Pacifism Backfire
When trying to avoid violence causes more of it in the long run.
Motion To Discard

(permanent link) added: 2011-11-23 10:48:33 sponsor: HiddenFacedMatt edited by: marcoasalazarm (last reply: 2014-03-14 23:46:57)

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Character X is so careful to avoid fighting character Y... that he or she ends up causing more fighting in the long run than was at first avoided.

Perhaps X is a Principles Zealot, believing that no end justifies the means of violence, including that of preventing worse violence. Perhaps X is a Horrible Judge of Character, not realizing that avoiding such a fight would cause more of it. Or maybe X is a Dirty Coward who just wants to wash his or her hands of the situation.

Whatever the reason, avoiding one fight causes more of it in the long run.

Compare Head-in-the-Sand Management, which sometimes overlaps with this. See also Suicidal Pacifism and Neutrality Backlash.

Truth in Television, though perhaps it's best we stay neutral on whether or not specific real-life examples count.


Anime and Manga

  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith has Anakin Skywalker telling Mace Windu that killing Palpatine is not the Jedi way; Mace warns that Palpatine is too dangerous to be left alive, and yet when Mace goes to kill Palpatine, Anakin chops Mace's hand off, leaving Palpatine to use force lightning to fling Mace out the window, causing Mace to die. As a result of causing Mace's death, Anakin realizes there is no turning back now and goes along with Palpatine's ambitions, which include slaughtering most of the Jedi, including little children, not to mention creating an empire that would go on to murder millions of innocent civilians at a time.

  • An important theme in Robert Merle's novel The Island, which is based on the story of the mutiny on the Bounty. English mutineers and Tahitians start a settlement on an island, but tensions quickly build up between them, because some of the English treat the Tahitians as inferior. The protagonist, Purcell doesn't allow his friends to kill the main troublemaker because of his pacifistic Christian beliefs. Eventually war breaks out, and all men on the island die, except for Purcell and a Tahitian. Purcell ends up blaming himself.

Live-Action TV
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "The Fall of Night", a representative of Earth's Ministry of Peace visits the station to finalize a non-aggression pact between Earth Alliance and the Centauri—right after the latter use illegal weapons of mass destruction (mass drivers) to bombard the Narn homeworld back to the stone age, and show evidence of being on a dangerously aggressive footing in the galaxy. The minister even uses the phrase "peace in our time". Shortly thereafter, the Centauri begin conquests in the territories of many other races.
  • Battlestar Galactica (Classic). In the pilot episode the Council of Twelve takes all of the Battlestars to a peace conference with the Cylons, leaving the Twelve Colonies completely undefended. Naturally the Cylons decide to use Aggressive Negotiations: they take the opportunity to ambush not only the Battlestars, destroying all but the Galactica, but almost entirely wiping out the colonies as well. In a later episode it's stated that the colonies had planetary defenses, which were sabotaged by a confederate of Baltar's.

  • Tony suffers this in West Side Story. He goes to the rumble to stop it happening, and tries to resist Bernado's baiting, but it backfires horribly and he ends up knifing Bernado who has stabbed Riff.

Western Animation
  • Adventure Time
    • In the episode "His Hero", the great hero Billy inspires Finn and Jake to practise non-violence at every cost... and of course, everything goes wrong.
    • In a later episode, "Crystals Have Power", Jake gets a flashback to when he was a kid, and his dad told him that he would hurt everybody if he got out of control. Jake vows to practise non-violence, which gets problematic when Finn gets kidnapped.
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