Love of Peace Takes Courage


Defenselessness is not the same as placidity

A person who feels impotent can be silenced with the most abstract hint of violence – and if the obscuring veils of civilization are peeled away, a physical attack is almost always at least a possibility in any kind of conflict. Be it a discussion in the family, a quarrel with strangers or in a partnership, be it the lifting of the voice in the political debate or a clear condemnation of immoral practices – how certain can one ultimately be that an insistence on one’s own point of view will not lead to physical escalation?

Worse still, how deeply does this idea sit in the subconscious minds of many people, so that they give up their standpoint in preeminent obedience, even if there is actually no danger? How much of an inconvenience can one take the liberty of being, before getting attacked by individuals, before being placed under the very real threat of  having all one’s possessions taken, being separated from the family, and deprived of one’s freedom by officials?

Powerlessness renders a body infantile

Many of us lack trust in our own strength, we do not live in the certainty (worse, not even in the hope) of being able to avert a physical attack of any kind. This deep feeling of weakness robs us of dignity and sovereignty in the face of a real threat. Europeans in particular have been taught unmistakably and for many centuries that resistance does not lead to anything good.

Thus, with our deep-seated deference to authority and the willingness to carry out assignments given to us by others all the live-long day, we resemble children. Even what we are supposed to be thinking is a dictate most of us accept without objection.

Faced with any danger, however unlikely, we shiver and tremble (ready to agree with the most stupid ideas, just as long as our supposed security is granted). True adults do not act and feel this way.

Prohibition of physical conflict, instead of being taught to deal with it, promotes helplessness

Many a person who avoids any conflict and always remains friendly for the sake of peace, lives in the illusion of being the proverbial* smart one who gives in out of moral superiority. (*Significantly, the German saying: “the smarter person will yield” doesn’t actually seem to exist in English) However, honest scrutiny will bring forth the realization that this is usually a lie of convenience – and of embarrassment. In school, we (particularly –  but not exclusively – the girls) are educated into defenselessness, which leads to reactions of mortified horror when confronted with physical violence as adults. We are neither shown techniques of de-escalation nor are we taught how to defend ourselves if bad comes to worse. This renders us a lot more defenseless and helpless than we are, and downright invites perpetrators to attack without having to reckon with any counter-measures.

Physical assault (including the “preventive first strike”) is always wrong, defense with the mildest means adequate, however, is an irrefutable basic right – yet we equate passivity with decency. This is of no use to anyone but the aggressors, who will attack without hesitation, while their victims think twice, wondering if it is even justifiable to use any kind of force to simply defend themselves.

Defenselessness leads to bogus morality

Far too many of us not only fear physical conflict, but have internalized forbearance as a life maxim, often dressed up with philosophical arguments to such an extent that we do not only have to hide our frustration and anger from others, but primarily from ourselves – a good person, after all, would never have such feelings. It is no wonder that these martyrs often internally drown in poison and bile, failing to understand why their renounced and exemplary life is so unsatisfying.

Pseudo-morality prevents the development of genuine morality

There is, of course, a misconception in place here. A self – resting man who has overcome his ego to such an extent that malignant insults can simply no longer reach him, will refrain from conflict and struggle from a completely different motivation than someone who really submits out of fear, yet attempts to elevate the supression (not the overcoming) of their hurt ego to a heroic act. In the self-complacent arrogance of the (often quite mistakenly self-presumed) morally superior (this being precisely the attitude which has given rise to the German word “Gutmensch” – a hypocritical goodie-two-shoes), it will come out of the closet occasionally – more aggressive and neurotic than ever.

The conclusion then drawn by the more violent-prone among us – namely, that tolerance originates only from weakness, and is therefore nothing but pure hypocrisy, is, of course, a projection of their own inner workings onto others. With a healthier relationship to aggression, many honest do-gooders (in the best sense of the word) might be better fortified (but not more belligerent!) in the private and political realm. Their conviction that peace and fellow-humanity are the way out of global misery obviously would not change – being based on a deep understanding of complex interrelations and observations.

