. And I really want to read his anti-Hitler novel, On the Marble Cliffs.

Of course you are right about the FBI, but the leash was yanked back on them, whereas with the white extremists it was sic 'em, boy. Although the pitbull did not necessarily react with unconditional enthusiasm. It is interesting to read these books from the 1960s, in which the "red government" was in reality much larger and more powerful than it is today, although still weaker than its blue adversary. There really were good ol' boy American fascist types in the FBI and CIA back then, as well as in police departments, etc. Now these forces are almost entirely mythical.

July 2, 2007 at 11:34 PM  
Blogger Bruce G Charlton said...

I notice the comment that the aim of formalism is to minimize violence - I believe this was (more or less) Richard Rorty's characterization of the essence of liberalism.

But I suspect that such a 'negative' aim is an error - since it implicitly points towards a static society.

There is a kind of paradox (or rather, something we maybe don't properly understand) about the observation that modernizing societies based on growth in complexity are less violent than other kinds of historic society (hunter gatherers and - especially - the very coercive agrarian societies).

Ernest Gellner suggested that economic growth enabled violence to be bought off, and that the state of constant expansion enabled people to be more hopeful - whereas in a zero-sum society then you can only get more by taking it.

My point is that I believe the goal of society should be dynamic growth (of some kind) - ie. a positive goal, more of something; rather than the negative goal of minimizing something.

After all, the most obvious way of minimizing violence is to have fewer humans, doing fewer things - an anti-life kind of perspective, which in the extreme implies no humans at all, maybe no life at all...

July 3, 2007 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

I am not sure that genuine pacifism (the kind that opposes war on principle) is and has always been that rare. In these parts (in Eastern Europe, that is), the shock of World War II was elemental. While I don't know how to test the hypothesis, but I feel that it is the passing away of the generation that has experienced it first-hand, which results in a dramatic decrease in genuine pacifism over here. Of course, in North America, the picture is very different.

Furthermore, I don't believe that justice is something arbitrary. I believe it to be a Schelling point (which, of course, also happens to be a stable Nash-equilibrium). The current borders of Palestine are unjust not because some crypto-calvinist dogma, but because within those borders the rational behavior for those trapped inside is violence. They are objectively unjust, in other words.

For the same reason, the peace dictated by the victorious allies after 1945 was just and the one that would have resulted from an axis victory would have been unjust (and therefore impossible): if the vanquished are marked for enslavement and eventual genocide, there is no reason for them to stop violent resistance. Therefore, they don't.

Does my holding of these opinions make me a cryptocalvinist?

July 3, 2007 at 3:03 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

On a more general note, I don't find it very surprising (or even very interesting) that any idea in the West (in the broadest sense of this term) can be traced back to Christian roots, for there was a time in European history when there was very little intellectual life outside of Christianity.
What I find more interesting is spotting little bits of culture and politics that are of non-christian descent. For example, the Soviet pacifist anthemn/nursery song "Let there always be sunshine" (Пусть всегда будет солнце) is a pagan (Sun-worshiping) prayer both by form and by substance. My recent travels to Lithuania and Belarus (where pagan tradition survived longest) were most fascinating for this very reason.

July 3, 2007 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Victor said...

Daniel,

or example, the Soviet pacifist anthemn/nursery song "Let there always be sunshine" (Пусть всегда будет солнце) is a pagan (Sun-worshiping) prayer both by form and by substance.

That sounds very interesting, and I wish it were true, but apparently it's not. I have just looked it up (here, if you can read russian), and apparently the refrain you are referring to predates the song itself, and according to the report of soviet poet Chukovsky, these four lines were created by a four-year-old boy in 1928.

Let there always be sun,
Let there always be sky,
Let there always me mom,
Let there always be I.

I love slavic paganism (what other mythos has the thunder god be both the warrior and the life-giver?), and it would be incredibly sweet if that song was a hymn to Svarog or Dazhdbog; but apparently it's not.

July 3, 2007 at 6:41 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

It is interesting to read these books from the 1960s, in which the "red government" was in reality much larger and more powerful than it is today, although still weaker than its blue adversary. There really were good ol' boy American fascist types in the FBI and CIA back then, as well as in police departments, etc. Now these forces are almost entirely mythical.
I can see the CIA and FBI now being part of "blue government", but not local police departments. Then again, I really don't have any insight into this.

In these parts (in Eastern Europe, that is), the shock of World War II was elemental. While I don't know how to test the hypothesis, but I feel that it is the passing away of the generation that has experienced it first-hand, which results in a dramatic decrease in genuine pacifism over here.
That seems doubtful to me. It is my general impression that the most anti-war are those that have the least experience with it, and those that have often have a high opinion of it. That may not make sense, but remember that East Germans have a more favorable view of communism than West Germans even though you might expect them to know better.

