The Sins of the Fathers

I couldn’t resist a very short post this lunchtime about the story about Richard Dawkins run in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph  (which, I hasten to add, I don’t buy). It seems that some of Dawkins’ ancestors were slave traders:

He has railed against the evils of religion, and lectured the world on the virtues of atheism.

Now Richard Dawkins, the secularist campaigner against “intolerance and suffering”, must face an awkward revelation: he is descended from slave owners and his family estate was bought with a fortune partly created by forced labour.

The implication seems to be that Dawkins should not be taken seriously because of something that was done by his ancestors almost three hundred years ago. I’m no great admirer of Richard Dawkins. I think he’s the sort of chap that gives us atheists a bad name, advocating a kind of fanatical fundamentalism that I find just as unpalatable as if it had a religious flavour. But, really, is there any need to smear him with the transgressions of his forefathers? Dawkins is reported to have been “speechless” when he heard about the Telegraph story – which I have to admit is no bad thing – but it does strike me as  a puerile stunt.

There’s probably hardly a family in Britain that hasn’t got a connection with slavery somewhere down the line. It’s a shameful part of our collective past, but it’s no more Richard Dawkins’ fault than any other living person. All I can say is that I hope the Telegraph’s hacks do a similar job digging up the dirt they’ll no doubt find in the history of any number of wealthy families, including those to which prominent members of the Conservative Party belong.

Anyway, mindful that the Telegraph journalists, being the deeply honorable people that they are, will now in the interest of balance be going back through the family histories of everyone in the UK who has an opinion about anything, it is time for me to come clean and reveal that my  own great-great-grandfather, Ebenezer Coles, was himself guilty of the heinous act of forcibly taking his entire family to Newcastle…. (geddit?)

35 Responses to “The Sins of the Fathers”

  1. Peter: you don’t buy Richard Dawkins, the Sunday Telegraph or the story?

  2. Well said, Peter. But I fear the ‘deeply horrible’ hacks at the Torygraph will not be too interested in the Bullingdon connection. I know of one ancestor who was a ‘supervisor’ on a plantation in Tobago. But there is a huge difference between the ordinary working man who was offered work in these situations, to the ‘landowners’, already rich and without a scruple in their bodies.

  3. Coles to Newcastle…. oh puleese…..

  4. While it should be obvious to anyone that guilt is not hereditary, many people assume that it is. I remember Margaret Thatcher once claiming that Germany shouldn’t make so many demands since, after all, Germany lost World War II. This feeling of hereditary guilt is not unknown among Germans either, though thankfully it is becoming rarer. (I’ve never met a Frenchman, though, who feels some sort of ancestral guilt because of Napoleon, or indeed anyone who feels responsible for the deeds of his ancestors. Maybe it is more common in Germany, or maybe it is just because I have spent more time here.)

    In addition to the absurdity of holding one generation responsible for the deeds of a previous generation, she seemed to imply that whoever wins a war is necessarily right. (In the case of World War II, of course, Germany was wrong. But World War I is much less clear cut, but many people assume that since it was also a war which Germany lost, then Germany must have been just as bad then. Germany certainly didn’t start World War I (it was quite complicated) and I think most historians agree that the Treaty of Versailles, in particular the hard reparations (think children’s children’s children), were the ultimate cause of World War II.)

    • telescoper Says:

      I agree that the Treaty of Versailles placed an impossible burden on Germany after WWI, and that was a major factor in the rise of National Socialism. Fortunately, at the end of WWII the same mistake was not repeated.

      It was Germany that invaded Belgium, and thus opened up the Western Front however…

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      When all is said and done, it is invasion rather than talk that decides who started a war, and on the western front of WW1 that means Germany. (Not, of course, that today’s Germans are responsible… by supreme irony they seem to be winning peacefully an empire they don’t want, their nation having tried twice to win an empire by war and failed).

