Friday, June 29, 2007

Sorry, But I Just Don't Feel Sorry

There must be something wrong with me. I actually feel good about myself. I like who I am and I am proud of my heritage.

Apparently, though, I should be hiding my face in shame. I should be wracked with self recrimination and disgrace. Not that I’ve done anything wrong personally mind you, but I have rather pale skin. Not only that, but I am a British descendant, a heterosexual and a male. You know, the type of person who has no right to feel good about him self for any reason whatsoever.

Have you ever heard of ‘white pride’? Me neither. That’s because white people have no right to be proud. I bet you’ve heard of ‘white guilt’ though. That’s because white folk have no right to not feel guilty. How about ‘straight pride’ - have you ever heard of that? I bet you haven’t. After all, being straight is no reason to be proud. ‘Gay pride’ however, is another story altogether. It’s fabulous.

Just look at me. My white male ancestors have done all sorts of unsavory things. We’ve enslaved, oppressed and even murdered all kinds of people throughout history. I know this because, well, because there’s a lot of people out there who will never let me forget it.

I am white. and by virtue of that, I am required to feel guilty. And if I don’t feel guilty about some crime committed by someone else who lived far in the past, I am told that I am a racist and should at least have the decency to feel guilty about that. It’s all too much guilt for this white boy to bear.

Years ago, Chinese immigrants were forced to pay the government an exorbitant head tax in order to come to Canada. White, male railroad barons used Chinese immigrants like slaves to build a railway. Many were maimed – many more died. Now, over 100 years later, I, apparently, owe all Chinese Canadians an apology. And not just an apology, but also financial reparations. I don’t even know them and my forefathers weren’t railroad barons, they were dirt poor peasants. So why do I owe anyone anything? And anyway, since when is a son responsible for the crimes of his neighbour’s father? What is the logic that drives such an irrational, divisive demand?

Canada also, apparently interred some Japanese people and others during World War II. For this, the Japanese community demanded an apology and guess what – yup, reparations. Leaving aside the fact that, in that time, interment was a perfectly reasonable wartime reaction to Japan’s despicable decision to side with Hitler and Mussolini, we are faced again with the ridiculous notion that the descendants of the people who did something should somehow accept responsibility for it.

The Natives too, are restless in their endless demands for apologies and white man’s moola. They claim that the white man stole their land and attempted to eliminate their culture. As if this was something that only white people did. In reality, everybody did it back then. Sure, Europeans came to North America, conquered the natives and took ownership of the land. But, before that, the natives were doing the same thing to each other. Brutality, rape, murder and genocide were nothing new to them. They were enthusiastic participants in these activities already – amongst themselves. We came and stopped all the inter-tribal warfare and gave them the chance to live peacefully in one united, democratic nation.

And the white part of me isn’t the worst. There’s also that vile male side of me. You know, the side that, throughout the ages, waged endless brutal wars and raped, plundered and pillaged their asses off? All the atrocities that have ever occurred were orchestrated by men. The holocaust, the crusades, an incalculable number of atrocities, massacres and wars - the scourge of (pick one): communism, capitalism, fascism, nazism, socialism, islam, Christianity, nuclear weapons, gas guzzling SUVs - all totally the doings of males.

Of course, males have also invented, designed and produced pretty well everything of practical value to humans in the entire freaking world, including all tools, machines, structures, electronics and transportation devices; as well as being responsible for virtually all advancements in engineering, agriculture, medicine, technology, democracy and justice.

But, alas, I am told that I have no right to be proud and should, by all measures of decency and justice, be groveling on all fours begging the forgiveness of anyone my race and gender has slighted throughout history.

Well, OK. I’m tired. I have had enough. Truce. In the interest of reconciliation and good will, I offer this:

On behalf of everyone who shares my skin color and my gender, allow me to say - to the descendants of anyone our forefathers may have wronged who believe we owe them anything because of it - I’m sorry.

I’m sorry you’ve got a chip on your shoulder. I’m sorry you continually live in the past. I’m sorry you can’t get it through your head that I owe you nothing. And I’m sorry my children have to share the nation their forefathers built with anyone who harbours a grudge against them for what their forefathers did.


Blogger Balbulican said...

