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Suicidal Pacifism

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To our most bitter opponents we say: "We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. ... Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half-dead, and we will still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer."

Some people (or, in some cases, entire nations) believe that actual pacifism is worth dedication even when the call for resistance is a Matter of Life and Death. This highly principled stance, in both fiction and in real life, tends to get the conflict equivalent of Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere, in which the pacifists are constantly assailed by dire threats. The threats they face are rarely minor or "moderate" aggression to which they can Turn the Other Cheek. Oftentimes, their options are reduced to a Sadistic Choice between breaking their unbreakable vow or dying for it.

This trope is about when they choose the latter, or at least they initially do. They often argue that fighting makes them not that different from those threatening them and that He Who Fights Monsters will become just like them. The Hero, if not also a pacifist, will likely treat the pacifists at best as noble but foolish and at worst as Too Dumb to Live. If he tries to argue that peace and liberty must be defended, the pacifists may respond that Talking the Monster to Death is more effective than fighting (to which the hero will respond that Evil Cannot Comprehend Good), or that any suffering they face — including death — is preferable to killing.

How this turns out often depends on the writer's agenda. If the writer wants to push an anti-violence message, then the hero and the pacifist will work together to find a way to win without fighting, or the hero's use of violence will backfire (usually the discovery that as many guns and violence the villains had on display at the beginning, it was not even close to what they can unleash if they decide to escalate), leading to an anti-violence Aesop. If the writer favors a Violence is the Only Option message, then once the Big Bad or Mooks arrive, the hero will be forced to take care of the problem for them, which the pacifists will be ungrateful over and even complain about. Or they may reach a compromise, where the hero trains the peaceful villagers in non-lethal violence, and the pacifists reluctantly accept.

Common in certain interpretations of the Messianic Archetype.

See also Actual Pacifist. Sub-Trope of Principles Zealot. Sister Trope to Reckless Pacifist, when one's refusal to fight endangers other people's lives. Can lead to Pacifism Backfire when choosing peaceful ways leads to more problems beyond losing one's life.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Sanc Kingdom of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. Its ruler was an Actual Pacifist, but the country was crushed by the militaristic Earth Sphere Alliance. Interestingly, the narrative suggests that Actual Pacifism is a noble goal and ideal, but realistically you need to have some level of fighting capability, if only for defense against those who would abuse their power. The mostly peaceful Earth Sphere Unified Nation that forms at the end of the story keeps a small military force in existence, the "Preventers", specifically to avoid this trope.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam AGE: Kio Asuno takes up this stance near the end of the show, refusing to kill the enemy. Unfortunately, his enemy has no desire whatsoever to talk things out and are committed to a total war. Furthermore, while he's got a powerful enough Gundam that he can non-lethally disable enemy Mooks, against anyone even slightly above average in skill he ends up making no headway at all.
  • In Attack on Titan, it's revealed that the King who built the Three Walls believed that humanity was sinful and thus deserved their fate to be confined in the territory surrounded by those Walls, he was in reality Karl Fritz, the 145th King of the Eldians, who lamented the suffering the Eldian Empire had inflicted upon the world, and thus adopted a pacifist policy upon his subjects and successors called "The Will of the First King", in which he would never retaliate against any aggression from the outside, even if it would mean the complete destruction of his people. His successors were infected by this pacifism and refused to save their citizens from being eaten alive; the most anyone got out of them was when Professor Jaegar murdered the princess' mother and siblings while she fought back in self-defense.