      Niall Ferguson, in “The Pity of War”, argues that it was *failure* to enforce the penalties on Germany that led to WW2. Look at the ruin of NE France by 1918 and the number of British and French deaths due to that invasion and those conditions don’t seem unfair. Throughout all previous history the consequence of Germy’s defeat would have been the execution of the bulk of German men, the women raped and kept as sex slaves, and the chidren taken into slavery. Sanctions that were purely economic seem to me to be very reasonable. If we are going to consider children’s children’s children then let’s also consider the number of British or French families who lost their breadwinner three generations ago, with lasting generational consequences.

      • telescoper Says:

        An interesting thing I learned recently is that it was the fact that Germany was allowed to pay some of its reparations in kind that flooded the market with cheap German coal, thus precipating the collapse of coal mining in Wales and the subsequent terrible economic depression.

        I think it was right to try to deprive Germany of the ability to wage war through limiting its army and navy, but I still feel that a bit more magnanimity in economic terms might also have removed the desire to wage war which returned all too soon.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Maybe, maybe not. In WW2 Germany suffered invasion and bombing, which didn’t happen in WW1. That, I suspect, is a big difference in determining Germany’s differing reactions to defeat in the two wars.

      • “invasion and bombing, which didn’t happen in WW1. That, I suspect, is a big difference in determining Germany’s differing reactions to defeat in the two wars”

        I think that, within Germany at least, the main reason is the connection with the Holocaust. To be anything other than guilty by proxy/inheritance/blood/whatever was seen by some (perhaps knowingly wrongly) to be in some sense defending genocide. Interestingly, when someone asked Hitler whether genocide might be bad PR, so to speak, he replied “Who remembers the Armenians?”. There is a bizarre battle of genocides. Some people want to avoid having anything to do with genocide, as opposed to other casualties of war, for fear that they might be seen to be as bad as the Nazis. Others are opposed to having too many genocides recognized for fear that it would lessen the impact of their own.

      • “Sanctions that were purely economic seem to me to be very reasonable. If we are going to consider children’s children’s children then let’s also consider the number of British or French families who lost their breadwinner three generations ago, with lasting generational consequences.”

        I can’t follow this at all. Yes, British and French families, and their descendants, suffered. On the other hand, so did German families. Why have the punishment go just one way, just because of who won and who lost? Winning does not imply that one was right. Even if one can somehow blame all Germans for World War I (which is dubious at best), punishing someone, in whatever way, for the sins of his parents, or just the generation of his parents, seems rather bizarre, sort of like blaming Jews in the middle ages for the death of Christ. (This is particularly absurd not only for the idea of inherited guilt (which, of course, is the basis of Christianity, with the Sin of Adam being passed down through the generations), but since without Christ’s death there would be no Christianity at all.)

        My Dutch teacher (who is about 70 and was thus born during World War II) recently told some interesting stories about how he ended up in Germany, starting with moving to Austria as a novice monk since no-one else from the Netherlands wanted to go there then. He later left Austria after he fell out with the local bishop. His mother at first was quite opposed to his German fiancee (by this time, he had decided on a career in education rather than in the Church) but later saw things in a different light when she learned that her mother had lost almost her entire family in World War I.

      • In the ’90 I travelled with my family to a relatively remote are in Central Italy, close to the Adriatic Sea. Germany’s retreat toward the North has been very tough there. Apart the many butcheries in the area, after the well known Proclamation by General Badoglio (8 Sep ’43) that put a too late end to the awful alliance among the German and Italy, they just devastated everything they could, as everywhere in the occupied countries.

        40 years after the War, you could still feel the impact of this retreat everywhere and it happened I talked to people still remembering terrible events. Actually we went there to visit the area, but then we were so touched by a few tails we heard from local elderies, that at some point we completely changed plans and started visiting the various villages to check for the legacy of the IIWW. At some point we went to a tiny village – I don’t remember its name actually, completely destroied by the Nazis. What remained of the wonderful Romanic Church in the middle of the old village (now completely rebuilt) was just the perimeter in stones of the walls and, surprisingly, the main door: a wonderful wooden work still standing with no walls around. We sit in front of it with my partner and our little son, considering what an awful decision meant for our beautiful country. That closed door surrounded by no wall in front of us was really the symbol of what we have been so far. We were really touched. Someway, for the first time in my life, despite studying history at school, talking to my family and elderies, etc., I really understood what a War means. It was a Sunday afternoon, and there were families strolling around in the warm weather. At some point I picked up a statement from a young couple pulling a newborn child in his pram. This is what I heard:

        “He is a German… *but* he is not bad… he is a nice guy”.