I dont' expect this will do any good...the last few days I've lost a lot of my faith in the capacity of actual information to change people's minds. But here goes.

You post left out the fact that reparations paid to the Chinese aren't about "guilt". It is repayment for the Chinese Head Tax, by which money was collected from Chinese immigrants only in an attempt to discourage them from remaining in Canada after their labour was no longer need.

You also left out the fact that the "Japanese" interned during world war 2 were overwhelmingly Canadian citizens, some of several generations standing. Their reparations payments were restoration for the fact that the Canadian Government seized their land and property (including approximately a thousand fishing vessels) and kept the assets.

On the subject of land claims...I don't even know where to start. For more than two hundred years, Canada and First Nations have had treaties that allow Canada to cross, access and develop First Nation lands in return for specific payments. These payments aren't about "guilt": they are a contract. Period.

9:32 PM  
Blogger INP said...

There’s no doubt that unfortunate injustices were experienced by certain people here in Canada in the past. My concern is that the descendants of those who experienced these injustices now believe that they have the right to seek restitution from those of us who live here today. There is no precedent in law that would suggest that this is a plausible or even justifiable expectation. If my neighbour’s great-grandfather shot your great-grandfather, would you hold a grudge against me and expect me to provide you with a financial payment?

The thing that really irritates me is that this social phenomenon only occurs in nations created and developed by white Western people. It really is nothing more than an initiative to exploit white guilt.

I’m sorry, but there is no way that I should shoulder any financial responsibility for anything that occurred before I was born and before the complainants were born. I am proud of the accomplishments of my culture and feel violated when anyone, who enjoys the freedoms and rights conceptualized and made real by my forefathers, comes forward seeking restitution from me for something that their forefathers experienced. I find such a concept obscene and completely without merit.

6:48 PM  
Blogger INP said...

Footnote: Native treaty claims are different and should be dealt with expeditiously through the proper legal channels. These were legal commitments and Native people should not be constantly stonewalled. That said, the best thing any Native could do is to join us here in Canada as equal and responsible citizens. It really would be in their best interest.

6:54 PM  
Blogger Balbulican said...

"If my neighbour’s great-grandfather shot your great-grandfather, would you hold a grudge against me and expect me to provide you with a financial payment?"

You missed the point.

The government took money away from the Chinese and Japanese; an admitted ly racist head tax from the Chinese, millions of dollars worth of property and assets from the Japanese. It is that money that have asked be returned.

"the best thing any Native could do is to join us here in Canada as equal and responsible citizens. It really would be in their best interest."

I'm sure they appreciate your advice.

6:48 AM  
Blogger INP said...

That last comment was smart assed. But, despite the implication, I really just wish the best for all Native people.

And, as for the reparations for the Chinese and Japanese people whose forefathers experienced injustice here in Canada - I will never accept the idea that I must take responsibility. I'd think the same if people sharing my Irish ancestry demanded financial restitution from the British for enslaving them, stealing their land and forcing them to immigrate. It’s all just nonsense as far as I am concerned.

We all are lucky to be here. Harboring grudges against the descendants of the founding peoples who wove the fabric of the nation that gives them the life they now enjoy is at least counterproductive and at most divisive.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Balbulican said...

Canadian citizens of Japanese descent were unfairly ripped off, by the government of several millions of dollars worth of property within the lifetime of many, many still alive. If that's okay with, fine. It's not okay with me, it wasn't okay with Parliament, and unless Mr. Harper is a liar, the comparable ripoff of Chinese Canadians wasn't okay with him or his government.

You're entitled to believe anything you want. I personally am glad that my government acted in an ethical way. Your standards are...somewhat different, I guess.

9:10 PM  
Blogger INP said...

It’s really too bad that I am so unpopular that no one else has been around to enter this discussion. Despite your inferences about my character, I thank you for a spirited debate. The way I figure it is that I have as much chance of changing your mind as you do of mine. Fair enough.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Balbulican said...

My first sentence of my first post made it clear that I don't expect to change your mind, INP. I just think its important that your readers realize that the reparation payments are not, as you suggested, a kind of "guilt tax". It's money that was taken away from Canadian citizens who are still alive, and who are, I believe, entitled to get it back.

I thank you for the opportunity to clarify that.

10:44 PM  

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