Monday, 19 July 2021

Apologizing for the Past

Mr Holdsworth looks at the stupidity and evil of 'apologising' for the sins long-dead people committed in the dim past.

I grew up on a street called Lancaster Crescent which was a pretty fun place to grow up. But there was a moment in time that rocked the culture of that neighborhood because there was a family up the street from us that was a blended family. At one point, while that family was away on a vacation, one of the teenage sons murdered the rest of the family and I believe he killed himself in the process. That was an unspeakably tragic thing but the lack of resolution made it worse because you couldn’t get your questions answered - you couldn’t get closure. So imagine, if in that frustration in an attempt to appease that deep desire for resolution and even justice, someone decided that everyone else who lives on Lancaster Crescent was going to have to serve some kind of penitential punishment for the crime of that kid. Imagine if everyone else, including the legal system and government officials, insisted that the residents of Lancaster Crescent all be dragged out into the media spotlight to account for complicit guilt in this crime.

Or, imagine if someone from the neighborhood did a media interview and, with tissue boxes in front of them, earnestly apologized on behalf of the people of Lancaster for this horrible crime. Wouldn’t the rest of us looking on think this was some kind of narcissistic attempt to gain the spotlight or an unhelpful exacerbation of the tragedy which would prolong the confusion and pain and prevent the arrival of peace and closure? I’d like to think that anyone with a scrap of moral awareness would be able to see that this would be an instance of misplaced blame based on an association that has nothing to do with the crime. It would be a case of correlation that is unrelated to causation. The simple fact is, none of the other residents of that neighborhood had any guilt to share by virtue of the fact that they lived in that neighborhood.

I think that, in a lot of cases where people who are alive today are expected to apologize for crimes they didn’t commit based on some shared trait or association with the long since departed criminals, something like this is going on. We look at crimes like slavery, which by the way, was universally practiced prior to Christendom, and say, because some people with a certain skin color were guilty of that, people with that skin color who are alive today, should share in that blame solely based on that correlation. Or we expect people from certain countries to apologize for things that that country did several generations ago. We expect the people who, by sheer accident, were conceived in a certain place, to take ownership of all the bad things that happened in that location prior to their conception.

It would be more sensible to expect the residents of Lancaster to take responsibility for the death of that family because at least they were alive when it happened at least the association is that much stronger. In these other examples, these people are separated by time as well as any direct involvement with the crime. The only way you can cast that kind of blame is by connecting them to it in a way that is more consequential than something like, you happen to live in the same place as they did or you kind of look like those bad people.

For example, I’m a Catholic, and Catholics are often branded with the guilt of bad things that other members of the Church have done. But rarely will you hear someone connect the bad things that Catholics have done to the creed and beliefs of the Catholic Church and that is the burden of proof that needs to be satisfied before accusing other Catholics of sharing in that guilt by association. Because there are creeds that do perpetuate the evil of their adherents. For example, the millions that died under fascist and communist rule in the 20th century are a direct result of those philosophies. It isn’t incidental. They are both inherently violently oriented. They both call for violence against anyone that is deemed an enemy of the people.

Which is why it’s logical to insist that anyone who continues to perpetuate those philosophies be made to admit the evils that resulted from them and then repent of having admired or promoted them. But in the cases where we expect people to apologize for things that people in the past have done because they have the same color skin or they happen to live in the same place, that burden of proof is rarely addressed which is how we know that what we’re actually doing is scapegoating innocent people to satiate our appetite for revenge. Read full transcript at: https://brianholdsworth.ca

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