a short note on violence and non-violence

I have kicked and struggled my way towards accepting pacifism. It is not a rational position, although one reaches it rationally. It is fundamentally a spiritual proposition rather than intellectual one. But, I am digressing already.

When I was a child, I had a vulnerable older brother who was bullied physically and verbally a lot. Possibly as a result of this, my parents taught me from my pre-school days that if anyone were to hit me, I was to hit them back twice as hard. The twice as hard bit was important. This strategy worked extremely well for me and I rarely had any trouble.

It was a morally wrong way to live.

This morning I was walking to work when a crowd of still-drunk male teenagers began to approach on the horizon. They were wearing tuxedoes. It is the wrong time of year for debs balls, so I can only assume it was a post-Leaving Cert result graduation party. It was just before 8 in the morning and the party clearly was not yet over. One of them had a stack of free Metro newspapers in his hands (stolen, I suspect, from the friendly woman at the train station who dispenses them every morning). At a distance of about twenty feet, he called out to offer me one. I politely refused (ah the Metro, the great leveller, that I never read). He began to insist and as we drew level, he changed his course and began to actually follow me, continuing an unrelenting stream of slightly sinister Mrs. Doyle-like shenanigans. I lost patience, stopped, turned to look him in the face and said loudly and clearly, “FUCK. OFF.” He did so. Result.

And this is why non-violence is at even the smallest level is difficult. It is, temporarily at least, effective.

Doesn’t stop it being wrong, though.


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