This post reminds me of one of my biggest pet peeves: people apologizing or forced to apologize for actions not under one’s control. People around the world are constantly calling on The West, particularly The United States (and, regarding the liberation of Iraq, The United Kingdom) to apologize for horrible actions it has/they have done. Frankly (and I know many people, even those whom I respect, will strongly disagree), I see no reason to apologize for anything.
This is not to say that we should not admit something is or was bad when it is or was bad. Casting moral judgments on past actions is one key way we learn from history: we see the good and seek to perpetuate it, while we also see the bad and seek to avoid or mend it. But nowhere in this would apologies matter.
Furthermore, it is somewhat ridiculous to expect one to apologize for the actions of one’s predecessors or forefathers. We can and should say, regarding what they did wrong, that they did wrong. But why apologize? Why should future generations have to make their own the sins, as it were, of their fathers? One of the key elements of Judeo-Christian values, after all, is personal responsibility. As it is written in Ezekiel 18:20:
The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
What infuriates me is the double standard in all this apology rhetoric. The demands and standards are hardly mutual or equal unto all. The West, as even then, specific elements within The West, are commanded to apologize.
Should not the Turks apologize for kidnapping or buying Christian boys of Europe, forcibly converting them to Islam, and then training them to be warriors among the Jannissaries? (The technical term for this is devşirme or devshirme in Turkish; in Greek it is παιδομάζωμα (pedhomazōma); and some of them would then have to fight against Christian Europeans.)
Should not the Arabs apologize for slavery? And should they not apologize for the slaughter of many peoples during their wars of conquest and imperialism?
Should not the Russians apologize for the millions sent to the gulags? And the Chinese for their massacres of millions too?
Should not the South Americans apologize for their cannibalism and human sacrifices?
Should not the Greeks apologize for Alexander the Great’s destructive march through ancient Persia?
Should not the Mongols apologize for their waves of wanton destruction across many lands and continents?
I could go on forever. If none of the above is demanded, why, then, why, I ask, is The West, and Christians and Jews therein, commanded to apologize? And for what? We have done nothing compared to what those demanding apologies have done. And if one were to even suggest or politely request an apology from these peoples, it would be as if one called their predecessors the offspring of monocellular molecules from the back of pigs. (Mmmmmm. Bacon.)
Let me take this further. No only is apologizing silly, it is wrong. It is morally, ethically, and civilizationally wrong. We cannot nor should we event attempt to apologize or otherwise answer for the crimes or accomplishments of our forbears. We must take pride in their accomplishments, and learn from them, as we must disapprove of their wrongs, and learn from them. But we simply cannot make them our own. It is logically impossible. Really: someone try to convince me how this can be done. I do what I do; my father does what my father does; how can I answer for or even own what my father has done?
Furthermore, this notion of taking ownership of or answering for the actions of our predecessors goes against our civilization’s core values. We value personal responsibility and personal initiative. All this talk about our fathers’ (and mothers’) actions play no role whatsoever. It’s not a matter that we should not do this, according to how our civilization views and has built up the world, it’s a matter of simply not being able to. Our apologies would be empty, a waste of words.
For those who disagree, among the many questions I have asked above, I ask this: up to what point should Germans (and Austrians and Poles, and so on) feel like the scum of the earth for the atrocities of the Holocaust? The atrocity-perpetuating generation has left the earth. How many generations more until this taint of their fathers’ sins shall finally be gone? Answer me this and then perhaps we can discuss further. If you can’t, then admit you have no ground to demand apologies from me and my people.