WHAT IS PACIFISM?

 
 
 STUDY AND TEACHING
 RESOURCES
   
     

  

 
 

 

 

 

  
 





CONTENTS
- why is war wrong?
- aggression and revenge
- the right to live
- the web of war
- changing the way we think
- pacifism in action
- faq's
- further reading






supplementary information
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

 

THE RIGHT TO LIVE

In 1948, shortly after the horrors of the Second World War, forty-eight countries signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It begins:

i. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
ii. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
iii. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Our common humanity demands that we make friends, not enemies, of each other. Nor should belonging to a country or state be a reason for being the enemy of other nations and states. 'Everyone' - everyone - 'has the right to life'. Rights such as these are not only human, they are also humane. War, killing and violence are never humane, whatever excuses may be put up by people who want to justify them.

Yet human societies are so entangled in the web of war that the Universal Declaration, a commendably sane and reasonable agreement, soon began to be eroded. First, an additional clause was signed allowing 'the State' to 'take measures' (in what it judged to be a 'public emergency') that break the terms of the Declaration. Then the European Convention on Human Rights (1950), which aims to 'guarantee the fundamental civil and political rights of Man' by making human rights a legal obligation, provided warmongers with a loophole. This Convention allows that a State may authorise killing as a response to 'unlawful violence' or to suppress an uprising; and also 'in time of war or other public emergency'. The proviso? Such killing must only result from 'the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary' - an impossible decision to make in the midst of the chaos of war, and an immoral dilemma at any time.

 
 

   








 

What does this loophole mean? It means that governments have the legal power to decide that in some circumstances people can and should be killed: that is to say, they have the legal power to strip us of our most fundamental human right. Is this the sort of power we really want our government, or any other government, to have?

It's quite clear that war is an abuse of human rights. But we have not yet developed a society that is prepared to acknowledge that and entirely reject war as an option. Since most people are peaceable and peace-loving, and no-one wants to be killed, you'd think that war would be universally regarded as the human race's greatest shame. It's extraordinary that any modern and civilised society can still take armed force for granted. Yet in the last century up to 200 million people were killed in wars, the majority of them civilians, many of them children. Why ever hasn't war been abolished? CONTINUE

 
     

 PART FOUR: THE WEB OF WAR 

         
 

 

 

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