Sad irony

Unfortunately, the shyness of any aggression takes away much of this argument’s credibility. For someone who divides the world into strong and weak, it looks as if self-deception is the only reason for the demonstrated meekness – a very unfair accusation, which is however to be realized and processed for what it is: the ongoing and very damaging interpersonal perception of one’s own motivation … the peace-loving, more than anybody, should be the ones most decidedly representing their position at the moment – instead, they refrain from fighting to avoid conflict.

The best fighter in the world, such is the wisdom of the East, would be the one who can stop his opponent before a single blow is exchanged, and turn him into a friend instead – but that can only ever be achieved by someone who feels truly equal and offers peace from a position of strength.


Image Title Author License
Depressions Depressions DanielZanetti CC BY-SA 3.0

Discussion (2 Comments)

  1. What you describe here is the practice of Christianity. I can think of half a dozen Bible verses – turn the other cheek, look for the mote in your own eye, the meek shall inherit the earth, Jesus as the final sacrifice, whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, how many chances to give someone not seven, but seventy times seven. Your life becomes the example. You become like Christ.

    1. Dear Sue, I’m not entirely sure what you are trying to say. Are you agreeing or disagreeing? In any event, I’m quite happy you’re bringing up Jesus, since I didn’t want to do so in my article but kept thinking that this is a prime example of the very point I’m trying to make.

      Therefore, allow me to go into further detail, on the assumption that you think I’m attacking the view that meekness is the way to go. Incidentally, if so, you must not have read any other of my articles, in every one of which I always point out that violence is never the way.

      This piece however, was dedicated to the huge and dangerous mix-up between two conditions that are almost opposites of each other, one being healthy and a great gift to the world, the other being the great enabler of all sorts of evil.

      The first is freely chosen meekness and gentleness (based in moral choice and/or true spirituality), the second is fearful shrinking away from conflict under the mask of having the moral highground.

      The difference could not be bigger: The first will enable a person to step in and defend others or their own ideals fearlessly – enter Jesus, who stopped a worked up angry mob from performing a stoning (that one, he might admittedly have done without any sense of being able to defend himself if necessary, just throwing in his life like it was nothing. I kind of doubt that, though.) and who chased a nasty crowd from the temple when they turned a sacred place into a mall. With a whip, I might add.

      Of course, this might be exactly what you meant… that knowing your strength and still chosing never to hurt others whilst decidedly standing up for what’s right is the way Christ was trying to show humanity. In which case, yup, u got it.

      In case you thought I was trying to defend violence, nope, not at all. I’m defending valor, vigilance and courage in their best form (that is, coupled with a good and open heart and the brains to see the world for the complex place it is). However, to act on those virtues will oftentimes require the ability to defend yourself – otherwise in those aforementioned mob situations (and looks like they are on the rise again) you are left with the choice to do nothing or fully self sacrifice, which usually won’t result in instant enlightenment, but in hospital time. The stories about Jesus, no matter if they are about an actual person or a principle, describe someone already enlightened. So who knows what ways of calming down a crowd he or anyone who has reached this state may have – reaching out to people’s hearts, bringing out the best in them, perhaps. For you and me and the next guy however, it will usually not end well to confront anyone in the act of committing a violent hate-crime, no matter how unoffensively we may try to go about it. But we need good people who are not scared to step in.

      If you will allow me a gross oversimplification for a moment; what do you think will be the outcome if every good person keeps turning the other cheek no matter what is done to them or people next to them, while all bad people undisturbedly go about their business of taking from others and the earth whatever they can. No. Sometimes one needs to be a peaceful warrior. That means knowing your strength, being fearless, putting one foot down hard. But always, always with the gentlest means possible and never by being the agressor. Start up an NGO, take part in democratic processes, be a pain in the butt of corrupt politicians, step in when you see someone get mobbed or attacked. Never be afraid that doing the right thing could mess up your carreer or lead to disadvantages of any kind. Do the right thing, always and curageously (as in, what would Jesus do 😉 Hope I could clarify anything I might not have expressed clearly enough in the article. Thank you for your comment!