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You're not a pacifist. You're just
scared of physical violence.
                 Danny Young

Violence Never Solved Anything ... Yeah Right

On this page:
The Blog

Okay, we admit it blogging can be fun. Sad to say most blogs are designed to elicit an emotional reaction from the reader rather than have that person stop and say to themselves "I never thought of that..." Marc runs a blog on non-crime related issues at MySpace.

A common problem for those whose profession is to tell violent people 'no' is encountering the sanctimonious combination of superiority and distain some people hold for those 'holding the line.' This is a common attitude of those
    1) who feel they are superior because they are intelligent enough not
        to be violent
    2) and yet ... who at the same time feel they are also qualified to
        tell you how to do your job.

For anyone who's ever had to put up with this kind of person ...

This Blog's For You
Barry Eisler ( set me up on this one...

He posted on MySpace ( comments that he was still chuckling over the following post. And naturally people are going to wonder what we're talking about. Thing is there is a story behind what you're about to read.

It started with a quote by me:
The source of violence is not poverty. It is not gender. It is not race. It is not lack of education. It is not society. It is self-interest. And on this front, the self-proclaimed pacifists are no better than the violent. They just use different tools.

Recognize that I have lived my life out on the pointy end of things. A horrid place where violence is a fact of life. To me, violence has always been a tool. Granted an often misused tool, but one that does have its time and place. It's usually not the best tool, but when it's time to use it, it's not only the right time to use it, but it's the best tool.

This is why I loved the Tom Robbins quote from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues: Violence stinks, no matter which end of it you're on. But now and then there's nothing left to do but hit the other person over the head with a frying pan.


Over the last few months I've been revamping my No Nonsense Self-Defense Webpage ( Because I like starting pages out with relevant quotes, I did a Google search on "quotes, violence."

I damn near died from insulin shock.

It seems that you can find 1,000s of quotes about the virtues and moral superiority of non-violence. You can find even more agenda driven statements about the root cause of violence. (All of which I raked up and put into a pile with my quote). Usually these quotes are from people who rely on others to provide their food and security for them, but that doesn't stop them from commenting about how the world 'should be' from their nice, safe, comfy positions.

What you can't easily find is acknowledgment of the fact that every now and then you have to reach for the frying pan ...

This led to a conversation about an issue that is well known to anyone who has a frying pan in their tool kit. Namely dealing with the sanctimoniousness of people who not only have never been out to the pointy end, but rely on people like us to keep it away from them -- while at the same time condemning us for being as bad as the people we are keeping at bay. Why? Because we use violence. It doesn't matter what the goal is, in their book, violence is 'bad.' And by extension, we are bad for using it. One of the most common clich├ęs you hear from folks like this is "Violence never solved anything"

Well let's just take a crack at that idea shall we? And at the same time have a little fun with those who scorn us while expecting us to protect them.

Lemme start off by saying that a concept I really have problem with in Western thought is the idea of absolutes. While Plato, Aristotle and the boys argued it differently, this concept, often misinterpreted in Western thinking as something is either 100% true or 100% false (bi-value as opposed to multiple value -- classical logic tends to be bi-value). Based on this thinking, many people often believe something is 'categorically' true -- all the time and everywhere. Well, isn't that just black and white? The grey scale is thrown out the window.

How does this apply to violence? Well, let's take a look at the assessment of "violence never solved anything."

Hmmm ... looks like an absolute to me.

Why? Well, let's start with the Hugh Grant quote from "Two Weeks Notice":
"That's just silly ... have you met everyone on the planet?"

This from my admittedly flawed memory, but let's apply that same point to the 'violence never solved anything' statement.

How do you know it never solved anything?

By what empirical evidence do you base that on? Since going back a few billion years is too big a task, let's limit to the length of time man is believed to have been on this planet. Have you been around through the entire 2 million year history of mankind? And while we're at it ... during those millions of years were you everywhere that two or more humans were in each other's presence. That is what would be required to be qualified to accurately make such a flat statement.

If not, then the person is stating an opinion framed as fact.

And yet it is appalling how many people never catch on to this. They never demand the person prove or demonstrate that statement, much less qualify it. And face it, such a huge assessment of reality requires some serious proof. Even reframing it to "in my experience, violence never solved anything" would bring it more in line with reality.

And, even with this "in my experience" qualification, it still may or may not be an opinion -- or worse. A friend of mine Dr Menard's (a Ph.D in chemistry) told me, as a hard scientist, 'the data doesn't lie to him?' (Not necessarily true with social sciences). When it comes to such an emotional topic as violence, long before we get to where people lie, we're likely dealing with subjective interpretation. Even reframed the statement to "in my experience" may still be a false assertion.

Granted, it might be that in the person's honest interpretation. in his point of view 'violence never ...'

On the other hand, how the hell do we know that a far more accurate representation of the person's position isn't "In my experience violence never solved anything to my own benefit"?

For all we know violence worked great for the other guy.

