Our collective wrongs

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.

РMartin Niem̦ller

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?

2 thoughts on “Our collective wrongs

  1. Try this one for size:

    Allowing the capitalist / technological-industrial complex to make us into virtual robots, only doing the thinking required for our job specification, only thinking or doing when paid-to, being exploited beyond the human right to a family life (including let’s say an affordable home) and generally ignoring the lessons of the past.

    Especially those of George Orwell, but also those of the original Labour movement that preceded him. Here in the UK, we’re still ruled by Normans, basically (I live in London, England, the front-line for many social abuses – and envy you kindly down there).

    The spying that technology enables on us, that has happened in THIS generation, is our collective crime. Orwell and many others show us what such great power does in the hands of mere humans. Ignoring THAT is our collective crime. Enabling Big Brother. When we had fair warning.

    1. Thanks for your comment — interesting thoughts. I’m not sure I would classify those as a collective wrong in the same way as, say, the treatment of Aborigines in Australia in the past that continues in less blatant ways today, or the obvious World War II examples from which Pastor Niemöller’s quote arose.

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