Posts Tagged ‘ancestors’

Mental diabetes

October 28, 2018

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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The Patriarch

September 8, 2016

Circa 1915

 

ancestors1-1

Ancestors

The Patriarch (probably born between 1860-1870), with

  • his two sons seated to his right,
  • their wives standing behind them
  • his two daughters standing behind him and
  • his four grandchildren

ancestors1-11


 

6,000 generations since Out of Africa

February 13, 2012

Lately, I have been delving into the fascinating – but somewhat arcane – fields of paleo-anthropology and genetics and biology and archeology. I find I am constantly trying to create a narrative which hangs together and looking for the little details which can enable me to personalise and identify with the narrative. It is a search for little “hooks” onto which I can hang my “hats” of understanding. And one such “hook” which both anchors and enables my imagination is that when looked at in the perspective of individuals in a particular line of descent, the ancient past is not as intangible and unreachable as it might seem.

from Wikipedia

It is only simple arithmetic but it seems to me quite remarkable that the long journey from the dawn of anatomically modern humans (AMH) some 250,000 years ago, when considered along any particular line of descent, contains not more than some 12,000 individuals. So the right 12,000 names, if I knew them, would suffice to describe all the individuals on any specific line of descent from my origins as an anatomically modern human. Twelve thousand is not so great a number of people. It is less than the population of the little town I live in and it is a number that would be comfortably handled by even quite a small database. I even hear that some people boast more than 12,000 followers on Twitter and others have more than 12,000 “friends” on Facebook! It does not take many minutes to set up an Excel sheet with 12,000 line items, each line then representing one individual on one of my particular lines of descent.

So I have started a new blogsite called 6,000 Generations to provide an outlet for my speculations about individuals from my Ancestral Generations (AG’s).


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