But we cannot discount the likelihood, that -- even if they do ease off from the absolute and qualify their statement with a "in my experience" -- they could be intentionally distorting the facts of their experience to make their point. Putting it bluntly, for all we know he could be lying to make his point.

Are there people who believe lying for a 'good cause' is acceptable? You betcha. Would lying about the effectiveness of violence plausibly fit into this category? Ever actually looked up the definition of violence? I did ... in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary.

Violence: 1) Swift and intense force: the violence of a storm. 2) Rough or injurious physical force, action, treatment: to die by violence. 3) An unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights, laws, etc.: To take over a government by violence. 4) a violent act or proceeding . 5) Rough or immoderate vehemence as of feeling or language: the violence of his hatred. 6) Injury, as in distortion of meaning or fact: to do violence to a translation.

Urrgh... is it just me or are #3-6 really inconvenient? Because face it, they have nothing to do with physical violence. So someone can be really, really violent without ever throwing a punch. But talk about an ick factor with the last one. According to that, spindoctoring is a form of violence. There's a new twist on 'violence never solved anything' that'll make you think twice, eh? Hell, I'd like the world to be a less violent place, but I question the validity of any approach where you have to lie in order to achieve a 'better world.'

Unfortunately, it's been my less than pleasant experience that there are a whole lot of people who aren't pacifists at all, they're just afraid of physical violence. They are extremely emotionally, verbally and if you believe in such, spiritually violent. The sad thing is these are usually the folks who tend to make the "violence never solved anything" comment.

When faced with the statement "violence never solved anything" -- instead of making the person prove an absolute statement or demanding that it be reframed as an opinion -- many people:
a) try to argue the proposition,
b) accept the proposition
c) or while part of them knows that something ain't quite right, they don't know what's wrong, so they just keep their mouths shut and move away from the person.

Option B makes for boring cocktail parties (bringing to mind Kipling's monkeys from the Jungle Book, all jumping around chanting "It is so because we say it is so") And Option C keeps the peace at the same cocktail party. On the other hand if you want to have some fun let's take a look at Option A.

Here's the problem with Option A. You can never prove your argument to someone who is 'married' to such a false premise. That's because no matter what evidence you present, they will dismiss it. They can do this because they are currently not being shot at -- nor is it likely that they ever have been or will be. Therefore arguing proofs at a cocktail party is a waste of time. Furthermore, by you approaching their position, they are entrenched, and you are fighting on their terms. And as dear old George S Patton said: Never let the enemy pick the battlefield.

This is why I personally prefer to take the MIB approach. Cop wheels a body into the morgue with a cat sitting on the corpse ...
Coroner, "What's with the cat?"
Cop, handing the coroner a clip board, "Sign here. Yeah well ... the cat's a problem."
Coroner, signing the clipboard before handing it back "What's the problem?"
Cop, taking the clipboard, "It's your problem now."

See you don't have the problem of disproving an assertion, they have the problem of proving theirs.

When someone tells me "violence never solved anything," I mentally 'hand them the clipboard' by asking them, "How do you reconcile that statement with the fact that -- on several occasions -- I have solved the problem of someone shooting at me by shooting back?"

And then as they try to tap dance their way out, I proceed to bring them back to the fact that an absolute statement, in order to be true, MUST be true everywhere. And that doesn't include them trying to hand me back the clipboard with questions like "What has violence solved in Iraq?"

Don't be distracted by their counter questions. That's not the issue at hand. (Although trying to hand you back a bigger, generalized and unanswerable question to wiggle out of answering a specific on is a common tactic).

Nitwit is the one who made the statement, why the hell do you have to explain world politics to disprove it? Isn't it up to them to defend it?  And not in a general idealize way, but specifically to the question at hand (You being alive because...). Remember in absolutist thinking (classical logic) in order for a absolute and overarching statement to be true, it must be true everywhere. From the panorama of world politics right down to you still being there breathing. And that's another place where absolute statements start to rapidly fall apart.

See I'm not the one who made an absolute statement, they are. Ergo, they are the one who has to defend said premise. This is especially true if they expect us to accept it as a universal truth and change our behavior to match it.

While they are flailing around I also like to direct them to Robert Heinlein's statement:
"Those who cling to the untrue doctrine that violence never settles anything would be advised to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Nations and peoples who forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms.:

It's really fun to play this way because it's way harder to defend the idea that violence never solved anything than it is for you to defend the idea that violence is a tool -- albeit an often misused one -- but a tool that can and does have its time and place.

That's a far more pragmatic position because it isn't absolute. The more you keep on coming back to this idea, the more you will reveal a fundamental contradiction in their thinking ... namely that violence is okay as long as they are the ones doing it (or controlling those who are, e.g. the police). Don't argue for this premise, but get them to defend their absolute ideology in light of this, their hidden agenda.

Oh if you really want to have fun add in 'the misuse of a tool does not argue against its use.' (Which, golly, gosh, also is a legal concept). You can have these people reduced to emotional sputtering wrecks in no time at all.

Oh yeah, and remember I mentioned that violence is a tool? Here's some of the common ways that it is used as such, or as I call it Kinds of Violence

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