Ancestors’ Guilt

Written by: Michael Kravshik.

As Westernist culture has become more self-reflective, historical injustices have become an important issue in public discourse. We increasingly look back on the past, and evaluate circumstances that do not meet the high standards of our current moral code. This exercise brings with it both shame and guilt. At its core, this is a positive effort. We don’t want to allow ourselves to forget past wrongs because we wish to ensure that similar misdeeds are not repeated. Sometimes however, this effort is taken too far and we burden ourselves with guilt that is not ours to bear. It is my opinion that we should not bear the guilt of our ancestors. Our only responsibility is to study their mistakes and ensure they are not repeated.

This concept is difficult to discuss because while it sits in the hearts and minds of millions of people, it has no tangible existence. However, the evidence shows itself very clearly in certain situations, and I hope that these two examples will give the reader a good idea of what I am referring to.

During the 1930’s and 40’s, my grandparents lived through horrible mistreatment by a German government gone mad and a German people who lost their way. A few years ago, a friend and I met two German girls on the beach who we spoke to for quite a few hours. Sometime during the discussion it came to light that we were Jewish. The immediate response of the two girls was to very genuinely apologize to us for the Holocaust. Their intention was really quite admirable. It was a great reminder of the strides that the German people have taken since the war to accept responsibility for their actions and come to terms with their past. Accepting the truthful history of your nation is important, but should all Germans today really have to take responsibility for these actions? These two girls were in their early twenties. There is a good chance that their grandparents may have been Nazi’s, supported the Nazi’s, or fought for Germany during the war. That being said, I can’t possibly hold them responsible for the actions of their grandparents. I can even admit that the apology gave me a warm feeling, but it was not their apology to make. They have a responsibility to learn about that history, to understand the inherent wrongness of it, and to fight the possibility of a recurrence. However, it is really their ancestor’s guilt, and only the few surviving Germans who committed those wrongdoings personally should be bearing such guilt.

This concept applies to many situations. Another example is that of native peoples (American, Canadian, Australian, etc…). The entire situation surrounding them is complex and differs depending on country and region. I am not debating or discussing any particular policy or current treatment of natives in this post, only what is relevant to the general concept of ancestor’s guilt. There is no doubt that many very bad things were done to the native populations of the newly colonized lands of European empires. The question is, should I feel guilty for it? My answer is no, I do not feel any guilt for those misdeeds. It’s important to note the difference between feeling bad that something happened and feeling guilty for it. I feel bad when I hear about a local teen being murdered by a crazy person, but I don’t feel guilty or responsible for it. No one should feel responsible for the wrong doing of his or her great-grandfather or any person that isn’t him or herself.

This example also brings to light an even more interesting phenomenon, something I like to call ‘imputed ancestors’ guilt’. For example, Modern-day Canada is made up of people from a plethora of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Yet, some people still believe that these people, the people who make up the modern country of Canada, should bear responsibility for wrongful deeds done to natives. The difference between good old-fashioned ancestors’ guilt and its ‘imputed’ variety is that a good amount of the ancestors of Canadians today weren’t even the culprits of these wrong doings. In fact, many times they themselves were victims of it. Why should a Sikh Canadian feel responsible for what their neighbor’s ancestors did to the natives, when their own ancestors were likely getting the same treatment? I mentioned my own roots earlier, and I feel just the same. If I do not believe that my 10th generation Canadian friend should share the guilt for what their great-grandparents did, then I certainly can’t justify feeling any personal guilt for the matter.

Learning about historical misdeeds is extremely important in the fight to ensure they are not repeated, but that doesn’t mean guilt and shame runs in your blood or comes with your citizenship. All of the horrible things of the past should be taught to everybody, not just the descendants of the culprits. However, people can only be held responsible for their own actions, and should not be burdened by the guilt of past generations. The only thing we can be guilty of is disregarding our responsibility to teach each new generation about these wrongdoings and the necessity of preventing them in the future.

                                                    

This is my opinion. What’s yours?

Special thanks to Dorothy Charach for her editing advice

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13 thoughts on “Ancestors’ Guilt

  1. It’s one thing to not have ancestors guilt, but what about requesting rightful compensation for properties/money taken from ones anscestors by the current ruling nation? Isn’t it fair for the ruling nation to repay monies that they unjustly took from the group in question? For example, is it not ‘fair’, that Canadian taxpayers be made to pay back the native americans whose property we somewhat unjustfully took from them? Or for holocaust survivors to request that the current German government repay them all the money that was stolen from their bank accounts by the Nazis during the Holocaust, as well as the value of their property that was stolen from them? We would not be asking the present day Germans to neccessarily feel guiltly about the wrong doings of their grandparents, but rather asking them to rightfully return money that their grandparents stole from ours?

