"We will not fight them at all. We would rather die than to kill others."
A person (or, in some cases, an entire nation) who believes that actual pacifism
is worth dedication even when the call for resistance is a Matter of Life and Death
. This highly principed and strong willed stance, already incredibly difficult to maintain in real life, tends to get the conflict equivalent of Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere
with the pacifist people (perfection optional
) getting constantly assailed by dire threats where their options are a reduced to a Sadistic Choice
between breaking their unbreakable vow
or dying for it.
When they choose the latter, some stories treat the decision as being Too Dumb to Live
; be it because the pacifists think appeasement can work on a Blood Knight
, choose to ignore the existence of the threat, or that the enslaving invaders somehow won't
abuse their power and make life unbearable. Heroes may try to point out the flaws in their reasoning
and convince them to defend themselves, but they will preach
that he cannot be trusted due to the blood on his hands. If he tries to argue that peace and liberty must be defended
, they may imply If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him
. Of course, once the Big Bad
arrive, he will be forced to take care of the problem for them, which they will be ungrateful over
and even complain about
. In these cases there may be a Writer on Board
trying to Anviliciously
force a pro-assertiveness/anti-bullying Aesop
More nuanced interpretations may have the pacifists struggle with the ethical dilemma of taking a life to defend their own, whether asking the hero for help defending them violates their pacifism by proxy, if appeasing the villain with money or slaves won't cause suffering to third parties and other issues. They usually end up in a position where they're forced into unwilling slavery they resist with civil disobedience... which is a dicey prospect that may
get them freed in decades or centuries, but as per the trope title, submitting to the aggressor usually amounts to suicide. They may only reluctantly accept the hero's offer to Train The Peaceful Villagers
, to Teach Them Anger
, or choose to relocate.
Common in certain interpretations of the Messianic Archetype
See also Actual Pacifist
, Too Dumb to Live
for when this gets to the point of genuine stupidity, and Perfect Pacifist People
. Related is Pacifism Backfire
when choosing peaceful ways leads to more problems; in this trope, the problem is their own deaths
Anime / Manga
- Reiji of Re:BIRTH –The Lunatic Taker–.
- The Sanc Kingdom of Gundam Wing. Its ruler was an Actual Pacifist, but the country was crushed by the Earth Sphere Alliance. Interestingly, the narrative shows that Actual Pacifism was a noble goal and the best path, but the world wasn't ready for it.
- In Teen Titans, the Cult of Azarath that Raven was born into believed this, not even defending themselves as they were attacked by Trigon's demons.
- The Tuatha'an (Tinkers or Traveling People) in the Wheel of Time series. One of them, Aram, abandoned their Pacifist ways and soon became a Knight Templar.
- The people of Bandakar in the Sword of Truth series, pacifists who are fortunately immune to magical attacks, and not so fortunately helpless against the Imperial Order's dudes with swords. They eventually got over their pacifism and started defending themselves.
- The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted includes a planet of suicidal pacifists. When their planet is conquered, they refuse to work for the conquerors and patiently wait for them to realize that the locals cannot be compel by violence.
- Jim finds out that all this happened after the people of this planet created an AI. One of the first things it did was write a book and print it on every printer on the planet. The people read the book and, thinking that anything that the AI thinks of is the absolute truth, restructure their society into this. When Jim confronts the AI, it replies that all it did was write a book. It's not responsible for people's mistakes.
- In a short story in one of the Warrior Cats Field Guides, Morningstar, a Clan leader refused to fight, afraid to see his warriors injured - even announcing publicly at a Gathering that they were too weak for him to sanction a fight and politely asking the other Clans to stop hunting in ThunderClan territory. Of course, this was an open invitation to the other Clans to continue hunting there, since they would not be driven off. Eventually the spirit of the leader's mate visits him and explains to him that they need to fight battles, and he agrees.
- The Chahwyn, and their artificial race the Spiders, in the Quadrail Series, who don't want (and are largely incapable) of using force against anyone in fear of slipping down the slope of violence like other races before them. More than one Spider meets a brutal end because of this. By the end of the fourth book they've realized complete pacifism is unworkable and have gained a (so far) limited ability to enact violence upon other sentients if the cause is important enough.
- At the same time, an amazing amount of the troubles in the setting can be traced back to the Chahwyn's discomfort with their own pacifism and attempts to avoid this trope... to the point where it ends up looking like everybody, including them, would be much better off if they personally had embraced Suicidal Pacifism and stuck with it.
- The Chee from Animorphs are a robot version of this. Their long-dead alien creators made is so they were unable to hurt anyone or take a life. This means that even when outright attacked, they can't use their incredible strength to fight back. When they're first introduced, some of the Chee are trying to change their programming; however, once one actually gets a chance to use their abilities, slaughtering a whole battalion of controllers, a My God, What Have I Done? moment ensues, and the option is never brought up again.
- Generally the series takes a rather favourable view on this Actual Pacifist nature, though many times characters are outright frustrated by it. In the end, its partially responsible for Rachel's death.
