Whilst violent protest has a place, non-violent, pacifist protest can be a lot more effective in the modern world.

Take, for instance, the troubles in the middle east. One side detonates a car bomb, the other relaliates with some more killing, and so on. This is the problem with violence: It only works when you beat the opposing side into a bloody pulp that cannot fight back.

To illustrate my point, I offer this scenario:

Your country is in near constant conflict with another nearby country. That country decides to advance a distance into your country, with tanks and armoured vehicles. Violent and non-violent protest would take two different forms:

  • Violent - Launch some high-explosive mortars into the invading country.
  • Non-violent - Get a group of, say, 100 people. Equip them with things that can be used as rubber bullet shields (i.e. dustbin lids) and gas masks, and get them to sit in a big block of people in the middle of any roads the invading country is advancing down. Invite the world's press.

The advantage of the second approach is rather than killing people and giving your enemies more to justify their invasion, you are innocent protesters being violently oppressed. They can't force you to move without seeming heavy-handed and violent. They can't gas you or rubber bullet you without seeming heavy-handed and violent on worldwide TV. They can't kill you without being blatant murderers on TV (Admittedly, that wasn't a problem in Tiananmen Square, but hopefully that was a one-off).

Both violent and non-violent techniques of protest have a place, but non-violence is almost always a better starting point.