Why This Software Developer Is A Pacifist

Since launching Pacifism21.org six months ago, I've often found myself explaining to friends or strangers just what the hell I think I'm doing. I should probably prepare a stock answer to this question, but the truth is I'm still trying to figure it out for myself. I suppose I find new words to explain it every single time I talk about it ... and I suppose I learn something new myself every time I hear my answers.

Here's one key point that seems to keep jumping outt: I am not launching Pacifism21 because I consider myself some kind of enlightened being, some special peace-loving flower of humanity. I am not a "natural pacifist", though it surprises people when I tell them this. To the extent that a normal human sometimes feels violent or vengeful, I do as well. I am no more of a "born pacifist" than most people I know, and maybe less so than some.

A couple of months ago I found myself in such a raging mood (over a work situation, as well as the ongoing dramas of my life) that I did what I often recommend others do when they feel angry: I drove to a nearby batting cage with an automatic pitching machine, bought a handful of tokens and hit several rounds. BAM. You better believe I was picturing the faces of some people I know on those softballs as I smacked them as hard as I could into the far net.

This feels good. But it doesn't make me feel very pacifist, though I suppose it would be even less pacifist if I was hitting a person instead of a ball.

The reason I'm launching a pacifist website is not that I'm a naturally peaceful person. It's that I'm a professional logician and problem-solver, and I enjoy looking out for tough problems that I can help solve. I'm pretty sure that excessive militarism is a problem that the entire world needs to solve, and I think I can help. And when I say that I am a professional logician and problem-solver, I mean that I am a software developer.

Software is a profession that gives a person a lot of confidence in his or her logical skills. I've been doing this for a few decades now, (mostly as a web content management specialist in New York City and Washington DC) and I've come to realize that I'm very good at analyzing problems, developing models, identifying dependencies and architecting systems that actually work. Software developers are always "real world" people, and we know the difference between success and failure. Our project schedules are usually measured in weeks or months, and we are constantly challenged during these intervals to prove ourselves by actually delivering whatever it is we have promised to deliver.

Writers and activists and politicians and journalists, by contrast, may have more wiggle room to "deliver halfway" on their promises, and more ways to excuse themselves when their expectations are confounded. The years I have spent in the trenches of software development have given me a really strong track record not only for delivering, but for correctly predicting in advance what I can realistically promise to deliver. (A software developer who cannot predict correctly is going to have a rocky and painful career, no matter how talented he or she is.)

Being a software developer has also helped me train my skills at bullshit detection. My peers and I are used to being bombarded by lame third-party software companies trying to sell us poorly conceived frameworks and packages, as well as fending off bad ideas and dubious schedules that come from our own managers or clients. A software developer will inevitably develop a strong ability to discern good ideas from bad, gold from chaff, truth from crap.

So what does this have to do with pacifism? Well, my engineering mind has been poring over the question of global hyper-militarism since at least the terrible upheaval of the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. (I was interested in global politics before this too, of course, but less keenly.)

I've been poring over the question pretty intensely, because it is my tendency to think obsessively about particular topics. I can think of no more important question I could obsess over. I have done a ton of reading — history, politics, philosophy, psychology, religion. More importantly, I have carried on intensive long-term arguments and debates with friends and relatives and co-workers. I have learned a lot through my research, and through these arguments and debates.

It is clear to me (that is, to my engineering mind) that rampant hyper-militarism and reflexive cross-cultural paranoia and hatred is a problem we have an opportunity to begin to solve. Hyper-militarism is bad code. Endless war is a problem that can be solved. The solution will have many facets; economic, ethnic, diplomatic, environmental, intellectual. I would like to be part of the solution by building a strong platform for what I'm good at: the application of logic, knowledge, dialectic and debate. That's what this website is meant to be.

Hyper-militarism is bad code. The fact that I can visualize the problem in this way means that I might have a unique perspective to offer. Some people look at a picture of, say, Dick Cheney or Vladimir Putin or Bashar Al-Asaad and see Satan. I look at a picture of Dick Cheney or Vladimir Putin or Bashar Al-Asaad, and I see Microsoft Visual Basic. That is, I see an archaic and badly composed thought system that is ripe for replacement.

Through intensive examination of the problem, I've become convinced that the military-industrial complex and the horrific tradition of endless global war that feeds it are weak systems, ready to collapse. I know from talking to lots of people that many others see it the same way I do. But perhaps unlike me they are not software developers, and do not have the confidence that I have in the validity of this conclusion, and in the possibility of real positive change.

That's why this software developer who is no natural pacifist has become an outspoken one. It's logical. And the successful completion of the pacifist project on planet Earth is long, long overdue.