Friday, November 09, 2007

Pacifists, Peacemakers and the Difference

I was going to post another Definition Warp. The topic: "pacifists and peacemakers". To me, they were not the same thing. My perception was this:

* A pacifist is someone who is against war in particular, and against any use of violence in general.
* A peacemaker is someone who recognizes the need to make peace, but prepares for all possible circumstances.

I know people who are pacifists. I know people who declare themselves peacemakers. I know people who declare themselves "pacifists and peacemakers". To me, peacemakers are people who desire and strive for peace, but are aware that other options may be necessary.

When I looked up the definitions, I learned I was wrong:

Pacifism (from the American Heritage Dictionary):

1. The belief that disputes between nations should and can be settled peacefully.
2a. Opposition to war or violence as a means of resolving disputes.
2b. Such opposition demonstrated by refusal to participate in military action.

Peacemaker (from

A person, group, or nation that tries to make peace, esp. by reconciling parties who disagree, quarrel, or fight.

What did I learn? First, that my definition for "peacemaker" was incorrect. Second, that a peacemaker kind of sits above it all; they are not necessarily part of the fray, but are involved in stopping the fray.

What does this mean to me? It means that those labeling themselves as "pacifist and peacemaker" are not being redundant. They are against violence at all costs and find themselves not to be in the middle of the fight. If I thought that of myself, I could justify my idealism, too, and refuse to acknowledge the reality that I may have to prepare to defend myself. Or allow others to defend themselves.

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