Pacifism Kills





About 450 Moriori from as far away as Australia have descended on New Zealand’s Chatham Islands to celebrate the opening of the first ever Moriori marae…


The celebration … will be followed by a renewal of a 500-year-old covenant known as Nunuku's law of non-violence - which forbade bloody conflict - last renewed in the same year - 1835…


A recent ‘feel-good’ story in the New Zealand press answers a question that should interest many libertarians: What would happen to a culture if it renounced its violent past and chose instead to walk the path of pacifism and ‘non-violence’?


As the history of the Moriori culture demonstrates, such a culture would be choosing its own destruction.


On ten small islands several hundred miles off the coast of New Zealand, such a path was chosen by the Moriori after several centuries of destructive fighting and rampant cannibalism. However Nunuku’s Law, as that code of ‘non-violence’ became known, did not distinguish between force used in one’s defence and force used in the pursuit of conquest. It proved a fatal flaw.


It was this failure to distinguish between two types of force that led to the literal annihilation of the Moriori, for in 1835 they were invaded by a neighbour that embraced the latter view, and – with the exception of a few that were enslaved or kept as “food stock” – they were wiped out.


Of the 2000 or so Moriori who had enjoyed their ‘non-violent’ life in the Chatham Islands, only 101 were left. One would hope that among today’s 450 descendants at least one might question the renewal of a cultural code that led to that culture’s obliteration – but one would look in vain. In the culture of today in which non-violence and self-sacrifice are the leading ethical standards, instead of learning from history we find people praising such a ‘forward-thinking’ practice. “They lived and they died in a way that protected their honour and expressed their deepest cultural and spiritual beliefs,” was a recent nauseating tribute from an especially nauseating New Zealand Governor-General, Sir Paul Reeves.


“"To lay down one's life for what one considers to be right is the very core of satyagraha [resistance by non-violent means] . . . [In non-violence] the bravery consists in dying, not in killing." So said Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, still one of the apostles of non-violence. To embrace one’s own destruction, one might paraphrase, one must be brave. Or stupid. Or a reader of Lew Rockwell.


For as Moriori biographer Michael King observes approvingly, "The Moriori had learned a tactical and philosophical truth that was to be articulated by other people from other cultures in the twentieth century: non-violence is an effective weapon only against an adversary who shares your conscience." Gandhi was lucky in his adversary – the Moriori were not.


Their invader, two Maori tribes from nearby New Zealand, had never embraced the foolish notion that non-violence could have mana, or prestige. Maori fought for sport, and engaged in the ritual enslavement and cannibalism of one’s defeated foe. Accordingly, in the words of one of the invaders, Rakatau Katihe:

"We took possession ... in accordance with our customs and we caught all the people. Not one escaped. Some ran away from us, these we killed, and others we killed - but what of that? It was in accordance with our custom... I am not aware of any of our people being killed by them."


As one historian says (also approvingly), “Moriori stayed true to their moral imperative, Nunuku's law of non-violence, even as they and their families were being bludgeoned and speared to death. That is not to say they were not terrified, but their fortitude and courage must have been phenomenal. Pacifism in the face of sure death is hard to imagine.”


Pacifism in the face of sure death is not just hard to imagine, it is suicidal. To choose such a course with one’s eyes wide open, or to advocate such a course for others to follow, is not just wrong, it is evil.


Pacifism kills. When you doubt that, remember the Moriori. As P.J. O’Rourke once suggested so eloquently, in combating the many evils in the world “people sometimes have trouble deciding whom to shoot” – they should realise nonetheless that at times in the battle against evil that war is the most humane option. At such times, we must give war a chance.


Now is such a time.