    • Michael: Hey Eddie. As I’m sure you can guess from this article, I don’t believe that anyone can request compensation for something their ancestors had taken from them. With regards to land rights, I don’t even agree that they can be taken, since I don’t believe that groups of people can have rights to any land (see my post here for a full explanation). A holocaust survivor who is still alive had his or her personal belongings stolen by the German government/people, and they have a claim to be repaid. As it is, the German government does pay reparations to holocaust survivors. This seems reasonable to me because those payments are not transferable or hereditary. When the survivor dies than it ends, and assumedly the Germans who did take part in those atrocities will die out within the same timeframe as the survivors. Its not an exact system but its close, and its the actual culprits compensating the actual victims. This is very different than ancestors of culprits paying back ancestors of victims. So to return to the first point for a second, if national land rights was something I agreed with, I still wouldn’t agree with any ancestors guilt associated to it.

      Last point, lets say we tried to make everyone in the world attempt to repay for all the various wrong-doings their ancestors had done to others. If your going to do it, everyone should have to do it for everything right? It would only be fair. So how exactly would anyone go about that calculation? When do you start (how many generations ago)? What happens when you don’t have enough reliable info (which is most of the time)? What was someone’s barn in northern ukraine that was burned down 950 years ago worth in todays dollars? I don’t think you’d be too thrilled if that was your next audit engagement! Glad your interested.

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    • Hej Ann-Charlotte! Hemsidan e4r alldeles ny, se5 vi har inte hnniut le4gga upp all info e4nnu, men vi jobbar pe5 det se5 fort vi bara kan! Under bf6rjan pe5 denna vecka kommer mer info upp Se5 he5ll ut! Kul att hf6ra att du gillar initiativet!

    • Thank you for your kind and supadportading thugohts. Even thugoh I know what was comading, this was a hard loss. I realadize today that I lost someadone that has played a very posadiadtive part in my life. We did not socialadize outadside of work. We had litadtle in comadmon in our peradsonal lives. But we had very, very much in comadmon in our beliefs related to work and our approach to it. I will truly miss him. Knew I would, just am havading trouadble with howa0much.

    • G’day, it could be possible, peasle reply / provide me the website or website(s) address where you would like to post the quoted authorised material, before any publsihing takes place.To give me credit as the author with either a backlink to my site or if a you utilize and leave any linked text or images fully intact would be appropriate.Indeed i need honest clarity so and i can see where and how many quotes of my blog you wish to publish, also peasle indicate which parts of the post, like what sections you would like to quote, for example: the post at xxxx title/ link from start to end etc If you can respond with appropriate answers to the above requirements, i will more than likely approve your quataion of post(s) and authorise you to also mention in the footer, something likeIt would show the quotes or documentation is legitimately approved, using for example: (*Fully Authorised Content from UnlimitedFreePeopleSearch.com Admin / Author / Etc)Thankyou Nick, i await your prompt responseAlf Penny

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  3. So what amuses me about this is that the people who are actually putting the money back into the system in Germany, to pay out funds to ‘victims’ are not the same people that committed the crimes. The son pays for the grandfathers guilt.

    • Michael: I’m not sure how they have set up their fund for that, but if they were smart then they set up the fund originally with enough, that with interest would pay off the total compensation. Hopefully the Germans of today do not need to pay any more into it. That being said, soon there will not be any survivors left to compensate. Thanks for the comment (next time feel free to write in your name!).

      • I’m not sure what your question is since you’ve went a llttie bit off topic from the main questionThe major reason why people are migrating to different countries is because in their country there is diseases, poverty, no opportunity, laws are too loose, corruption, the list goes on. Most of this happens in poorer countries. So when a poorer country is next to one that has much more resources then they do (not meaning enough for everyone, but its big shown in charts and compared to smaller countries) they want to go and seek an equal or close to equal opprotunity as the citizens whom live there. The best thing to do is research the countries that are around the United States, read their news about the United States, and compare it to the news that you read here about them. Huge difference. True, USA is going to some tough times now, but its from circumstances in result of the countries actions and decisions. You can’t compare that to the other countries, whom have been enslaved, went through countless revolutions, corrupted leaders, and who are still stuck in the 3rd world era Hopefully the current President now can help improve the conditions in which the United States is in now, and once that’s done, help out the poorer countries so there will be less and less people migrating into the United States. But before that can happen, United States, and its people, must work together to improve themselves.

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  4. agreed many immigrants see Australia as hintitg the jackpot now were sitten here waving more of our tax dollers away to people who don’t deserve it. especially when most cant even be bothered learning our language or care about our country. send them back i say. i believe the government just allow them to reside in our country so they can create allies for the possibility of a future war break out.

  5. Pingback: KRAXQUOTES: Katrin Himmler – Ancestor’s Guilt Part 2 | Krax in Logic

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