  • In Digimon Ghost Game, the Kid Heroes draw no distinction between organic and digital life and in contrast to the kill-or-be-killed battles of previous series, attempt Talking the Monster to Death by any means necessary. This backfires when they start encountering mons that refuse to listen to reason, and they're called out by several Digimon for endangering themselves & others through their refusal to use lethal force. Unlike most examples, the kids realize that they can't sustain this forever and later on become willing to kill Digimon who have to be killed (albeit reluctantly), as seen in the case of Digitamamon, Angoramon's Evil Former Friend who degenerated into a Serial Killer, and RareRaremon, a mindless kaiju that was threatening a Zombie Apocalypse. They also don't object when other Digimon go for the kill or sentence awful Digimon to a Fate Worse than Death instead.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In By the Hands of the People, a revolution breaks out against Queen Elsa, based partly on the fear of Elsa's icy magical powers. Despite her advisor's urging, Elsa refuses to use said powers against those rebels and ultimately surrenders to them. Eventually, she and Anna are executed by a firing squad, something Elsa does nothing to stop.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avatar: The Way of Water: The whale-like tulkun are so devoted to their creed of non-aggression that they won't fight back even when their species is being systematically slaughtered by human invaders. So much so that when one of them dares to seek revenge on the whalers for the killing of his family they collectively exile him. This attitude is explained to be because the tulkun tribes once warred with one another over territory and nearly wiped themselves out, leading to them to abhor violence of any kind, regardless of justification.
  • In Star Trek: Insurrection, the Ba'ku refuse to so much as lift a phaser, claiming they'd lose their entire way of life if they defended it. It's left to the five-man Starfleet team to do the job. The violence done on their behalf they're fine with.
  • Winston Churchill accuses Neville Chamberlain and Lord Hallifax of this in Darkest Hour (2017), over their insistence of trying to negotiate peace with the Nazis.
    Winston Churchill: When will the lesson be learned?! You cannot reason with a tiger WHEN YOUR HEAD IS IN ITS MOUTH!!
  • In Zombieland: Double Tap, the Babylon community absolutely refuses to have guns inside of its walls, even ordering any newcomers to hand theirs away and melting them to make Peace symbol necklaces. In the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse. With a humongous bunch of the absolute worst kind of zombie sub-species shambling nearby. And they like to party so loud that they haven't attracted the attention of a massive horde only through sheer dumb luck... until the film's climax. It screams Too Dumb to Live so loudly that even a bimbo like Madison can see it, screaming out a Big "WHAT?!" when she hears about it.

  • The Wheel of Time series:
    • The Tuatha'an "Tinkers" are an itinerant people, traveling from place to place in wagon caravans so that if they're ever threatened, they can pick up and move. They believe that violence does just as much damage to the attacker as the attacked, like an ax that goes dull from chopping too many trees, and if someone attacks them, they will pray that the act does not hurt the attacker too much. One of them, Aram, abandons their pacifist ways after his family's deaths and soon becomes a Knight Templar, eventually jumping off the slippery slope and into straight-up Ax-Crazy. It isn't pretty.
    • The Da'shain Aiel were the Tuatha'an's ancestors in the Age of Legends when their vows of peace and servitude won them profound respect. The exceptions weren't suicidal so much as Heroic Sacrifice: ten thousand of them once surrounded a violently insane Person of Mass Destruction and distracted him with song while he killed them one by one, buying enough time for the rest of the city to evacuate.
  • 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 compelled by violence. Even when they finally grasp that the villain really is so evil as to end another's life, they decide to disarm walking up to him and taking his gun. They realize that some of them will die, but eventually he'll run out of bullets. Fortunately, the cavalry arrives before the shooting starts, using a device to render weapons inoperable.
    • Ironically, this steadfast commitment to their principles of pacifism in the face of death (refusal to cooperate), as well as their decision to resist without killing (aforementioned noncompliance and deciding to take the villain’s gun away even as he murders them with it) are two of the hallmarks of the Badass Pacifist, meaning they qualify for that trope as well!
  • 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.
  • Tides of War exaggerated Baine Bloodhoof, formerly a docile tauren who turned ferocious when provoked, into this. When Alliance soldiers were literally sieging on the gates of Mulgore, the home of the tauren, Baine responded by banishing all tauren who defended themselves and Mulgore.
  • Quadrail Series:
    • The Chahwyn, and their artificial race the Spiders, 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.
  • Animorphs:
    • The Chee are a robot version of this. Their long-dead alien creators made it 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 favorable view on this Actual Pacifist nature, though many times characters are outright frustrated by it. In the end, it's partially responsible for Rachel's death.
