Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The psychological roots of pacifism - genius plus egalitarianism

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Pacifism is historically almost the primary and first type of recognizable Leftism - with the Quakers - but I think that psychologically Pacifism derives from already-established egalitarianism.

I take it that pacifism, as a political principle, is about men rather than women (since women are usually exempt from war) - and my intuition is that it derives from genius men.

In historical societies, I think the equivalent people to modern geniuses were shamans, priests, healers, advisers etc. In sum, it was recognized that geniuses were unsuitable for deployment as soldiers.

Psychologically, part of being a genius is a primary commitment to the importance of one's own work, above social ties and duties. So the genius feels, about himself: "I personally will not fight."

But when egalitarianism began to get a grip, geniuses saw that the logic was that either all should be conscripted for war, or nobody - and this, I think, led to pacifism.

In effect, the genius's own imperative to avoid war - plus egalitarianism - drove him to advocate pacifism as a universal principle; on the basis "I personally will not fight, but all should be equal - so what applies to me should apply to everybody; therefore nobody should have to fight".

I believe that this is the basis of genuine, principled (albeit wrong) pacifism.

Such geniuses constructed pacifism as a political principle - rationalized in various ways; and various other - differently motivated people - subscribed to pacifism until they made a vast majority.

But the origin of pacifism is, I believe, in the combination of genius with modern (i.e. post-medieval) egalitarianism.

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10 comments:

  1. The traditional leadership classes derived their legitimacy from success in war. If pacifism prevails, and nobody has to fight, then the rationale for leadership by a warrior caste is fatally undermined. This opens the way to leadership by the intellectual caste - and this explains some of the appeal of pacifism to intellectuals.

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  2. @JP - And the same applies to women. But that has always applied - yet significant pacifism is new and unusual. I was looking for a principled - not self serving - reason for the invention of pacifism; once invented it can be hijacked for a variety of agendas.

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  3. I wonder if Mennonite pacifism predates Quaker pacifism.

    I think pacifism comes from a particular understanding of the Sermon on the Mount.

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  4. @BB - "I think pacifism comes from a particular understanding of the Sermon on the Mount."

    - My question is (if you are correct) why this interpretation started being made after 1500 years of non-Pacifist Christian history - my guess is that it was to do with newfangled egalitarianism.

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  5. I should have said “a particular misunderstanding.”

    Maybe it was inevitable with Protestantism and the idea that authority to interpret scripture was in the hands of individuals.

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  6. @BB - I feel there must be more to it than that - it is a bizarre belief (by world historical standards) yet very tenacious.

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  7. When I apply this analysis to the church I've been going to I believe it's correct. The pastor there is a pacifist, leaning toward the ana-baptist/Mennonite tradition and most certainly genius. He can be very negative toward patriarchy. He's also the most giving and genuine teacher I've ever had the pleasure of learning from. While I don't understand his pacifism or the disdain for patriarchy I do believe it comes from a principled place. The last thing he is is self-serving.

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  8. A train of logic emerging from the basic view that "I personally will not fight" and "my work is more important than any social duty" is self-serving no matter how much gilding intellectuals put on it.

    Moreover, pacifism is morally bankrupt to begin with, because you cannot be a pacifist unless other men are willing to fight and die to defend you and your belief.

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  9. What do you make of military geniuses? There was no shortage of these in history compared to any other type of genius.

    I believe pacifism has nothing to do with genius or egalitarianism, but, like the decrease of general intelligence, it has everything to do with moral decadence as well as the sheltered life in Western prosperous cities.

    By coincidence, David Warren has a piece on about the same subject, with interesting comments about the word "fey" which seems to carry a key idea.
    http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2014/06/17/the-axeman/

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  10. @JP - "A train of logic emerging from the basic view that "I personally will not fight" and "my work is more important than any social duty" is self-serving no matter how much gilding intellectuals put on it."

    But there are usually exemptions from being given the primary role of fighting, those who are not asked to fight (until the last ditch) - for example women, children, the old.

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