Thursday, June 02, 2005

We CANNOT Apologize for History

Oh this crap makes me so angry. Here's the headline/post coming from CNN/Money:

Wachovia Apologizes for Slavery Ties
Bank satisfies Chicago ordinance requiring companies with city contracts to disclose slavery ties.
June 2, 2005: 12:23 PM EDT By Katie Benner, CNN/Money staff writer

I know this is the popular thing now, and "politically correct," but am I the only person who thinks this is crazy? What purpose does it serve? So, the city of Chicago has an ordinance that any company doing business with the city must report whether or not it profited from or was in any way tied to slavery. Why? What is the purpose of this ordinance? Could the city refuse to do business with a company that once was connected to slavery? Would that be legal? Is the city of Chicago in some way trying to make corporations take responsibility for slavery? Is that reasonable? Can we make people or institutions responsible for events that took place over 140 years ago? Is this whole business making people feel better? When Wachovia issues an apology (115 pages by the way), does all kind of healing take place? What the hell is this about?!?!?

We cannot apologize for history - certainly not the history of generations past. I can sort of (and I really mean "sort of" because I have mixed feelings about this as well) understand apologizing for, or attempting to rectify relatively recent historical events. The U.S. government apologizing to, and compensating Japanese-American citizens who were interred in camps during World War II - that I can at least understand. Some of the victims are still alive and so I can understand it. I don't agree with it by the way, but I understand it. I don't agree with it, because I don't believe that it is a legitimate function of government (or industry) to apologize for such things. When a government is doing something wrong, it is the responsibility of the people to force change. In our form of government that happens all the time. When we the people become aware of corruption or an injustice, when we believe our government is doing something wrong, we write letters, we engage in protests, we elect new officials. As a result, in this country we have a self-correcting system of governance. Is it perfect? No. Is there such thing a perfect system? No!

All the more reason then, that we cannot apologize or attempt to correct the "mistakes" of history long past. There are several reasons why this simply doesn't make sense. First, it is based on the nonsensical notion that "history" can be fixed or corrected. It doesn't work that way. History is history. It is what it is. History isn't "broken" by mistakes that are made and history can't be "fixed." Governments can be broken, governments can be fixed. People can make mistakes and people can fix mistakes. But history? The idea is absurd. Second, the whole notion of fixing injustices committed in the past requires that we judge past events on the basis of our current values and mores. This is preposterous. Can we look back on the Ancient Greeks and Romans and condemn then for taking slaves from among the nations they subjugated? What would that accomplish? Should Greeks and Italians today be forced to pay reparations to....Well, to just about everyone, since our ancestors may indeed have been among those enslaved by those ancient empires? In fact, while most peoples, cultures and governments today condemn the notion of slavery, this is a relatively recent phenomenon. In 5 to 8 thousand years of civilized human history, slavery has been an almost universally accepted institution for all but about 200 to 300 years. Where does the apologizing and reparating end? And ultimately, what does it accomplish? Finally, the idea that a government or company or institution needs to apologize for historical events is based on the incorrect assumption that that government or company or institution now, is the same entity as the one that was involved in the historical events. Once again, that notion is silly. Is the Catholic Church today (and believe me, I have no love for the Catholic Church, but even I can see the distinction) the same institution that perpetrated the Inquisition on history? Are the nations of Europe the same nations that participated in the Crusades? Ancient Egypt held the Jews in slavery for generations, is that the same Egypt as today? Same name, same geographical location. Once again, the regression of apologies and reparations would be endless.

The whole notion is nonsense. Wachovia has nothing to apologize for, and the Chicago ordinance should be repealed.


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