- Harry Turtledove's Alternate History short story The Last Article makes Mohandas Gandhi's nonviolent resistance movement as this had it been Nazi Germany in charge of India rather than the British Empire - see also the Real Life section.
- In Vampire Academy, the pacifistic philosophy of the Moroi turns out to be a suicidal stance for them. When attacked by Strigoi, they usually do not even think to fight back. This makes them surprisingly easy victims. Particularly bad because fire users have the ideal power to kill their attackers.
- After nearly being wiped out in an atomic war (and exterminated by the Daleks) the Thals from Doctor Who turned to absolute pacifism. In their first appearance (in the series' very second serial, The Daleks) Ian told them that they had to resist the Daleks or the Daleks would exterminate them; their leader Alydon gravely replied that in that case the Daleks would have to exterminate them. Fortunately, Ian was able to Teach Him Anger and make him acknowledge that there were some things worth fighting for and they defeated the Daleks. By the next appearance (several generations later) they had not returned to pacifism.
- Another episode featured a being from a planet whose people never put up a fight. In fact, they get conquered so often that one of their industries is decorating everything for future conquerors. Their anthem is "Glory to [insert name here]".
- The Nox of Stargate SG-1 are a subversion. They appear to have all the trappings of the trope, refusing even to fight the Goa'uld... until it's revealed that their technology is so far beyond that of the Goa'uld that they aren't really a threat, and their powers of invisibility and healing provide them with plenty of non-violent ways of keeping themselves alive.
- Which makes their condescension towards the heroes seem a bit hypocritical or at least unfounded. It's all well and good to practice total pacifism when you have impenetrable defenses and perfect cloaking abilities (not to mention the ability to raise the newly dead) to survive, avoid, or undo the damage of any aggressor, but the people they look down on for using violence in self-defense have little choice other than simply being wiped out or enslaved.
- One episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation had Picard and three other abductees put in a room. One of them was an alien from a completely pacifist culture who refused to help them escape, until their predicament and persistence made him change his mind.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode Mirror, Mirror, the Halkans tell the Empire that they are willing to "die as a race" to "preserve what we are." On the other side of the mirror, the Halkans mention something similar to the Federation, except in that case (it being The Federation) it's not suicidal and just gets them a 'I respect your convictions and the way you hold to them even if I don't agree with them' comment from Kirk.
- An episode of Legend of the Seeker has a warlord threaten a peaceful village whose people never fight. Richard offers to teach them to defend themselves. However, as soon as one of them attempts to strike in anger, he goes catatonic. Zedd figures out that these people are under a curse that causes this effect on any attempts at aggression. Despite his reservations, Zedd agrees to lift the curse. Unfortunately, this causes the newly-trained warriors to go absolutely berserk on the warlord's soldiers, and Richard goes berserk along with them. Zedd finds out that these people's ancestors were magically bound to an evil ancestor of Richard's (a Lord Rahl) until a curse was placed on them to stop them from going berserk. The reason they go berserk is because they are tied to Richard the same way. They agree to let Zedd restore the curse and trick the warlord into leaving them alone.
- Present in The Bible, in the apocryphal book of the Maccabees, where some Jews would rather let themselves be kil on the Sabbath than defend their lives. The eponymous family of the Maccabees decide to skip that rule in order to defend their country. (It's worth noting that most Jewish traditions, at least nowadays, are quite clear on the principle that working to save a life is a duty that must be embraced whatever day it happens to be.)
- In Jesus' teachings he tells people to turn the other cheek when struck (though Values Dissonance means that this was much more Bad Ass in his day than through modern eyes), to repay evil with good, and to show kindness to one's enemies. When his enemies show up to take him to his death, he not only doesn't resist in the least, he heals a man injured by one of his disciples.
- There's a story about a group of shakyas (noblemen from his country) whom Buddha had converted. When he left them, he predicted their death by brute force. Soon after, another king attacked and slaughtered them. They did not resist, giving us another example of this trope.
- The people of Ammon in The Book of Mormon were once bloodthirsty Lamanites, until they converted to Christ and vowed never to shed blood again. When their Lamanite brothers came to fight them, the people of Ammon didn't take up arms; instead, they prayed. Miraculously, the number of Lamanites who repented and joined the people of Ammon that day exceeded the number slain.
- Stella Deus The Gate Of Eternity: The Aeque teach that the advancing mist (that erases the existence of every living thing it touches) is the will of the gods and that everyone should accept their fate.
- In Final Fantasy IX the Cleyrans have lived in isolation from the rest of the world for so long that they have absolutely no self-defense skills at all. When they're attacked by the army of Alexandria, they naively try to reason with the soldiers and, unfortunately, die in droves.
- It didn't help that they had an almost unbreakable natural defence protecting them until the moment they were attacked, giving them little reason to believe they would even be targeted.
