Monday, June 11, 2018

Enough Already With the Ubiquitous "We're So Sorry That We 'Settlers' Stole Your Land" Disclaimers That are Recited Before Every Public Events In Canada

Yesterday afternoon, as I sat in what was quite possibly the most uncomfortable theatre seat I have ever occupied (the words "zero leg room" don't even begin to cover it), I heard the National Ballet of Canada's Karen Kain launch into one of those Truth and Reconciliation Commission-engendered mea culpas. 

You know the kind. They go on and on about how we non-Aboriginals are sitting smack on top of Aboriginal land, and that all of "our" Canada is actually--and remains--their Turtle Island. (Not that the "admission" is doing much to placate First Nations.)

Today I chanced upon a rebuttal to the "let's wallow in guilt" mindset that many, including me, find so ridiculous and oppressive (also ridiculously oppressive):
In a recent interview in the online magazine which I edit, Quillette, I asked Campbell and Manning what they thought about cultural appropriation. They explained that they found such complaints baffling, like everybody else, but that they also “illustrate victimhood culture quite well.” One of the key components of victimhood culture is its projection of collective guilt, social offenses between individuals are no longer about the actual people involved, they are about “one social group harming another.”

One might make the case that while complaints about cultural appropriation are annoying, they are ultimately harmless. What is the harm in showing deference to peoples who have historically been the victims of exploitation, discrimination, and unfair treatment? What is the harm in showing respect and compliance with these new rules—isn’t it a way of making up for past sins?

The short answer to these questions is, no. The notion that a person can be held as responsible for actions that he or she did not commit strikes at the very heart of our conception of human rights and justice.

We used to take calls for collective punishment much more seriously. In the 1949 Geneva Convention it was determined that: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed.” Collective punishment was seen as a tactic designed to intimidate and subdue an entire population. The drafters of the Geneva Convention clearly had in mind the atrocities committed in WWI and WWII where entire villages and communities suffered mass retribution for the resistance activities of a few. In their commentary on the outlawing of collective punishment the International Red Cross stated: “A great step forward has been taken. Responsibility is personal and it will no longer be possible to inflict penalties on persons who have themselves not committed the acts complained of.”

1 comment:

Orfan said...

I am just wondering how many of these "sorry" people have offered, or would be willing to give their own property "back" to those they are apologizing to?...