Violence

February 26, 2011Category: WritingTags: , ,

My favorite author is Robert Heinlein, because besides interesting stories, he always includes some big ideas about politics or ethics. Starship Troopers is one of his most famous novels, and when I read it, I find that the most interesting part of the book are flashbacks of the main character to a class he takes in highschool called History and Moral Philosophy. Here is an excerpt:

But on the last day he seemed to be trying to figure out what we had learned. One girl told him bluntly: “My mother says that violence never settles anything.”

“So?” Mr. Dubois looked at her bleakly. “I’m sure the city fathers of Carthage would be glad to know that. Why doesn’t you mother tell them so? Or why don’t You?”

They had tangled before. Since you couldn’t flunk the course, it wasn’t necessary to keep Mr. Dubois buttered up. She said shrilly “You’re making fun of me! Everybody knows that Carthage was destroyed!”

“You seem to be unaware of it,” he said grimly. “Since you do know it, wouldn’t you say that violence settled their destinies rather thoroughly? However, I was not making fun of you personally; I was heaping scorn on an inexcusably silly idea, a practice I shall always follow. Anyone who clings to the historically untrue, and thoroughly immoral, doctrine that ‘violence never settles anything’ I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be Dodo, the great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at it’s worst. Breeds that forget this truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms…

This is a great thing to remember. Thomas Jefferson had similar ideas when he said “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” People may decide to never do violence for some reason or another, but if you do not use it, even to defend yourself, sooner or later, you will have nothing, unless another uses violence to defend it for you.

In the bible, it say do not murder. It does not say do not kill. Murder is killing without reason. Defending yourself and killing your attacker is not murder, but it is still killing. If a nation is being invaded, the defending soldiers are not murderers. Should we fight a war of aggression, I do not think so, but in some cases, it can be a war of aggression in one sense, but being fought to liberate, and therefore defend, the citizens of a foreign country. Or take WWII for example. Yes, we invaded France. Yes, we later invaded Germany. However, it was because Germany had invaded first, was attacking a friend, and would have eventually attacked us. We HAD to do it, and no one looks back and says, geez, we were evil to fight WWII.

I’m not advocating violence in all situations. There has to be reason. For example, things like the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, these were situations where there was disagreement, and still is, on whether or not the reasons for attacking were justified. Violence is terrible, there is no doubt, and I’m not saying that it is a good thing. What I Am saying though, is that it is a tool, and that while there may be times to not use it, there Are times when we Should use it, when it is the Right thing to do. We cannot practice complete pacifism, or we will eventually be destroyed by someone who does not.

Violence is not evil. It can be used to evil, and for good. Force is a tool, like any other. It is up to each person on how to use it.