Olive Leaves

Cimarronsong, from whom I’ve learned a couple of good things (thanks), has another blog that I’ll be reading regularly. It’s under the title Olive Leaves, and I’m going to take the unusual (for me) action of reprinting an entire entry from it as a recommendation that folks consult the more recent entries. This is the first entry, and it explains the title of the blog.

Elihu Burritt was born on December 8, 1810. At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to a blacksmith, yet managed to teach himself Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian and German. He became known as the “learned blacksmith.” Gradually he came to see that “there was something to live for beside the mere gratification of a desire to learn – that there were words to be spoken with the living tongue and earnest heart for great principles of truth and righteousness.”

In 1846, Burritt began to publish leaflets called Olive Leaves. They were sent out to 1500 American newspapers and “scattered in trains, railway stations and other public places and circulated in every other conceivable way. “ His Olive Leaves contained statistics about the cost of war, quotations about peace and anecdotes that illustrated the absurdity of war.

Get on over to Olive Leaves.



Filed under News, Non-violence, Other sites, Peace

5 responses to “Olive Leaves

  1. cimmaronsong

    I’ve been thinking about pacifism & one question that came to me is “what about Tibet”? I’ve been looking on the internet & found a website opposing pacifism that addresses the question of Tibet. (I’m sure that there are others & I will keep looking.) Since you have said that you are a pacifist – how would you respond to the statement below?

    “Take the people of Tibet; the Tibetans were a peaceful and noble people who had no history of violence against anyone. Their peaceful religion of Buddhism has/had a very strong prohibition on violence under any circumstances, and for all its ethical appeal, this was to prove their downfall.

    The Communist Chinese had no such shyness about shedding blood. In the early 1950’s, they began making threats against their neighbours. Despite the peaceful protests and attempts at peaceful diplomacy from the Tibetan authorities, the Chinese communists snorted at them, and launched an invasion of Tibet. Atrocities were widespread; reports of rapes, tortures and massacres began to come out of Tibet. Ancient Buddhist monasteries were dynamited or converted to secular purposes…”


  2. Often people who profess pacifism are asked questions about how they might respond under under certain extreme conditions, with the (in my interpretation) expectation that the professed pacifist would admit she or he does not hold to an absolute prohibition of violence. Then, if the professed pacifist’s position is not absolute, then it is relative and therefore, bogus. There are lots of examples; here are two:

    * Suppose your mother, wife, grandmother, and daughter were in a room where there is a loaded gun on a table and a deranged man enters the room and threatens you all with gun…(the examples are often worse).
    * What if Hitler had overrun Europe and brought a massive force to the shores of the US…(embellish at will).

    These are hypotheticals. As honestly as I can answer, I do not know how I would respond in such situations. I hope, however, that I would have the strength and patience that His Holiness the Dali Lama and 100s of 1000s of other Tibetians have shown in the face of the destruction of their homeland. I do not expect the government-in-exile of Tibet would ask that people commit violence to recapture Tibet.

    I also recognize that there are few absolute positions on any philosophical issue. There may be circumstances under which I might consider violence a necessary response. Life is simply too complex, in my estimation, to allow me to predict my behavior in all situations.

    I shall cleave to my position as closely as I can, though. Others may have standards that are open to change earlier or later than mine, nearer or farther from mine, more flexible or rigid than mine. I had correspondence recently with someone who said he was interested in pacifism until Hungary was overrun by the USSR in 1956; that was the marker between pacifism and not-pacifism for him. Mine is somewhere different.

  3. Pingback: Pacifist Posse » Me elsewhere

  4. cimmaronsong

    Thank you for your quick & thoughtful reply. I think that partly I was seeking a response to those who say “see, pacifism doesn’t work.” But maybe whether or not it “works” is not the question.
    And war hasn’t exactly worked very well either.
    You are definitely right about life being complex!

  5. Thanks for reading, c’song.

    It’s good to talk about these things. I fear sometimes folks (I include myself among the category of “folks”) have criteria for “works” that differ from others’ criteria. If the standard is fighting for one’s homeland, regardless of whether one suceeds, that’s a different standard than mine. People may have (and argue for) such a standard. I shan’t. And I would really like to ask people what they mean by “works”; especially in my professional conversations, this is a term that begs definition.

    The general idea about non-violence for me is, when faced with a choice between a violent and a non-violent solution, I hope to explore and pursue any non-violent alternative that I can before even considering the violent alternative. Of course, by then, I may have procrastinated so long that the window for violent action is no longer open (some would say this’ll be the death of me, teehee).

    Pacifism in this sense does not mean that I reject strong or vigorous argument. As I suspect this series of comments implies, I’m ready to mount a case for my points of view.

    But I don’t want to exaggerate my advocacy for non-violence. I don’t sweep ants out of the way when I walk. I don’t have only a little interest in symbolic, imagistic actions. I suppose that, if a mosquito lands on me repeatedly, I’d probably slap it.

    So, I guess, by the standard of absolute pacifism, I’m a failure. Oh well…sigh. I won’t fight about it.

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