Suffering dies with the sufferer, there is no inherited victim's mantle any more than there is any way to inherit the guilt of those who've committed crimes before us. We are each responsible for ourselves. What could be more simple than that?
Lately Ive heard phrases like third generation holocaust survivor and fifth generation ex-slave bandied about.
Whats wrong with such phrases?
Well, other than the fact that theyre obviously illogical and inane, theyre also dangerous.
If the grandson of someone who lived through Auschwitz is a third generation holocaust survivor, than I must be a second generation World War II veteran, a fifth generation Civil War veteran and sixth generation survivor of the Irish Potato Famine.
Only Im NOT, and neither are any of those who claim inheritance to other sufferings of past generations.
Suffering, like criminal guilt, dies along with those who suffered the abuses and committed the crimes. The lessons of the holocaust, for instance, are not lessons about Germans and Jews; theyre lessons about the dangers of victimization.
People who embrace victims status are capable of the most horrible inhumanities. Its true about post-Versailles Germany and its just as true for those who embrace an inherited victims status today.
All hate is rationalized as retaliation. Every act of aggression stems from some perceived victimization on the part of the aggressor. None of us inherit the mantle of suffering that our parents and grandparents went through, and claiming some bogus second or third generation victims status doesnt ennoble us, it merely carries forth the bitterness and resentments of the past into the present.
The Irish and British have harbored deep hatreds for each other for hundreds of years, but why should I carry that in my heart? No one British has ever hurt me personally and besides, the lessons of the English/Irish conflict is not about the Irish or the British, but about victims and if I try to carry my grandfathers grudges as my own than Im a fool.
We live in a vastly different world now and Ive never had a negative encounter with anyone from England. My grandfathers grievances may well have been legitimate in his day, and under his circumstances, but for me to claim the mantle of victims status for the things that he went through is not only dishonest, but dangerous as well.
Theyre dangerous in that they rationalize a mindless hatred. If my ancestors had reason to hate they were their own, for me to take up their mantle in an altogether different era is mindless at best, and maliciously opportunistic at worst.
Such seems to be the current argument for American Reparations for African slavery. Proponents talk of the reparations America gave to the Japanese interned during WW II and which Germany gave to the Jewish concentration camp survivors, but those reparations went to the LIVING SURVIVORS, not their descendants.
Look, if I harm or cause loss to a living person, that living person can sue for restitution (reparations) in Civil Court, but I cannot go back and sue for something stolen from my grandfather, nor seek to prosecute the thiefs grandchildren. Compensating the living for things they never suffered through seems obscene.
Reparations proponents claim, "Blacks are still discriminated against in the present." Well, every one of us is effected by the events of the past - from the burden the Irish carried of composing over 80% of the Union's Civil War Army, to broken homes and child abuse, but the past is not actionable.
Blacks also one of the only groups ever to benefit from state sanctioned discrimination - race based preferences are not just economically damaging (companies often have to hire more employees that they otherwise would to make up for less qualified people hired under preferences) but it's a segregation of standards plain and simple. A recent NYC Police Dept entrance exam had three passing grades 70 for whites & Asians, 65 for Hispanics and 60 for blacks. Now thats "back of the bus segregation to all those poor white and Asian folks denied jobs simply because their groups, on average scored too high on an exam.
Many of the arguments in favor of reparations for slavery remind me of a discussion I had awhile ago with a friend of mine, a very anti-British Irish-Catholic activist who, with a straight face, claimed that England should pay reparations to all those nations it colonized, for the crime of Colonial aggression."
My retort was, "The English owe nothing! Hell, its easier to argue that they brought civilization to the places they conquered. Thats right, they did these folks a favor, by bringingem into the modern world. Sure, what they did may have temporarily hurt some of those conquered peoples, but in the long run, they all benefited by their trade associations with Britain."
Sure, I was being a little mean with him, but hes an annoying guy and I stand by the point that its not appropriate for the descendants of the victors of the past to apologize and make whole the descendants of yesterdays vanquished.
Look, if Africa had developed the gun first, they might have been the colonizing power, but things worked out differently. The results were not all good for the so-called "winners" and not all bad for the so-called "victims."
The doctrine of non-transference is very simple, the sins of the past cannot be inherited we dont use DNA to solve hundred year old crimes and punish the grandchildren of those who escaped justice back then. So, neither is the victim’s status that our ancestors suffered under bequeathed to us.
There aren’t any second generation WW II veterans, third generation holocaust survivors nor fifth generation ex-slaves...There just aren’t.