  • Harry Turtledove's Alternate History short story The Last Article makes Mohandas Gandhi's nonviolent resistance movement turn into this after Nazi Germany conquers India from the British Empire — see also the Real Life section.
  • Vampire Academy has a variant; the philosophy of the Moroi isn't about violence specifically, but about using their elemental magic for violence. This 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. This is less a principled stance and more cowardice because their preference is to let the Dhampir Guardians do the fighting and dying for them, even trying to lower the minimum age for joining the Guardians, i.e. send undertrained teenagers into combat so they don't have to get their hands dirty.
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, the Gardeners sect is staunchly pacifist and when they're about to be invaded, many of them protest learning how to fight. Notably, one of them states that "we shouldn't abandon our principles just because they became inconvenient", when said inconvenience involves the very real possibility of death, rape, being Made a Slave, or any combination of those.
  • The Silerian Trilogy: The Beyar-Olvari, who are an extremely fragile, peaceful species and can't even bear the mention of violent acts, let alone do any themselves, manifest this. It seems this is their inherent nature, so they can't change that. Rather than fight, some manage to survive by hiding underground from the encroaching humans.
  • The Fifth Sacred Thing is built around a deconstruction of Suicidal Pacifism, showing why someone would resort to it and even a way it could work. Even putting aside the residents' strong objections to war, the city is one of the few fertile spots After the End, so evacuating isn't an option, they put all their effort into farming and engineering so they have no weapons, and even if they did they are vastly outnumbered and unprepared for conflict. Nonviolent resistance is their best chance for survival because even though many will be killed, a war would surely annihilate them. When the Stewards arrive, they're so nonplussed by the city's seeming lack of resistance that they don't realize the residents are secretly freeing their Slave Mooks, and are eventually routed by their own defecting soldiers.
  • The Seer and the Sword: The king and people of Bellandran were complete pacifists. When their neighboring land Archeld invaded, they attempted to negotiate instead of fight and were quickly conquered. King Veldon of Bellandra himself would not use a magical sword he had, and thus was killed in front of his son Landen, with King Kareed (his killer) taking both with him home as war trophies. It's left a mystery just how they managed to survive until then.
  • The Tritonian Ring, has the kingdom of Ghampasantia, which strives to follow extremely high morals (among various things, the protagonists are put to death by lions for bringing a weapon, wearing clothes and, well, being foreigners), and among various things refuses to do war. When the protagonist warns them that a horde of dangerous desert nomads is coming their way, the leader claims that they won't put a resistance, but just explains to the invaders that their city holds no riches for them and even offer them food if they want to. Unfortunately for the unusually philosophical and logical Ghampasantians, the nomads are too bloodthirsty to listen and wipe them out.
  • Japan Summons: At first Japan didn't want to boast their firepower and be humble as possible when dealing with other countries. Unfortunately this made them look weak especially to warmongering countries like Parpaldia. After a hard learned lesson, the Japanese got the message that they need to "demonstrate" their technological advancement to prevent other countries belittling them and even considers to make a nuclear weaponry as a deterrent.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of 30 Rock has Jack, fed up with how much of a goody-goody Kenneth is, presents him with a moral dilemma by convincing him that they are trapped in an elevator with 8 other people, and there is only enough oxygen for 9 people. Then, he hands Kenneth a gun. Kenneth immediately puts the gun in his own mouth and pulls the trigger over and over, demonstrating both that he would rather die than kill and that the gun wasn't loaded.note 
  • An episode of Andromeda has one of Rev Bem's fellow priests mentoring a colony of humans with genetic memory that's being threatened by slavers, and asks Dylan Hunt for help. Dylan, outnumbered and outgunned, brings the colony some Force Lances and starts Training the Peaceful Villagers, so that the colonists can have options, maybe even scaring off the slave raiders with a nice show of force, a wall manned by a legion of force-lanced equipped soldiers is very intimidating. The priest mentoring the colony destroys the force lances in a fire in the middle of the night, with the slavers on the way, and no time for Dylan to get more. REV BEM chews the guy out on how stupid and violent towards his charges that action was. The priest winds up getting killed, like an idiot, by walking over to the slavers, chanting prayers, as the slavers are openly firing on the colony. The colony survives only because one of the colonists used Dylan's med-kit to steal Rev Bem's DNA and infect herself with it, giving rise to a branch of Magog with genetic memory, that killed the slavers, and then had to be stopped from preying on the colonists.