        The tone was like a bit of surprise. More than 40 years after all that mess and disruption, the heritage of something happened so long ago was still in the air…

      • “by supreme irony they seem to be winning peacefully an empire they don’t want”

        Actually, with many people complaining about how much money is going to other countries, one could make a different historical comparison. This is related to the main topic in the following way: many Greeks have said that it’s only fair if today’s Germany sends lots of money to Greece since yesterday’s Germans killed some of yesterday’s Greeks.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        “Why have the punishment go just one way, just because of who won and who lost?”

        It’s not because of who won and who lost. it’s because of who stepped over their own borders and invaded someone else. Who won simply means that reparation is enforcible.

        “Even if one can somehow blame all Germans for World War I (which is dubious at best), punishing someone, in whatever way, for the sins of his parents, or just the generation of his parents, seems rather bizarre”

        Where did I do that? If you want instant reparation then you have to go down the road of mass execution, rape and slavery, of which I disapprove. Better to give a few deccades to enact financial reparation.

      • “It’s not because of who won and who lost. it’s because of who stepped over their own borders and invaded someone else.”

        World War I was not so clear cut. And even if it were, one should punish the perpetrators, not their children.

        “Where did I do that?”

        Here: “Sanctions that were purely economic seem to me to be very reasonable. If we are going to consider children’s children’s children then let’s also consider the number of British or French families who lost their breadwinner three generations ago, with lasting generational consequences.”

        The point is that these economic sanctions, as originally envisaged, would be paid by the following generations, thus your comparison with later generations on the other side.

        “If you want instant reparation then you have to go down the road of mass execution, rape and slavery, of which I disapprove.”

        Think of modern-day justice in civilized countries. The idea is to punish the criminal, not his family, and it is no longer done by drawing and quartering, rape, torture etc. You present a false dichotomy: either economic punishment paid for by future generations or mass execution, rape and slavery.

        “Better to give a few decades to enact financial reparation.”

        Better? The result was World War II. The fact that it was followed by the Marshall Plan and not the Treaty of Versailles was better for all concerned. At least someone learned from history.

        You are saying that if, say, Australia invades Brazil today, then future Australians who aren’t even alive yet should pay for it. What kind of logic is that?

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Phillip,

        I wrote “It’s not because of who won and who lost. it’s because of who stepped over their own borders and invaded someone else.”

        You replied: “World War I was not so clear cut.”

        As I specified, it was clearcut on the western front. Furthermore the German masterplan was to invade and defeat France so quickly that the German army could then be deployed on the eastern front, to destroy the slower-mobilising Russian army – again outside German borders, ie another invasion of a non-belligerent. The plan in the west was held up by heroic near-suicidal Belgian action, after which enough harrying action forced Gen Kluck to turn south from the coast earlier than planned, wrecking his plan to encircle Paris. A bloody stalemate ensued on the Marne, involving the famous story of the Parisian taxidrivers driving out the garrison of Paris, and the shedding of a lot of British volunteer blood too. When you are facing machineguns, you dig – so a digging race ensued north and south. Whenever one side thought it had out-dug the other, a battle took place. The net result was parallel trenches from the coast of northern France to the Swiss border and several years of stalemate. All on French soil, and all due to Germany invading France, not vice-versa.

        What reparations to France would you regard as fair?

        The reparations which I specified, ie economic and over the next few decades, directly involve the culpable generation. To say that Versailles directly led to Hitler is a vast over-simplification. And because Germany was in the frontline of the Cold War it got subsidies via the Marshall Plan that Britain, which had stood alone against Hitler while others remained aloof, never saw. You seem to write as if Germany *deserved* the Marshall money. It’s a funny old world.

