Paradoxes of Pacifism

Justin E. H. Smith in his Substack newsletter, The Hinternet:

On at least a few occasions in my adult life, I have conducted myself with what may have looked to an outside observer like courage. I have for example put myself between a raving junkie, with a broken bottle in his hand, and the girlfriend he intended to slash with it, thus interrupting my routine evening stroll across the Place de Stalingrad. Such scenes of violence are not uncommon there, as if there were something about Stalingrads in general, and I confess I have let many similar scenes continue without my intervention.

The broken man slinked away with his broken bottle, presumably because I appeared to present to him a credible threat of force. The meaning of this phrase, so often heard in the context of great-power politics, does not entail a demonstrable threat of force, and indeed had the man with the bottle tried to strike me with it, I really don’t know what I would have done. The truth is I have no idea how to “fight”, just like I have no idea how to dance ballet: I can see that there is some distinct human capacity that fighters and dancers are deploying, but I don’t know what it is.

More here.