    Dylon: "We rescued Eden, by introducing The Serpent."
  • Despite its reputation as a pro-pacifism show, Doctor Who has occasionally included negatively portrayed examples of this.
    • After nearly being wiped out in an atomic war (and exterminated by the Daleks) the Thals 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.
    • The Dulcians in "The Dominators" were intended as a satire on hippie anti-war protesters, in their high-minded refusal to accept that the people invading their planet actually were aggressive militarists who had to be fought.
    • "The God Complex" 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 Doctor has nothing but contempt for them, but he does say cowardice has historically been a very effective survival strategy for the species. A planet full of willing slaves is more useful to most conquerors than a planet full of corpses. The later episode "Before the Flood" showed another member of the same race, this time actively on minion duty; he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying being ordered around and keeps hinting how he has tools to properly "oppress" him in his gear.
    • Played for Laughs in "Doomsday" where the Doctor insists to Rose that though Torchwood may pump them full of bullets, he'll still have the moral high ground.
  • In Moon Knight (2022), while Steven Grant isn't a total pacifist - he's willing to fight non-human enemies such as Arthur Harrow's jackal monsters, even if he's not very good at it - he outright refuses to harm other people or let his alternate personality Marc Spector do so. In Episode 3, this leads to him repeatedly trying to take control from Marc in the middle of life-or-death situations, in the hope of resolving things peacefully. The one time he does take control, he's immediately Impaled with Extreme Prejudice, and the only reason the trope doesn't become literal is because of Khonshu's healing armor. Steven promptly gives up and hands control back to Marc.
  • 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. Later episodes show more nuance, such as hiding a weapon on behalf of someone else so they can use it if they are attacked.
    Lya: I only hid the weapon. I did not fire it.
    Carter: Ah. Pretty fine line you didn't cross there.
    Lya: [uncomfortably] Yes... it is.
  • One episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation has Picard and three other abductees put in a room. One of them is an alien from a completely pacifist culture who refuses to help them escape until their predicament and persistence made him change his mind.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In "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 an "I respect your convictions and the way you hold to them even if I don't agree with them" comment from Kirk.
    • "Errand of Mercy" had an entire planet of Perfect Pacifist People who would not raise a hand against the Klingons invading their home planet, even when the Klingons start killing them. Turned out they were Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who only appeared in A Form You Are Comfortable With and they weren't really hurt at all.
  • 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 that they are tied to Richard the same way. They agree to let Zedd restore the curse and trick the warlord into leaving them alone.
  • A literal example in the Blake's 7 episode "Volcano". The population of Obsidian have been brainwashed from birth to remove all violent impulses. So they won't fall victim to The War of Earthly Aggression being waged by the Federation, they have a Doomsday Device that will be detonated if any aggressor lands on their planet.
  • The Outpost: Talon's people were a group of Blackbloods who firmly believed that to kill anything (animals for food included) was wrong. Sadly, they were slaughtered by humans who emphatically didn't share this view with none fighting back.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem: Khalida rebukes Adil for using spells to kill two Camarilla when rescuing captured witch girls, saying even if maintaining their pacifism meant all of the Tarim died, they still shouldn't use violence. It's subverted when she kills to protect Adil once the Camarilla attack though.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Present in The Bible, in the Book of Maccabees, where some Jews would rather let themselves be killed 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 permits breaking the Sabbath).
    • Quakers and other historic "Peace Churches" play this trope straight and refuse to go to war, or even to swear allegiance to nations because they all are inherently evil/non-Christian because they go to war.
    • The Orthodox Christian Church has its own view on this trope. One work of Ivan Aleksandrovich Ilyin, a Russian religious and political philosopher, states that Actual Pacifist and Suicidal Pacifism isn't Christian. It is your personal enemies you are to love, and even then you have the right to defend yourself. When you must protect other people/states/religion, you must stop the threat, even if it means killing, though only when other means are proved to fail. But you shouldn't make a conflict personal. So, in fact, you should be a Martial Pacifist or Technical Pacifist. It's telling that the Orthodox Church approved his work.