      • QUESTION
        based on previous comments, circle your best answers to the following questions:

        1. in 2003 US and some western countries invaded Iraq and lost the war. They should then pay back the country ( yes / no )

        2. in 2003 US and some western countries invaded Iraq and won the war. They should therefore pay back war damage to that country ( yes / nos )

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        pgc,

        In Iraq the invaders won the war but lost the peace – very different. The ancient Romans or the Victorian British could have told Washington what to do next:

        1. Don’t disband the army so as to leave thousands of young men sloshing round the country with weapons; instead run it as *your* force.

        2. Break up the network of internal power-brokers, ie those loyal to Saddam Hussein who had enriched themselves in his regime, invariably corruptly and often with torture.

        3. Recognise that you cannot enact democracy in a place where the parties in an election are not sincere about accepting the result peacefully if they lose.

        4. Run it as a benevolent dictatorship – make the law fair and with penalties that the locals understand, enforce it without corruption, and enact reconstruction projects that genuinely benefit the people, hiring locals who were not part of Saddam’s regime.

        5. Recognise that you cannot run an empire if you don’t actually enjoy living among people of a different culture, even as their lords (as the ancient Romans and Victorians did). You will never be successful if you can’t live without MacDonalds.

        Finally: know these things in advance, and if you find this program not to your taste, stay at home. I still don’t understand why the USA invaded Iraq (Afghanistan was a lot more obvious), or why it subsquently quit just when it needed a safe base from which to talk to Iraq’s neighbours.

      • “The reparations which I specified, ie economic and over the next few decades, directly involve the culpable generation.”

        Yes, but also subsequent generations. However, the idea of a “culpable generation” as a concept is a bit of a stretch, not that far from spontaneous attacks on people of Middle-Eastern origin (or people who just looked like they might be of Middle-Eastern origin) in the States after the 9/11 attack on the USA. (More on this below.)

        “To say that Versailles directly led to Hitler is a vast over-simplification.”

        True, but a) no serious historian debates that it was a major contributing factor and b) it is also a vast over-simplification to put the blame for WWI solely on Germany.

        Reparations for France to pay? Again, a false dichotomy. First, the causes of WWI were quite complex, and it is certainly not fair in any meaningful sense that the winners dictate the post-war situation, at least not if preventing future wars is a goal.
        Second, even if the aggressor is clear, it simply makes no sense to punish future generations. Third, even when the government of a country favours war, this does not mean that all of the population does. Yes, as long as they remain in the country (of course, not everyone who wants to leave can leave and also if all the good people left things might be worse) then laws require them to serve in combat etc but I don’t see the logic of some sort of collective punishment which includes people who actively risked their own lives in the resistance as well as ordinary citizens who weren’t necessarily in favour of war.

        No-one has a choice where he is born, and most people, for various reasons, don’t leave their country of birth permanently. Especially in regard to countries which are not even democratic it seems bizarre to punish even the current generation—much less subsequent ones—en masse for the actions of a few. (And even if a democratic country decides by majority vote to wage an unjust war, those who voted otherwise are in no way responsible.)

        The proper way is to punish the war criminals individually. While hoping that they will change their ways in the future might be futile, and leaving aside questions of revenge, it is necessary a) to keep them from doing something similar again and b) as a deterrent. In other words, just like any other criminal. Any sort of “justice” which punishes people not even involved in the crime is not compatible with logic. One might as well punish the passengers on the planes used in the 9/11 attack since if they hadn’t boarded that day, the attack wouldn’t have happened.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Phillip,

        Perhaps you have not realised it, but the consequence of your position is that Germany invades France (actions speak louder than words in history), France loses millions of lives evicting German troops, and you believe there should be no reparation. I regard that as a reductio ad absurdum demonstration that something is wrong with your reasoning. If you don’t then I won’t persist in discussing it with you, since your moral compass is so different from mine that I simply don’t know where to begin.

