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**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

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Peter Swigert

Questions from "United Karate System FAQ"
Answers from "What is Pacifism FAQ"

How do you get a black belt?

This may sometimes happen, not least because some people respond heroically to disaster of any kind.

Aren't I too (old, inflexible, heavy, skinny, etc.) to learn karate?

It's certainly true that power - looking for it, getting it and keeping it - has been a problem for human beings throughout recorded history.

When would I learn to fight?

Peace can never come from violent methods: if you use violence, you risk a violent response now or in the future.

What about weapons?

What for? Revenge? The human impulse to retribution is certainly strong, and can be pumped up until it's out of control; but that doesn't justify it. Acts of vengeance solve no problems but create new ones instead - and always involve harming people, many of whom may have (or want) nothing to do with the conflict. Self-defense? Armed resistance is not - really not - the only response to threats. It is certainly the most damaging response and the one most likely to create threats and reprisals in the future.

Does karate really work for self defense?

The idea of a 'just war' is an ancient one, and is still upheld by some religions. It's upheld, too, by the Western idea of 'humanitarian' war which, it's claimed, is to prevent or stop unjust oppression. Political 'good' causes are also used to justify wars, such as wars of liberation or revolution. The fact remains, however, that whatever the justice of the cause, that justice is cancelled out when the means of promoting it are unjust. And the many-faceted injustice of war is in a league of its own. War can't justify a cause any more than it can be justified by it. What do slaughter and violence prove? What do slaughter and violence provoke?

Can I just come watch a class?

The French writer Albert Camus said that the great political question of modern times is what we do with fear. Fear makes us regard murder as militarily legitimate, and thus (wrongly) treat human lives as insignificant. He suggests that we ask ourselves two questions: 'Do I want to be killed or assaulted, directly or indirectly?' and 'Do I want to kill or assault, directly or indirectly?' If you answer No to both, what does that logically commit you to?