    • Just War Doctrine is a similar code of conduct in the Catholic Church for discerning appropriate use of violence for the purposes of stopping evil. St. Augustine of Hippo was one of the first Christian philosophers to suggest the idea, and it was later expanded upon and discussed at length by St. Thomas Aquinas. The School of Salamanca further expanded upon Thomistic thought and is largely responsible for articulating the Doctrine as currently written in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  • 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. Note that they didn't believe violence is never justified; they merely didn't trust themselves after their violent past - the children that had been too young to have participated in the bloodshed prior to their conversion were not subject to the vow of pacifism and would go on to take up arms in self-defense.
  • The most strict Jains will not use violence nor even in self-defense. Although this observance varies from sect to sect, it is one of the reasons why it is theorized that Buddhism spread much more internationally than Jainism, as Buddhism has a more Martial Pacifist approach.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout 4 has Captain Ironsides, sentry bot captain of the USS Constitution, keeps his crew from fighting scavengers and raiders beyond defensive actions despite their constant attacks as his programming registers them as citizens of the Commonwealth, which means that he's to protect them (to an extent, as he can self-defense them to death if need be. In any case, no pursuit). He's actually aware of this and laments the fact that he can't do anything about it.
  • Fallout 76 had the residents of Vault 94, which was designed to test the adaptability of non-violent ideological groups After the End. They refused to change with the new world or isolate themselves from it, resulting in them being frequently preyed on by raiders taking advantage of their passivity. In the end, they ended up being slaughtered by suspicious wastelanders who believed their kindness to be a trap, with their Garden of Eden Creation Kit exploding in the attack and transforming the region into the Mire.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The citizens of Fisherman's Horizon in Final Fantasy VIII oppose the use of violence, maintaining their belief that conflict can and should be resolved through peaceful communication. When the army of the Big Bad shows up to occupy the town, the mayor walks out alone to try to negotiate, refusing any help from the heroes with the argument that getting them involved will only escalate matters; he is nearly killed before the party intervenes. Notably, not everyone in town is of equal mind on the subject - Mayor Dobe's wife Flo is quick to change her tune and demand that the heroes do something about the situation when the soldiers start showing up.
    • In Final Fantasy IX the Cleyrans have lived in isolation from the rest of the world (under the protection of an almost unbreakable natural defence) for so long that they have absolutely no self-defense skills at all. When they're attacked by the army of Alexandria and their defence fails, they naively try to reason with the soldiers and, unfortunately, die in droves.
  • Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise: A Side Quest chain has the Eden Committee, a group of people who think violence is not the answer, and that the various thugs who infest the city can be dealt with peacefully by trying to appeal to their consciences. Kenshiro keeps having to save their chairman from being murdered. In the last quest in the chain, the chairman is mortally wounded, realizing as he dies that some people are beyond peaceful solutions. The committee breaks up, but Kenshiro admits they have a point... they just aren't in a time or place where it works.
  • Fire Emblem
  • Discussed by Javik in one of his idle banters with Garrus on the Normandy in Mass Effect 3. Javik recounts that in his cycle, a race called The Syndril claimed to have found the path to eternal peace, but they were all wiped out by another race called The Ditakur who preferred war. And then there's the Reapers and their indoctrination tactics, which turned anyone who spend a long time in contact with them into this. Everyone who's indoctrinated will willingly drop down their weapons, convinced that the Reapers aren't here to wipe out all organic life in the galaxy and will actively try to sabotage any effort to stop them.
  • Iji added an alternate ending in 1.7 that allows Iji to go too far with pacifism. By having fewer than 270 kills and refraining from meeting Ansaksie in Deep Sector (who would normally kill Iosa herself in this scenario), Iji gets the choice to spare Iosa at the end of Sector 9. If she does, then after she defeats Tor (his pre-fight dialogue will change so that he receives report of a stolen weapon instead), Iosa will show up with an illegal Nanogun and blast her to smithereens. Iosa then tries to threaten Tor into going through with the Alpha Strike, stopped only by the fact that Tor's second-in-command has been listening in on the whole conversation and strips her of her rank.
