In the world of today there are many -isms. You can take every given noun, add -ism and you can start a new system of thought about it. There are so many -isms that I usually only have one question to filter them all: “does it work for its intended purposes?” When the answer is a definite “no” there is no reason to pay attention to it.
That brings me to pacifism. Pacifism is the -ism of peace. The problem with “peace” is that it is difficult to define in context. The best short definition is the absence of direct violence and war. An important aspect of peace is the extent to which a society is tolerant and open for its people to move, associate and express themselves.
Now does pacifism work for its intended purposes? That really depends on whom and where you ask. In Europa people can say “The EU is really stable and peaceful” while in certain parts of Africa UN peacekeepers are sometimes too lightly equipped to act against direct violence. Some UN and N.A.T.O interventions in the past have been less effective than desired.
There is also a distinction to be made between “absolute pacifism” and “realistic pacifism”. In the absolute sense pacifism means that you have to do away with weapons and enforce anti-violence legislation. Thing is – even in Thomas Moore’s “Utopia” it is mentioned – every country needs an armed force for emergency defences against “violent intruders” and “violent groups” in society.
Even in times of peace it is important to have an armed force to defend the territory and its people. “Realistic pacifism” allows for an armed defence force to at least guard the peace of the country and its people. The realistic scenario also reveals the paradox of pacifism. To achieve peace, violence and war have to be either avoided or eradicated (by force).
After reading all this, you might think pacifism is an unnecessary -ism. Personally I believe pacifism is one of the most important -isms in existence as it acts as a motivator to avoid direct violence to let people live. Whether all people then live in the best conditions is another matter. The biggest argument for the importance of pacifism is a horrific one: the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. did not nuke the planet.
Pacifism is a -ism of hope for humanity. Open for interpretation, unfortunately very open…