An apology is necessary and appropriate?

  realist 16:17 24 Mar 2007
Locked

How do you feel about the new-fangled fashion of apologising for things done, often by long-dead ancestors, in the dim and distant past?

My own view is that I feel no guilt, so no apology is required.

  Kate B 16:19 24 Mar 2007

I rather agree - I suppose if someone felt incredibly strongly that their ancestors had suffered as a result of something my ancestors had done to them I might apologise to keep the peace, but I think it's meaningless. You can't right a wrong; and I think it's a mistake to judge actions of another time through the prism of our 21st-century views on things - such as slavery.

  anskyber 16:30 24 Mar 2007

On the whole I think it's a rather fatuous thing to apologise for things which happened so long ago. Should we apologise to children for sending their forefathers up chimneys or down mines or in factories?

There are some occasions, perhaps when a whole Nation or major group of people (blacks, Jews as examples) where there could be a case for expressions of regret. We live in our world where the best way of showing a break with the past is to demonstrate our values through our approach to those who live now. it's of greater value to the living to treat them for what they are, equal fellow human beings than the wailing which is going on now.

I was amazed to hear that some are looking for financial reparations for the slave trade 200 years ago.

  Forum Editor 16:33 24 Mar 2007

It's possible to regret actions taken by ancestors without having to assume a mantle of guilt, and to indulge in public hand-wringing.

Kate's point - that actions taken centuries before cannot properly be judged by today's standards is valid. That isn't to say that slavery was acceptable, that's never been the case in a moral context.

The opposite side of the argument is that the descendants of the slaves we're talking about have to live in a society that is awash with evidence of the rewards that accrued as a result of the enslavement of their ancestors, and it must be galling, to say the least. Had my ancestors been slaves on a plantation in Antigua I might take a slightly different view - I've been there a few times, and the island still bears the signs of British exploitation.

  Kate B 16:38 24 Mar 2007

There was a good documentary I think last weekend on Channel 4 that took a black Londoner to the Caribbean plantation where his ancestors, kidnapped from west Africa, had been enslaved. He and the present owner of the plantation, a descendant of the man who enslaved his ancestor, had a slightly awkward encounter in which although the owner expressed regret, he didn't apologise, and I think that was right. The man himself has nothing to apologise for. You can't rewrite history, though you can present it in a moral context, which I think this anniversary is achieving.

  p;3 16:38 24 Mar 2007

I thought this was an applogoy thread for something done on this forum; what have I overlooked elswhere?

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 16:44 24 Mar 2007

Apologies are only necessary when the lessons of History are not learnt.

  johndrew 16:46 24 Mar 2007

Apparently it is the `PC` thing to do these days. Perhaps masochistic tendencies have entered a proportion of the population and they need an excuse to flagellate themselves (mentally rather than physically you understand) and such as this piece of history gives the excuse.

I think anskyber has hit the nail squarely in his second sentence, but would also ask why (if we are feeling so contrite) we ignore the likes of Zimbabwe and areas where slavery was abolished much more recently; Saudi Arabia only abolished it in 1967 and even now `body servants` are not uncommon.

There is also a question as to why some African tribes, if not countries, are not being asked for apologies; in their waring they took prisoners, used them as slaves and even sold some to western nations.

  Kate B 16:51 24 Mar 2007

I think the examples you quote, johndrew, are all good reasons why we shouldn't start apologising for things we have no responsbility for - such as actions by our ancestors.

  Belatucadrus 16:51 24 Mar 2007

I demand an immediate apology from the French for that complete and utter bastard William of Normandy. Sneaky bugger could have waited till Harald had caught his breath after beating up Hardrada the Viking. But no, typical Frenchie had to jump the gun didn't he. On your knees Chirac, start with the abject grovelling, we require a futile and insincere gesture immediately !!!

  WhiteTruckMan 17:02 24 Mar 2007

In a previous thread I pointed out to you that it would be good to find out why the phrase 'politically correct' was in such disrepute. johndrew's post provides another example why. I wonder if some politicians see it just in terms of a vote winner. Or, given the state of political majorities, a non vote loser.

WTM

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