Friday, November 10, 2006

Ekklesia's Ugly Pacifism

Ekklesia's logic in arguing for the white poppy is desperately weak. The red poppy is no call for war, remembrance day is not a paen to how effective war is but simply a reminder of those who have suffered and died in our name. If you think we were not right to fight the Great War then surely that suffering could be just as worthy of remembrance and empathy?

Ekklesia's comparing themselves to the "No More War Movement" of the twenties who asked the Royal British Legion to print No More War on the actual poppies is significant. The Royal British Legion did not reject the No More War slogan because it is pacifist, I doubt they would print "War Solves Problems" on the poppy either, but because it politiscises a non-political event. Similarly, the problem people have with the white poppy isn't that it is pacifist but that it is hijacking a non-political remembering of those that have suffered, the wearing of poppies on Remembrance Day, to a political cause, the pacifist movement. This is cynical and unprincipled. If pacifists want to "raise awareness" they are, of course, welcome to but there is no need to make this a competitor to or dilution of the red poppy movement.

While I'm discussing this I should note that I consider pacifism a bad principle. If pacifism is nothing more than arguing that war is often costly then it adds nothing to old utilitarianism. If it is to mean something deeper then it has to mean that even if the calculation were that a war would cost ten thousand lives and not going to war would cost ten thousand and one peace would still be preferable. Of course, there is uncertainty but this goes both ways. The idea that war is morally worse relies upon a special kind of moral cowardice, that death over a longer period or that we are only passively responsible for is preferable because it endangers our righteousness less.

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