        Not Versailles, but the failure to enforce it, sent a bellicose nation the lesson, “you can get away wtih it” and we all know what happened next. Niall Ferguson takes this position in his book “The Pity of War”. (What was the response when Hitler re-occupied the Rhineland? Nothing, though there could have been.) Ferguson is a ‘serious historian’ who constitutes a counter-example to your assertions about Versailles.

        Anton

      • “Perhaps you have not realised it, but the consequence of your position is that Germany invades France (actions speak louder than words in history), France loses millions of lives evicting German troops, and you believe there should be no reparation.”

        I stand by my position that people not guilty of a crime, including those who weren’t even born at the time of the crime, should not be punished for said crime. The alternative is punishing people because they are related to a criminal, or live in the same country, or have the same name (check out how many people named Hussein were threatened in the States in the last few years), or wear the same type of beard. I contend that my position is logical. Again, you present a false dichotomy: unjust reparation or no reparation. What about: punish the guilty and leave the rest alone? Is any other position logically or morally tenable?

        Even if one country is a clear aggressor, this doesn’t mean that all citizens of that country should be held responsible and it doesn’t automatically whitewash the other side. A good example is the prosecution of war criminals from the wars in former Yugoslavia back in the 1990s. First, although there were some mishaps along the way, formal prosecution has concentrated on those morally responsible for war crimes. Second, people from both sides of a conflict have been prosecuted. I fail to see what is wrong with this approach. Do you really think a child born in, say, Serbia today should in any way suffer for the actions of Milosovic 20 years ago and do you really think such a child has some sort of debt to someone living in, say, Croatia?

        I never said that all historians share my view, merely than many serious historians do.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Phillip,

        You actually said (at 5.10pm) that “no serious historian debates that it [the harshness of Versailles’ terms] was a major contributing factor [to WW2].” I gave the counter-example of Niall Ferguson, who disputes it and is undoubtedly a serious historian.

        So pin the blame for Germany’s invasion of France on a few dozen German politicians and generals? Every German soldier who died there could have said No, I will not set foot on non-German soil, and if enough had organised and said No then nothing could have been done. What does your proposal do for the millions of French families who lost their breadwinner fighting a purely defensive war for their own nation’s freedom on their own soil? This invasion was an action by the German State, so it is the German State that should make reparation. I am not interested in talking about other wars.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Phillip,

        To clarify: When I said “this action [1914 invasion of France] was an action by the German State, so it is the German State that should make reparation” I of course meant beginning in 1918, not today.

        But another point: I asked you “What reparations to France would you regard as fair?” and you responded: “Reparations for France to pay [presumably, ‘be paid’]? Again, a false dichotomy.”

        A question that begins “What…” is not a binary question! Are you saying that your answer is Zero?

      • “To clarify: When I said “this action [1914 invasion of France] was an action by the German State, so it is the German State that should make reparation” I of course meant beginning in 1918, not today.

        The original plan involved a huge sum of money which would have taken to 1988 to pay off. Most people alive in 1988 were born after World War I. Of course, various events changed the original plans, and the final payments were not made until just a couple of years ago.

        But another point: I asked you “What reparations to France would you regard as fair?” and you responded: “Reparations for France to pay [presumably, ‘be paid’]? Again, a false dichotomy.”

        A question that begins “What…” is not a binary question! Are you saying that your answer is Zero?

        The false dichotomy is either unjust reparations or no reparations. One can hold those responsible who were responsible, but that’s it. Burdening an entire country, especially those born after the fact, for the actions of a few is on the same level as football fans smashing shop windows when their team loses. Whatever frustration they feel, the shopkeepers aren’t guilty, even if they are fans of the other team.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        “Burdening an entire country, especially those born after the fact, for the actions of a few is on the same level as football fans smashing shop windows when their team loses.”

        False analogy! The invasion of France in 1914 was an action of the German State. The German State is responsible, and should therefore be accountable. I regret your complete silence on whether you believe that French families who lost everything in NE France deserve any compensation.

