Saturday, May 14, 2011

Isn't that blog name an oxymoron?

How can one be armed and non-violent? Being armed implies at least the possibility of violence, right?

I think this is a deeper question than it first appears. First, there is a semantic element. Most people would agree that aggressive violence is bad, and most would admit that defensive violence is at least justifiable, or even good. Are these two just subsets of the overall concept of violence? Or are they completely different things?

I examined this question in a short article here:
Good Violence

Part of the problem with the discussion of non-violent strategy and tactics, is that proponents just seem to lump it all together, as if there is no distinction between aggressive violence and defensive violence. I think there is a huge distinction, and that recognizing that distinction will give rise to the question whether non-violent strategy must necessarily preclude defensive violence.

Non-violence is naturally opposed to aggressive violence, that is clear. Gene Sharp (Part 3, starting page 594) makes an excellent case that non-violent resistance must not be tainted by violent activities (by this I assume he mostly means aggressive violence, e.g. riots), as did Gandhi before him. But is defensive violence also precluded? Sharp is silent on this, at least as far as I have been able to determine so far. If anyone knows otherwise, I'd appreciate a reference so I can look at it.

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