It has been said that every generation and every culture harbour a collective wrong. When we read through history, it is easy to find cultural attitudes and actions which violate the rights of a group of people. These attitudes are often couched in pseudo-scientific terms, and dehumanising phrases are commonly used by the proponents of these attitudes. Societies’ leaders would use moral imperatives in support of their arguments. In some cases, these wrongs were even perpetuated by well-meaning people with a sadly misguided world view.
Those who spoke out against what they saw as grievous wrongs were marginalised, or even hunted down.
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
– Martin Niemöller
These injustices have ranged from the tragic (stolen children) through to the terrible (slavery), right through to the monstrous (Nazi genocides).
It is easy to look back at our ancestors and condemn their actions. But are we as a society, today, ready to examine our own motives, understandings, and prejudices?
What are our collective wrongs? What injustices do we not see, or see, and not speak out against?