Saturday, July 21, 2007

Aboriginal sins

Sven Lindqvist -,,2125617,00.html - suggests there should be "penance and restitution" for historic crimes, for example against the native peoples of Australia.

However, penance implies acceptance of guilt for those crimes. I believe this would be misplaced. Guilt arises not from what happened then, but from what happens now. We should all of us feel guilt who benefit from a society in which others' lives are crippled by the consequences of those crimes.

We are not guilty of historic crimes - but we are absolutely guilty if we tolerate global poverty; and to combat this evil we must understand how it has come about, not through the inadequacies of other peoples, but through accidents of history and through injustice.

History is important, not as an exercise in guilt and self-righteousness, but as a weapon to challenge injustice today. The slaves and slavers of yesterday are dead, but the world today is gripped by excess and poverty. History can help us make a better tomorrow for all our children.


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