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: When Rhett offers them to join his and Vace's hunting party, Sol can decline on the grounds that they would never kill an animal. Vace then scoffs at them, believing that they wouldn't even fight back against an animal that's trying to kill them.
    Vace: I knew you Strato kids were soft... I didn't know you were suicidal, too.
  • Zachary from OFF will continue his merchant duties without lifting a finger even when the Batter is minutes away from turning off the switch, and the world with it, and he still opts to indirectly help do the deed. This is quite in contrast that, through Hidden Depths, it's implied that he's a lot more important than the story lets on.
  • In Star Wars: 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.
  • 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 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 setup to legally negotiate her way out of the situation. It's lampshaded and justified in-universe as something almost akin to Blue-and-Orange Morality; as an Outsidernote , Celia will fade away into nothing upon dying and cannot be restored. As such, all Outsiders in the Order of the Stick's multiverse are naturally averse to killing, unless they're evil. By comparison, humanoids treat death far more lightly, because they know for an objective fact that not only will their souls survive after death in one of myriad personally tailored paradises, but magic also exists that can almost casually revive those slain by violence. So, to a humanoid, death and killing are far less of a moral "deal" than they are to an Outsider. For her part, Celia thinks that respect for life is the norm, and it's really only villains and adventurers that deal out death so casually.
  • 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 reincarnated in another life as an organic mothership, now carrying every living thing from Earth. One could interpret it as The Cuckoolander Was Right. The comic as a whole is pretty sympathetic to Jain beliefs, from what one can tell.
  • In Kill Six Billion Demons the monks who mastered the absurdly potent and dangerous Ki Rata are sworn to never use it except to kill anyone else who tries to learn it (to be capable of doing so is why they practice it themselves). They hold to this principle so strongly that when their planet is attacked by the Demiurge Yemmod they refuse to do anything to stop him as he slaughters the people, razes the land, and destroys the sun. The only thing they do is take in one refugee as an apprentice who kills them for their inaction once he's mastered the art.
  • Mob in Mob Psycho 100 at first. He won't use his psychic powers against other people in the beginning. When challenged by Teruki, he refuses to fight back with his powers, even when Teruki starts to choke him.

    Web Original 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged has both Cell and Android 16 call Gohan on this trope, pointing out that he's refusing to fight even when it will mean the end of the world and everyone he loves.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Terminal Provocations", Captain Freeman is so insistent on being diplomatic with the Drookmani, even in the face of their obvious intransigence, that she lets them completely deplete the shields before finally letting Shaxs retaliate. Unfortunately, the Drookmani have unintentionally disabled the weapons with the repeated strikes, nearly forcing Freeman to order everyone to Abandon Ship. Before this can happen, Mariner and Boimler coincidentally shoot the corrupted isolinear core at the Drookmani by mistake, solving the problem.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • Anakin, his apprentice Ahsoka Tano, 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, 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 a 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 (though notably the leader’s objections are often against violent acts in themselves regardless of target or outcome, and Star Wars often plays loose with whether droids are machines or are also living beings). Also, this is just as much an example of a Straw Character.
    • 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' original run ends with Mandalore plunged into civil war and Satine murdered just to spite her lover Obi-Wan.
  • During The Boondocks episode "Freedom Ride or Die", we learn that when Robert Freeman was young, he accidentally boarded a Freedom Rider bus. The leader of the group, Reverend Sturdy Harris, was a very brave (yet foolish) devout pacifist. Sturdy eagerly led his group right through angry racist mobs and trigger-happy policemen, while forcing Robert to endure all these ordeals against his will. Robert even outright accuses Sturdy of being a wannabe martyr with a death wish. Furthermore, Harris had a Superman-level degree of physical toughness that allowed him to take the racists' beatdowns with extreme ease (if anything people trying to assault him had a better chance to shatter their hands than injure him) while he seemingly had no understanding that the average member of the civil rights movement was not as invulnerable.
