Even as the struggle for power and domination among states continue, the doctrine of principled nonviolence remains obscure among many concerned institutions (Holmes, 2013). The principle, as advocated by Robert Holmes, is founded on the belief that two wrongs do not make right. The doctrine of nonviolence is founded on the belief that violence can never make things work as desired, instead, what one sows with violence is what he harvests. Holmes defends the idea on the justification that the world can seek more just and ethical solutions to solve violence rather than resorting to violence to punish the ones who are considered to be deviating from the accepted rules of conduct. Holmes points out to the fact that, as human beings, we can never lack moral solutions for the myriad of problems that ail us since violence as a means to solve the problems, has always resulted in to more violence and deviance (Holmes, 2013).
Holmes’ defense for principled nonviolence revolves around morality (Holmes, 2013). The doctrine denounces any instance of violence and that no situation should warrant violence for perceived end goals. This means that violence is renounced in whatever circumstances provided that would tempt someone to resort to violence. However, Holmes also gives the discussion a pragmatic view in which he, to a slight extent, accommodates violence in rare instances. One of the key provision of the principle and a value that Holmes defends is that value for human life supersedes all national and self-interests, which majority of those who tend to advocate for violence claim to be defending. Therefore, no matter the very instances in which violence may be justified, reverence for human dignity and fight for mutual goals for those in disagreements should be a priority (Rebecca & Jason, 2002).
Holmes’ defense considers the principle of nonviolence working in a world characterized by violent people. He answers the question if one should remain nonviolent in the face of violent people. Holmes believes that the principle, being a code of conduct that stipulates how we should act, or how we should behave, becomes problematic in such a scenario of a violent world (Holmes, 2013). However, he argues that people can strive to act and behave in a way that is not violent to avoid violence. He gives instances in which violence is bred through psychological ways. He points that for the principle to work out well, psychological violence must be avoided because people who are subjected to mental torture may become violent as they seek justice for themselves. Therefore, for one to commit himself to nonviolence, he must renounce all the methods and ways that may cause psychological torture to others. Similarly, he points out to the fact that violence may be orchestrated through language and other practices. For one to commit himself to nonviolence, he must do away with language and practices that promote violence (Holmes, 2013). By changing such practices and all ways that may cause psychological violence, it is naturally expected that the people will also be non-violent.
Holmes examines a situation in which one has to defend an innocent person. As a non-violent, it is advocated that one should not act or behave in a way that promotes violence. Holmes reacts to a dilemma scenario where it is posed if a nonviolent person should remain neutral, while others face persecution and all kinds of violence, is a questioning necessitating a moral answer. Holmes believes that those who keep off their hands while others get persecuted are also agents of violence (Holmes, 2013). However, the question is more problematic because, as Holmes argues, responding to violence with violence amounts to absolute violence. In this case, however, one is supposed to determine the extent to which violence has been meted to the innocent can be truly be said to be violence to an innocent. Therefore, Holmes advocates that one should not watch as violence is meted on innocent people as they automatically become part of it. In the search for corrective measures for such scenarios, Holmes calls for a reasoned analysis and judgment into the situation, so that response can achieve desired results, especially those that seek to benefit all the parties involved.
At some point, one may be fixed to a position where he is tempted to make a wrong so that he can seek justice. Holmes puts a scenario in which one is forced to kill so that to make a right. For instance, in the face of a killer, who is threatening life and is about to take away someone’s life. This moral puzzle is at times difficult to solve because ethically, taking away of someone’s life is unaccepted (Rebecca & Jason, 2002). However, the principle of nonviolence gives a room for exceptional violent actions or behavior, but on plausible grounds. In an instance where one’s life is threatened, therefore, violent actions are allowed. However, Holmes argues that resorting to violence should be the last choice in the face of an ethical dilemma. He points that in such scenario, it is better for the one who responds to consider nonviolence approach as they resist what is meted against them. Simply, Holmes argues that even a violent situations should be given the benefit of the doubt at first (Holmes, 2013). That is to say that a nonviolentist’s approach should always be nonviolent unless things get worse and the approach fails to work.
However, our actions and knowledge when faced with violent situations matter a lot. Holmes believes that the major problem that is witnessed by a human being is their subjective understanding of things and reality (Holmes, 2013). In the event of war or conflict, the majority of people assume that the wrongdoer is naturally wrong by the virtue of having perpetrated the evil deliberately. According to Holmes, this has been the source of violence and persistent chaos that have lasted for long without everlasting solutions. When evil actions are presumed as intentional, no chance is given to the wrongdoer to change or so that one can understand the real reason as to why the wrong things have happened. Similarly, at such point majority of human beings assume and take their actions to be the most appropriate to remedy the situation. Unfortunately, responses in such situation are violent since the belief is that violence will calm the situation. Holmes believes that this is the point that we make a wrong decision by assuming that our actions are right while others are wrong. Therefore, for one to remain nonviolent, one has to be able to evaluate situations as they are, and avoid being subjective. The bottom line of his defense is that not all wrongdoers do wrong with their full knowledge that what they are doing is wrong (Holmes, 2013). Others may commit evil actions without a complete understanding of the results of their actions. Holmes defends the principle of nonviolence on the basis that we can make wrongdoers understand the moral consequences of their actions, both to themselves and their victims.
Generally, Holmes’ defense of the principle is well founded and providing all relevant information on various objections. The author notes that no situation should necessitate violence as the first corrective action. However, he equally responds to the objection of if one should keep calm in the face intended killing. Holmes suggests that if life has to be preserved, nonviolence perspective has to be engaged first, unless otherwise. This implies that if keeping peace can only be achieved through otherwise reasoned means, then it is plausible to do so. Similarly, the author responds well to the objection on what the principle would mean when the people around the world are violent. The response that people require rightful treatment, both physical and psychological to avoid violence summarizes his answer. As he argues, peace can only be achieved when people are accorded respect, spared from mental violence and shown tenderness by others, for reciprocity and ultimate mutuality.
Holmes, R. (2013). The Morality of Nonviolence. Predrag Cicovacki (ed.), Bloomsbury.
Rebecca, S., & Jason, M. (2002). Building the Road as We Walk It: Peacebuilding as Principled and Revolutionary Nonviolent Praxis. Social Alternatives, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p61-64. 4p.