I don't believe that justice is something arbitrary. I believe it to be a Schelling point (which, of course, also happens to be a stable Nash-equilibrium). The current borders of Palestine are unjust not because some crypto-calvinist dogma, but because within those borders the rational behavior for those trapped inside is violence. They are objectively unjust, in other words.
If the winner simply wiped out the losers, or used the "Turko-Mongolian strategy", would that be just? Is China's occupation of Tibet more just? In what way is violence "objectively rational"? Personally, if I was required to live in Palestine, being conquered by Israel sounds better than an alternate history in which Egypt and Jordan held that territory. David Bernstein is nowhere near an objective source, in my opinion, but his point here strikes me as very credible.

I think your belief in "justice" as something other than accurate application of the law would exclude you from being a formalist, though ultimately it is up to Mencius to decide.

July 3, 2007 at 11:22 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Victor,

I think, I did not express myself clearly enough. I do not claim that this song has been used by practicing pagans of old. Neither do I claim that it was consciously written as a pagan prayer by some secret pagan conspirators. "Here, at UR" we always retain a healthy dose of scepticism towards any suggestion of conscious scheming. However, I am similarly sceptical about the ability of humans (let alone four-year-old humans) to come up with truly original ideas.

What I do claim is that the first verse (not just the chorus) happens to be, for all intents and purposes, a proper sun-worshiping prayer, complete with ritual circle-drawing, repetitive recitation, etc. Which might very well be the reason it caught on and spread like wildfire through the entire Russian-speaking culture and beyond (you can hear it on mid-summer vigils in Lithuania performed in Lithuanian). Even if its present form is pure XXth century, the cultural background to which it appeals and the emotional levers that it pulls are much older. The first verse has become something that "everybody knows", from the Baltic Basin to Central Asia, from Brighton Beach to Berlin-Mitte. I would not be surprised if your children knew it, too.

For Moldy, here's some pacifist culture that has very little to do with Christianity.

July 3, 2007 at 11:45 PM  
Anonymous Seamus McCauley said...

I wonder whether, therefore, history would tell us that cultural manifestations of pacifism are correlated with hegemony?

Fukuyama's call for an end to history is - self-evidently - a call for an end to change (through conflict) so that the system he happens to favour (and happens to favour him/his constituency) can go on forever unchallenged. Western Europe saw a surge in pacifism in the C19th when it ruled the world. America saw much the same in the late C20th.

Put it another way - who doesn't want to fight? The people who (think they) for the moment have won. Calling it principle is meaningless.

July 4, 2007 at 2:46 AM  
Blogger Victor said...

Daniel,

Appeals to subconscious nature etc. are nearly unfalsifiable, so I will leave that one well enough alone; but this struck me as funny:

"Here, at UR" we always retain a healthy dose of scepticism towards any suggestion of conscious scheming.

We? We here at UR?.. Hmmm...

July 4, 2007 at 6:17 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

bruce,

A static society, perhaps with professions assigned by some Hobbesian leviathan, would certainly be quite nonviolent.

But it is not the only way to achieve nonviolence, because trade and competition, all of which are quite voluntary and frictionless, are certainly dynamic enough for my taste.

However, if you don't agree with the goal, you don't agree with the goal. Violence is certainly an important part of the human experience, and it's very exciting to be anywhere near it. We can't derive "ought" from "is."

July 4, 2007 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

daniel,

Not at all, I have precisely the same opinion. My argument is simply that the Schelling point - whether of 1945 or any other year - is an arbitrary result of historical events, not derivable from any "theory of justice."

Stability is much under-appreciated, especially by those who enjoy its benefits.

It's important, however, to note the difference between "opposing war on principle," a sentiment I think is genuine in most pacifists, and supporting policies which actually tend to diminish war. Again, although not everyone prefers peace to war, the converse is historically rare (and scary).

July 4, 2007 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

victor and daniel,

Well, we are all here at UR, aren't we? I certainly am very skeptical toward any suggestion of conscious scheming, so that makes two of us. You may disagree but you are outvoted.

I like the sun-prayer thing, and the suggestion of unconscious cryptopaganism is fascinating - if unprovable. It's also interesting to note the Soviet tradition of amazing feats performed by small children, a trope I suspect may have deeper roots as well.

July 4, 2007 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

tggp,

Daniel's point, which I agree with, is that the law itself is arbitrary - a product of history, just like all other distributions of property. We support it because it's stable, and we like stability.

You are right - local police departments (with perhaps a few exceptions, eg, Berkeley) still harbor a lot of red-government subversives. But they also have a large superstructure of blue government, notably the judicial system, to throttle any rebellious tendencies.

July 4, 2007 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

seamus,

Put it another way - who doesn't want to fight? The people who (think they) for the moment have won.

Precisely. But note that there are two categories of pacifist, the people who don't want to fight because they think they've won, and the people who don't want their enemies to fight. I probably should have illuminated this distinction better.

July 4, 2007 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Seamus McCauley said...

Mencius - are there really historical examples of people who called themselves pacifists on the basis that they didn't want their enemies to fight (but by extension reserved the privilege for themselves)? Seems so absurdly obvious and self-serving a position to adopt that I can't think of an example. Surely anyone called "pacifist" has always started from the position that no-one should fight, conveniently glossing over the issue that such an outcome would leave them forever in charge.