  • Rick and Morty: A race of highly advanced dinosaurs arrive on Earth to share their technology as well as their suffocatingly pacifistic ideology. When Rick discovers that there's a race of sentient meteors dedicated to wiping out dinosaurs on any planet they go to, and that one is headed toward Earth right now, the dinosaurs refuse to destroy the living meteor and instead exile themselves to Mars to patiently await death by meteor so that nobody except themselves have to die. Rick, finding this idiotic and wanting to prove a point, joins them on Mars to force them into a Trolley Problem-esque dilemma where they can either kill the meteor or "kill" Rick. The dinosaurs finally cave in and kill the meteor before it can strike, but are not happy about it and finally break their polite facade to cuss Rick out.
  • Wander of Wander over Yonder believes that violence is never the answer, even when dealing with an Omnicidal Maniac that destroys galaxies for fun. On one occasion he helped pilot a Humongous Mecha during an Enemy Mine but refused to help fight the Big Bad and allowed her to destroy the robot and the planet they were trying to protect. When the survivors of her rampage across the galaxy decided to take up arms against her, he went up to her ship to warn her and attempted to befriend her. It went about as well as you'd expect. He even admitted he was wrong at the end of the episode, though the blow was lessened since the Big Bad was stopped by a former Big Bad acting in defense of everyone else, who supported him with friendship to give him the power to win. The one time Wander does outright fight someone, it's A) with music in a Beam-O-War and B) he loses. The guy is just bad at going on the offensive. He's a helper, not a fighter.
  • StarCom: The U.S. Space Force: Episode 8 features a farming community that is regularly plundered by bandits. The townsfolk hate being exploited this way, but their pacifist traditions prevent them from taking up arms to defend themselves, even though some of them clearly want to. They become Technical Pacifists after discovering that they can use their solar mirrors to reflect the bandits' own lasers back at them.

    Real Life 
  • The sad story of the Moriori people of Chatham Islands, who lived by a code of pacifism that forbade them to kill. When the Maori invaded their island and began to exterminate and eat them, some of the Moriori argued that pacifism shouldn't apply. In the end, however, their chiefs decided that the principle of pacifism was never intended to be a strategy for survival — it was a moral imperative. Consequently, the Moriori allowed themselves to be completely wiped out, except for those kept alive as slaves. Today only about 700 are left. To make things worse, it turns out that the Moriori were Maori who settled there in the 16th century, meaning their own long-lost cousins massacred them.
  • 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. The example of the Mongols is actually subverted: those cities that 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. This was common at the time elsewhere as well.
  • One Underground Comics artist had a father (also an 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.
  • Similarly, Norman Morrison, a Baltimore Quaker, self-immolated below Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's Pentagon office to protest U.S. involvement in the war.
  • Mohandas Gandhi allegedly believed 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 that Hitler's regime had become known for.note  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 labor, or summary execution. When the true scope of Nazi Germany's plans became understood later on, Gandhi had to admit that even if passive resistance could work against the Nazi war machine, it would be "not without great losses."note  Harry Turtledove wrote a short story of Alternate History in which Nazi Germany occupies India and Gandhi tries his satyagraha tactics against them, to total disaster (possibly a Take That! against his view, as Turtledove himself is Jewish).
  • George Orwell was noted for saying that pacifism generally only works when there's someone else around to protect you and that people who preach pacifism without protection generally either get killed or taken advantage of.
  • In his book The End of Faith Sam Harris talks about this trope, which he calls "absolute pacifism", and observes that while many people consider it a morally unassailable position, it's really not when you think about it, as one psycho with a knife could murder an entire city of absolute pacifists and get away with it, as they would be powerless to stop him. Though the argument was made in the context of a justification for launching preemptive military strikes against Muslim nations on the grounds that they might, at some point in the future, choose to attack the US.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Suicidal Pacifist


Non-Violent Direct Action

While accidentally boarding a bus heading to Birmingham with a group of Freedom Riders, Robert Freeman learns what their plans are for when dealing with attackers.

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