Pacifism is the belief that violence is unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.
To solve problems without violence is only possible so long as the option of violence stays on the table.
The threat—the potential for violence—must exist, even if it’s only there as a last resort when all else has failed.
So what of violence outside of direct interactions with others? If you live in the woods far from other people, is that the life of a pacifist?
I don’t think it is.
Because to exist—that is, to breath in air and demand your continued survival—is to throw yourself violently against the world. It’s violent because to exist is to sustain your life by way of aggressing against some other life. Whether it’s plants, bacteria, animals, whatever.
We live and breath because our ancestors at various stages in the past took life from other living beings, consumed their life, killing for all kinds of reasons to survive.
Like it or not, your life today is sustained through the consumption of other life. Your body does not convert solar energy into sustenance. You must aggress upon life to survive.
Where aggression doesn’t rise to the surface, it’s always there in the background. The miracle of humanity is in how we’ve been able to tame our violent natures just enough to work together, collaborate, and build systems that may improve our lives.
That doesn’t mean the aggression goes away. This is the insight of Christianity: We all carry within us this torch of aggression—it’s called “original sin.” While vague and distasteful in our modern anti-religious times, “original sin” captures the spirit of what it means to live.
You and I are violently alive.
The capacity for aggression is in all of us and it is there because it has led to our survival over countless eons of existence.
Know it. Accept it. Because to deny it is to ignore the nature of our existence:
To exist is to aggress.