This is a subject I have been meaning to write about for some time. In fact it concerns a revelation I had several decades ago. It concerns a fallacy that most of the world’s population holds to be true. One that is responsible for much of the misery and strife in the world.
Let me begin with a silly illustration. Suppose an Italian flies into London from Rome. Once in the city he announces:
“You see those straight roads? It’s me you should thank for those. Like the alphabet? Yup, me again”.
Or perhaps an Englishman flies to India.
“You like those clocktowers in the town squares? Us to thank for those. Enjoying the cricket? You are welcome!”
This is obviously stupid. Someone taking credit for something that was done generations ago. Something that would have been done long before they were born. There is a good chance that no one directly related to him was involved whatever.
This is evidently preposterous. Why then, does most of humanity hold a view that the opposite is true. Why do we maintain that someone shares the guilt for acts done generations before? Acts that may not even have been made by their ancestors. Acts that are simply accredited to the national, ethnic or religious group they are identified with.
Talk to most young Germans and they have an admirable abhorrence of the crimes of Nazism. But they have also assumed responsibility, which is a quite different thing. You are not responsible for something that happened before you were born. You are not responsible for something that if you had been around you would have had no control over anyway. This does not mean that we ignore that such things might have been wrong or even downright evil. If the human race is ever to progress it must stop blaming innocent people for the crimes of others.
For all I know my great-grandfather may have spent his Sundays running through orphanages with an axe and a flamethrower. I never met the man. If I had I would have probably had no influence over him. His guilt is not mine. Nor is that of my grandfather nor father. Nor is that of the millions of people who just happen to be of the same nationality as me. I have very little influence over the actions of my nation's politicians. Many of the choices they have made I am against. You might just like to ask what I thought before you automatically tar me with the same brush.
Many decades back an intelligent but often confused friend told me that I should feel guilty because I am white. I was in Tennessee at the time, but this still baffled me. “Being white gives you privileges and you should feel guilty about that.”
No, that is bollocks! Firstly I dispute that being white does give you privileges anymore. Tell that to my girlfriend who cannot get the money she is legitimately entitled to from the DSS because the staff at the local branch are only helping their friends and families. Secondly, I’ve never owned slaves nor dealt in them. If any of my ancestors ever were involved in the slave trade they were probably the poor sod with the mop and bucket who had the worst job on the ship! Thirdly, I have never, to my knowledge, ever met a slave. Yes, I have met people whose ancestors may have been slaves. Or whose ancestors may have been slavers, for that matter. Often glossed over is that many African tribes happily sold their enemies and prisoners into slavery. But no one I have met actually had this happen to them. That such a thing did happen to an ancestor is terrible. But it did not happen to them. Here we have the third corner of a toxic triangle. With “Assumed Guilt” and “Assumed Blame” we have “Assumed Persecution”.
Terrible things have been done in the past and we should not forget these, lest we fail to learn from them. Your ancestors may have been subject to persecution, genocide, slavery or eviction from their lands. But these things did not happen to you. This does not entitle you to do similar things to someone else. And the people you are blaming and victimizing probably are not personally responsible.
The whole world works on “I hate you because your grandfather might have done something to my grandfather”.
Currently in the world millions of people are blaming millions of other people who were not responsible for wrongs that they did not experience. And we use these crimes of previous generations to justify new crimes against the innocent.The Books
There is a school of thought that the only real right is to be responsible for your actions and choices. If that is the case then perhaps we also have the right not to be held responsible for the actions and choices of others.