July 4, 2007 at 12:42 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

I almost forgot to mention the Steve Dutch essay The Problem With Pacifism. I was introduced to Steve Dutch by Ilkka Kokkarinen and have enjoyed much of his writings, even if if he is still taking "blue pills", as it were. I especially like the Popperian sentiment expressed at the header of every page and his willingness to attack nonsense everywhere he sees it, including with those he might otherwise side with. That essay goes well with The Ghandi Nobody Knows.

July 4, 2007 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger steve said...

Echoing Victor, perhaps.

Pacificsm can refer simply to a choice not to use violence. And it seems to me that is what most commentators are referring to. Such a choice can arise from different kinds of cultural experiences or philosophical arguments.

One is a purely practical or pragmatic argument usually dealing with cost. As Daniel Nagy points out WWII was very costly for Europe. Europeans' conceptions of peace and pacifism are informed by personal experience. Another writer talks about empire and being at the top of the heap. Again, pacifism can be motivated by reconing of cost without promise of benefit.

But I'm not sure that people who believe in pacifism as an overarching personal principle will agree that their belief has anything to do with cost. Quakers and people of certain other sects that espouse non-violence think in other terms. One is that it is unconditionally wrong to take another life.

This is a personal ideal held in the first person. It doesn't translate very well to nation-states. But it can work for large groups of peoples with strong cultural identities. In a military sense the Chinese were overcome by many outsiders but they remained fundamentally unchanged.

Ghandi's belief in non-violence was probably not primarily cryptocalvinist in derivation; but we have been led to believe that it was motivated by more than just cost/benefit. It was more than just a pragmatic choice.

Nobody loves to poke fun at Calvinists for self-righteouness more than I do; but I do think it is theoretically possible to have converstions about and strive to make sound judgments about fairness. And I think that if one is to pragmatically seek peace, one must necessarily attmept do these things.

Resolving conflict through violence and threats of violence alone can be tremendously costly and these paths rarely succeed alone.

July 4, 2007 at 6:38 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

seamus,

Are there really historical examples of people who called themselves pacifists on the basis that they didn't want their enemies to fight (but by extension reserved the privilege for themselves)? Seems so absurdly obvious and self-serving a position to adopt that I can't think of an example.

Sure - they march all the time in San Francisco. They reserve the right to fight not, of course, for themselves, but for their allies, the revolutionary liberation fronts.

This kills so many birds with one stone (or, if you prefer, IED), that I can't even begin to count. Obvious and self-serving it may be, but you can't say it don't work!

July 5, 2007 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

tggp,

You pasted the wrong link - here is Dr. Dutch on pacifism. I too like his writing, although he really, really needs to spend some quality time over at Climate Audit.

I really should have linked to that Grenier essay - it is one of my favorites. (Best served with a large helping of The Marrakesh One-Two!) And see also Nirad Chaudhuri on the same period. I can't believe you can get both these books for under $10 - a ridiculous bargain.

July 5, 2007 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

steve,

Actually, I think Gandhi's pacifism was entirely cryptocalvinist in origin. Gandhi's real success was in constructing an alliance with the British Labor Party, which was and is to cryptocalvinism basically as Hezbollah is to the Shiites. The whole Gandhian movement was designed as the ideal ally for anticolonialists in Britain proper, who wanted to crush their high-Anglican imperialist foes but would have balked at supporting an actual violent war against their countrymen. This inhibition has since lapsed, but we can at least remember it fondly.

Now, was this what Gandhi was thinking? Of course there is no way for us to know what Gandhi was thinking. All we can say is that this is why his movement succeeded. If he personally hadn't seized this opportunity, someone else probably would have.

Anyone who thinks India has been better governed in the second half of the 20th century than the first is in need of a serious cranial examination. If nothing else - and there has been plenty else - it would have taken one heck of a lot of enlightened prosperity to make up for the massacres of Partition.

July 5, 2007 at 8:48 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

Mencius, maybe you should e-mail Dutch on this. I'm sorry to disappoint you again in that I largely agree with Dutch on climate change (though not his prescriptions as I don't think other countries represent a real threat to us now), even though I also think a lot of global warming proponents spout things that aren't quite so. I used to be more skeptical, but over time other skeptical people paying attention to the science have changed their minds and the remaining skeptics I read seem particularly shrill or uninformed. Given my political inclinations, I would tend to side with the skeptics but I try to "think like reality" rather than as an ideologue.

July 6, 2007 at 10:18 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

tggp,

Hie thee at once to Climate Audit.

Or read this by McKitrick (and read the linked paper). Or go here, and read the paper.

I'm afraid there is no really good summary on the net of the whole scientific disaster that is AGW, at least not once which includes both the paleoclimate and GCM sides. At some point I will try and take my own stab at it.

July 7, 2007 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Piet said...

It is stupid to believe the words of a child are a pagan Sun-worshipping anthem.

duh

just

DUH

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