Mental diabetes

A surfeit of politically correct thinking can lead to a sort of mental diabetes. The brain gets clogged with sweet and sticky thoughts. Rational thinking stops. Self-righteousness and sanctimony prevail. Mental enuresis follows. A regular dose of astringent cynicism is needed to control the brain-sugar levels from becoming debilitating.

I cringe as I observe that it has become fashionable to apologise for the actions of distant ancestors. Last week I heard a Canadian politician apologise for what his ancestors had done some 200 years ago. Of course, he couldn’t name them, and he had no inkling about the lives they led, but he apologised for them anyway. No German politician can survive in the present without regularly apologising for Hitler and the Nazis. Indian nationalists expect the British to apologise for 1857. The British always expect the French to apologise for the Norman Conquest (and for being French). Swedish and Australian politicians self-righteously proclaim their own goodness by apologising for what their ancestors did to the Sami and the Aboriginals. A Danish apology for Christian the Tyrant and the Stockholm bloodbath would be welcomed by Southern Swedes. The current Italian government is expected to apologise for the actions of Mussolini. The Japanese are expected to remain apologetic for the next few centuries. Macedonia expects the Greeks to apologise for Alexander. There must be some who are waiting for apologies from someone for Genghis Khan. It is a regular occurrence for politicians to apologise for the actions of their distant ancestors. But all these apologies are actually not about the past. Every such apology is someone trying to proclaim their own goodness in the present.

Parents clearly bear some responsibility for their children. It is not wrong to say that there will always be some trace of us in our distant descendants to come. But it is ludicrous to pretend that anybody can bear any responsibility, singly or collectively, for distant ancestors. Applying the values of today to the actions of those who came long before is, at best, meaningless and, at worst, self-serving, self-righteous, sanctimony. There is no feedback loop to the past. Every apology is a statement in the present about the present. Almost always, every apology about the past is someone blowing their own goodness trumpet in the now.

A far more logical question is whether any of our ancestors would be ashamed of the actions of their descendants in the present. Every time I hear a politician apologise about the past, I ask myself whether that ancestor would have been proud or ashamed of his descendant. Inevitably I come to the conclusion that the ancestor would have been ashamed of the descendant wringing his hands and “wetting the bed”.

My grandmother’s grandfather


 

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2 Responses to “Mental diabetes”

  1. Wynkin Says:

    The Normans were not French, they were Vikings – thus Nor(th)men.

    • ktwop Says:

      Not really. The Normans (Norman: Normaunds; French: Normands) are an ethnic group that arose in Normandy, a northern region of France. They in turn were Franks and Gallo-Romans together with Norse Viking settlers

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