jump to navigation

Pacifism vs Violence, FPS, and World Peace July 17, 2006

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Family, Morality, pacifism, Parenting/Children, Video Games, Violence, War and Peace.

Recently, I have debated the relative merits of gun ownership, first person shooters, and the ethics of pacifism with a couple of close friends. In both cases, they were surprised to discover that I was a gun-owner, given that I have every indication of being a non-violent man.


The truth is, I am non-violent in nature. However, I see the goal of world peace and the realities of pacifism in a different light from my friends.

Hitler vs Ghandi: Mano a Mano
Historically, there have always been violent people, who with or without video game encouragement will inflict pain and suffering on others. At any point in history, you can find legions of people (those who Ghandi referred to as “brutes”) whose first inclination was always toward violence, regardless of the circumstances. Ghandi ridiculed such types as being “less enlightened,” and spoke of the philosophy of non-violence in such a way that it actually becomes condecending to one who would even consider violence.

I believe that, in spite of his apparent acceptance of the possibility that violent behavior might be warranted against Hitler in the days preceeding the Holocaust, Ghandi underestimated the capacity for evil that some men have, and their willingness to continue unabated in their violent actions. Accordingly, I will, when pushed to the limit, use violence if that is the only recourse to defend my friends and family. In short, I am not willing to sacrifice those that I love to prove a philosophical moral point (and I’m not suggesting that you necessarily are).

A Worthy Goal
Accordingly, I see “world peace” as something that humans will never achieve, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to work toward that goal. What id *does* mean is that I accept that there will be times when violent behavior is the only option for dealing with violent behavior. (This is not always the case, but there are extremes.)

History seems to suggest that violent behavior is not a new problem, and it’s not clear that (compared to other societies) anything about current human behavior is “better” or “worse” in this regard. The largest difference is that we now have tools that cause our actions to have further reaching consequences, and cover a larger scale (i.e. more people affected by a violent choice by one individual).

My understanding of history suggests that the only chance we have to be a country or world at peace is for “good people” to be ready to use violence when it is necessary and appropriate. Yes, I want to open dialog. Yes, I want peaceful coexistence with people of other faiths and ideologies. Unfortunately, some people’s ideologies simply will not coexist with my peaceful existence (Islamic extremists are a current example, but if I were african american, I could say the same thing about the KKK). If they push their ideology to its limit, it threatens my existence, so my response is to violently defend my existence, and that of my loved ones.

Ultimately, Martin Luther King Jr was correct in that, within the US, peaceful protests were successful in bringing about societal change. Sadly, many peaceful african americans were murdered while waiting for “good people” to stand up and (using force and/or threatened violence) bring the KKK and others to justice. What would have happened if those standing up to the KKK (federal law enforcement officers) were without weapons or any instruments of self-defense? The law enforcement officers bodies would be lined up next to the innocents who had died before them, and the KKK wouldn’t have batted an eye.

Closer to Home
Like most concerned parents, I will not allow my sons to spend time at the home of someone who doesn’t properly lock their firearms, and have restricted my younger son from visiting someone for specifically that reason. The dad was making an effort, but not enough of one, and I found out that my son’s buddy knew how to “get to the guns” when dad wasn’t around. No more visiting that house… end of story.

Perhaps more interesting is that my younger son has a huge problem with cruelty to animals, and has boundless compassion for living things in general. This is the same child who has played WWII video games, and confided that he would be proud to serve in the military if it were necessary. He loves the physical intensity of football, particularly the violent contact, but feels genuine anguish when someone sustains an injury during the game. This is also the son who started crying during “CastAway” when he was 10, and didn’t stop for hours.

A Complex Equation
There are many things that condition our children, and I have been (and continue to be) an advocate for not allowing children to play violent games when they are at an age where they can’t easily distinguish reality. Sadly, this is different for each child, and there are some that aren’t mature enough as adults to process this kind of input. Does it have long-term effects? Most likely, it does. Can those effects be simply explained? I doubt it. The even larger question is, if I shield my child from this kind of input, does that automatically make them less likely to engage in violent behavior?

That, to me, remains a very open question.


1. Kevin Chapman - July 31, 2006

Very well said. So few people are capable of understand this very simple reality.

2. Robert W Ashley - August 5, 2006

Our creator who is whatever you call him, or Her ,in my opinion made one big mistake.They gave us the ability to think and act on our thoughts.
What real difference does it make what we as individuals think. Do we have to impose our wills and beleifs onto others.
In the UK we have a saying,”Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Why retaliate with violence just because someone says something we do not like.
Why cannot we live and let live.

3. Tim - August 5, 2006

Thanks, Kevin. I’m not always certain that I understand it either. 🙂

Robert, I’m not sure I get what you’re saying. Depending on your motivation, you can view the Creator’s choice as good or bad. With regard to sticks and stones vs words, some of the deepest scars I’ve seen weren’t physical, but were made with words.

In that regard, having a community that’s non-violent, but where people tear each other down or disrespect each other… is hardly an improvement.

Thanks for the comment, and I’d be interested in seeing you expand on what you’re saying (either here, or elsewhere). – Tim

4. icedmocha - December 12, 2006

I’ve often asked myself similar questions about the impact of violent video games. I have difficulty believing that the games don’t inure players to the horror of killing and violence, but it is certainly difficult to find empirical data to either support or invalidate my feelings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: