Our original sin

Colonialism in Africa

There is a belief, rife among liberals, that white people have an especially bloody past and that we whites today have a responsibility to atone for past sins. Though they might begrudgingly admit, if pressed, that there is no ethnic group on God’s green earth that has an unsullied past, they rarely volunteer such an admission. Others appear to believe that darker-skinned people lived in peace and harmony with nature and never once fought either among themselves or with other tribes. They probably also recycled diligently and nursed sick animals back to health.

It’s tedious to try to barter someone down from the claim that whites are to blame for pretty much every shameful event in world history. And it’s especially hard since some white people actually seem to want to believe we are uniquely evil. They really don’t like it when you point out that Arabs and blacks were as much to blame for the Atlantic slave trade as whites. They actually want to belong to a race that did bad things.

One of my colleagues is of the opinion that though whites were probably no more evil than anyone else, the fact that we were technologically more advanced than other races meant that the crimes we committed were on a greater scale. I have a lot of sympathy with this view. It was bound to be the most advanced civilisation that sailed out into the ocean blue, discovered new lands, made first contact with strange and exotic people, got into arguments with them and, because we had better weapons, inevitably came off best.

Of course the accusation that a technologically more advanced culture can do more harm than a more primitive culture suggests that its acts of goodness might also be on a grander scale. While black and brown people lacked the technology to take to the high seas, settle far off lands and massacre the natives on an industrial scale, either intentionally or through the introduction of western diseases, darker-skinned people also lacked the technology to discover modern medicines that have eradicated some horrible diseases and reduced the ill-effects of others; stop the slave trade, something that had been going on for millennia; dream up the idea of humans rights, women’s rights and gay rights; give vast amounts of foreign aid to the poor countries of the world; implement affirmative action programs to the detriment of people of their own race; fly to the Moon, map the world, discover the structure of DNA and develop theories of gravity, evolution, relativity, Quantum Mechanics; raise the standard of living of colonised countries and build roads, rail, dams, irrigation works, while stamping out barbarous customs like suti. But lefties don’t want to hear about that, only the nasty bits.

Just for argument’s sake, let’s say that white people were indeed guiltier than other races of past atrocities and that their good deeds don’t come close to making amends for their bad. And let’s say further that we can project today’s morals back into the past and accuse our ancestors of crimes that they may not even have recognised as crimes. And let’s say that there is such a thing as collective guilt (uniquely for whites) and that today’s whites should bear the responsibility for the alleged sins of their forefathers. Does it matter that the ancestors of some of these white people were themselves indentured slaves, fought to end slavery or never benefited from the exploitative empire they were born into? What if their ancestors were Swedish, a country that has no history of empire, colonialism or slavery? How long should we feel guilty for? How long must the beheadings, gang rapes of underage girls and bombings at teeny-bopper concerts that we allegedly have coming to us go on? Will we ever be allowed to have our countries back once we have paid off this debt we have allegedly inherited?