- In Knights of the Old Republic, part of the motivation for Revan and his followers to break away from the Jedi Order was the stubborn refusal of the Jedi Council to get involved in the Mandalorian Wars, which threatened to topple the entire Republic. In the second game, the Jedi Exile was one of those who fought in the war and frequently has the option to respond to the Jedi Council's scorn, by pointing out their actions did save the galaxy, unlike the Council who preferred to stick their heads in the sand like cowards.
- In Sluggy Freelance the Dimension of Lame (which is populated entirely by sickeningly sweet, naive, and innocent people) gets invaded by demons from the Dimension of Pain, who proceed to kill, devour, and rip out the souls of every human being who crosses their path. However, when a resistance group tries to organize, even the most psychotically violent individual on the planet can't do anything more than stub a demon's toe in self-defense without feeling unbearable guilt.
- Eventually the demons did begin to cooperate with the humans to a slight degree, but because the sheer number of helpless sheep to slaughter necessitated some organization on their part.
- Celia from The Order of the Stick has shades of this. She's perfectly willing to use her flight to help others survive, but won't harm anyone alive even when they're trying to kill her and reanimate her corpse as a golem (she will zap golems, but that just made things worse). She also has no problem using her lightning zappy beams to create an impressive display as a set up to legally negotiating her way out of the situation.
- In The Jain's Death, a Jainist monk refuses to harm any living thing, which includes practices like eating only fruit and carrying a broom to carefully sweep away insects. Her death comes about when she is confronted by a tiger, but refuses to run because of an ant in her hair that she refuses to take from its colony. However, this trope is subverted when she is resurrected in another life as an organic mothership, now carrying every living thing from Earth. One could interpret it as The Cuckoolander Was Right.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Anakin, his apprentice, Aayla Secura, and some of their troops crash-land on Maridun, where they encounter a village of refugees. When the Separatists arrive, their leader blames the Republic for bringing them there, and refuses to fight them for any reason. And when they are told that the Separatists are going to use their village as target practice, the he decides to just sit there and let it happen. Some of the younger Lurmen go against his wishes, and help the Republic forces defend their village, though, meaning that this is was caused by a ruling ideological dogma, rather than it being Planet of Hats trait. This is egregious for two reasons. One is that, realistically, they should try to run away instead of fighting, due to Fight or Flight instincts (the leader does not indicate that he thinks the protagonists are lying about the attack). Secondly, the forces attacking the village are droids, removing any Thou Shalt Not Kill justification. Also, this is just as much an example of Straw Man Political. Compare them with Duchess Satine of Mandalore, who is a fellow Actual Pacifist but also a badass one who valiantly stands up to oppressors (non-violently, of course).
- ...But tragically, Satine is ultimately also an example of Suicidal Pacifism. Her refusal to fight is exploited by Death Watch and Darth Maul, who set up Engineered Heroics that make themselves look like strong defenders while Satine is too weak to stop attacks, thereby getting the people on their side to overthrow Satine's rule. The series ends with Mandalore plunged into civil war and Satine killed.
- Folder from the Whateley Universe refuses to fight back when bullied, leading to a lot of injuries. Had the events of A Single Fold not played out as they had, he probably would have ended up dead.
- The sad story of the Moriori people of Chatham Islands, whom the Maori of New Zealand almost completely slaughtered or enslaved within a few years.
- German philosopher Oswald Spengler claimed in The Decline of the West that this meant the preference of slavery over death (by fighting). As he explained: at the battle of Cannae, 50,000 Roman soldiers died. When the Mongols overran the metropolises of China and the Muslim world, the population didn't want to fight them, and hundreds of thousands of people died. Per metropolis, that is.
- However in actual history, the example of the Mongols is actually subverted: those cities who capitulated without a fight were generally spared widespread slaughter, and largely peacefully incorporated into the Empire. It was the ones who fought back who would be massacred as an example to the rest.
- One Underground Comics artist had a father (also artist) who was like this. As he wrote in one comic, when the other kids would beat up the son for having "fish lips", the father would say "don't hit back, don't lower yourself to their level".
- Thích Quảng Đức, the Buddhist monk who set himself on fire in a Saigon street during the Vietnam War as an act of protest. Note that he was not protesting the war itself, but the South Vietnamese government's persecution of Buddhists.
- Mohandas Gandhi's basic policies of Ahimsa and Satyagraha included such beliefs as the idea that the Jews should willingly kill themselves or give themselves over to slaughter by Nazi Germany rather than employ violence against their aggressors, or that they should resist by nonviolence alone in spite of knowing the Disproportionate Retribution totalitarian regimes were known for. With the exception of several areas occupied by Japanese military forces and the Axis-aligned Indian National Army (the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and parts of Manipur and Nagaland) India remained under Allied control for the duration of World War II so this policy was never put to the test on a large scale. However, during their presence in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Japanese did prove that any resistance or suspected resistance to the Axis war effort would not be tolerated, and would be punished by imprisonment, forced labour, or summary execution.