A few days ago the Jamaican reparations thing was making the news and a comment was made by someone that struck a chord, it also annoyed me and left me shouting ‘IDIOT’ at the screen but that’s nothing new.
This particular piece of stupidity was directed at Dave Cameron, our soon to be gone right wing PM. The idiot in question, not Cameron, the other idiot said: they had traced Cameron's ancestry and some of his fore fathers had owned slaves This was given as justification as to why he personally should be offering an apology on behalf of the UK for the crimes of slavery.
I’m were much of the mind that people should be held responsible for their actions, they can offer excuses such as the old just following orders or someone made me do it but if a person did something that's basically it, the flip side of this is that if someone didn’t do it or order it done or by indirect action make it happen then they are not responsible.
Which is why this complete and utter stupidity makes me angry.
Everyone has two parents, most of the time those two had brothers and sisters who also had children so people have aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. Move to the grandparents, four of those plus all of the extra relatives, great grandparents and all of those extras and it’s very easy to get to the hundreds of relatives alive and dead.
The number grows rapidly, 16 plus extras, 42 plus extras. A few hundred years and the thousand mark flashes past.
26th July, 1833 the Abolition of Slavery bill was passed and from that point onwards Britain came to act as a significant force against slavery. Many people gained freedom as a result of the Royal Navy. While it continued as still does to this day it became illegal in the UK on that day.
182 years ago. That's ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY TWO YEARS AGO.
Six or seven generations, that’s your great great great great great grandparents, all 128 of them plus the hundreds and hundreds of relatives across the years. Out of that thousand and more people how many of them were involved in some aspect of the slave trade, not just owning them but profiting from slave labour or working somewhere in the industries involved. Dozens, scores, a hundred or more.
Every single person alive in the UK today who can trace their ancestry back enough generations has ancestors who were involved in the slave trade.
Looking back at my own forebears. Yep, hundreds involved in the slave trade in one form or another, so I should abandon my humanist principles as hypocrisy then, because some tiny part of my DNA has come across the generations from people who were involved in slavery.
But then also in that same widespread family tree are people who fought against slavery in the British military.
Ancestors fighting to crush those dammed uppity colonials who were rebelling against the mad king, ancestors fighting for independence from the rule of a mad king.
How about further back, is that a possible royal bastard, the offspring of a prince and a serving girl, not acknowledged but bloodline is bloodline? Oh no, some tiny part of my genetic code comes from royalty, will the other Republicans line up to mock me as a traitor to the ideology. Should I renounce my intellectual opposition to non elected leadership based on blood lines because I share some tiny part of that bloodline?
Oh look, Vikings, Scandinavian and northern Germanic, bugger, do I have to apologise for all those raids and stuff, robbing and burning monasteries, yep, apparently my fault since I had forebears there.
How ridiculous does this get. Can the Celts sue the city of Rome for the destruction of their ancient culture, how about the Druids claiming long ago religious persecution.
Reparations are a complex issue which is all too often reduced to the most simple of guilt trips and inflamed passions. But no person should be held accountable for the actions of their ancestors.
Much as I have contempt for Cameron it is for the things he has done. No one, that is NO ONE, should be held to account for the deeds of people dead before they were born just because they were part of the same family.