      • Leaving aside the question whether it was right to assign 100% of the guilt to the losers, the question is who the “German state” is. Note, also, that it was not a democracy. (Even if it were, since democracy is majority rule and not unanimity, one should hold only those responsible who are actually guilty.) The question whether victims deserve compensation is not the issue; the issue is who must pay it. See my example of the gunman running amok. Certainly his victims deserve compensation. Who should pay it? Your logic supports the following model: dictator declares war, causes much damage and loss of life and the people who, often through no choice of their own, live in his country (perhaps even in a region which had been previously conquered) pick up the bill. To me, this seems quite similar to the “kin liability” introduced by the Nazis during WWII, which I assume you do not agree with. Just because someone has a moral right to compensation doesn’t mean that if he can’t collect enough from the person responsible he has the right to collect it from that person’s kin or countrymen.

        Society can only function if individuals are responsible for their actions. One aspect of this is that people shouldn’t be held responsible for the actions of someone else due merely to having been born in the wrong place. (By your logic, even being born at the right time, i.e. decades after the crime, doesn’t provide grounds for exemption.)

        Who should provide compensation to the victims of a mentally deranged person who shoots people at random? (In practice, this might be provided by “society”, but in this case if a society of millions helps out a few unfortunate victims, the cost to the individual members of society is negligible, so this is often done out of solidarity. However, I don’t think that anyone can claim that relatives of the gunman, or people who live in the same town, or whatever, have any sort of moral responsibility.)

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Phillip,

        “Leaving aside the question whether it was right to assign 100% of the guilt to the losers…”

        No, I assigned it to the *invaders*.

        “the question is who the “German state” is”

        I’m glad you now accept it was the German State that was responsible. France could therefore legitimately demand reparation from the German State. How the German State raises the money within itself is not a matter for France. All of the moral questions you raise – and they are good questions – comprise an internal matter for Germany, and do not bear on international relations between Germany and France.

      • That states are responsible in such matters is clear. However, if the demands are such that the only way they can be met is by having future generations pay them, then I still maintain that they are unfair.

        Of course, if the invaders win, then they dictate the terms. In practice, the winners dictate the terms, whether they were the invaders or the invaded.

        Of course strict enforcement of the Treaty of Versailles could also perhaps have prevented WWII in the sense that amputation will prevent cancer from occurring in that which was amputated. This is always an option (as in the “nuke ’em back to the stone age” demands concerning Afghanistan), and it will work, but not necessarily a good option.

        Another alternative, if one is interested in change and prevention rather than revenge (or collecting money for people who deserve compensation from people who were not the cause of the problem), are sanctions. With a treaty specifying reparations, they have to be paid in any case, whatever changes happen. There is little incentive to improve. With sanctions, although they can also hurt the wrong people, things are a bit better since there is a motivation to change. I doubt that apartheid would have been abolished in South Africa when it was had there not been sanctions. (Of course, if the country in question is not a democracy, the amount of justifiable sanctions which also hurt innocent people is less, since in a democracy one could argue that if the majority don’t act so that the sanctions are lifted then it is OK to hurt that majority and the effects on the minority are on a par with other majority decisions which the minority has to accept.)

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Reparation is asking for what you lost, materially and also perhaps for distress caused; revenge is asking for more. The two are morally distinct.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        “strict enforcement of the Treaty of Versailles could also perhaps have prevented WWII in the sense that amputation will prevent cancer from occurring in that which was amputated. This is always an option (as in the “nuke ‘em back to the stone age” demands concerning Afghanistan)”

        Ferguson explains how it could have been done. And you don’t need nukes to return people to the stone age. Have a look at pictures of north-eastern France in 1918.

  5. telescoper Says:

    Another topical connection I made have made in the post – had I thought of it while I was writing it – is with the Falkland Islands. However much anyone argues that Britain was wrong to take possession of the Islands in 1825, the blame does not lie with the current generation of Falkland Islanders who have the right to live in peace without the threat of another invasion from Argentina.

    And if the Argentinian government feels so strongly about colonialism, presumably they will be considering giving mainland territory of Argentina back to the indigenous people dispossessed by their Spanish ancestors.

  6. ” In Iraq the invaders won the war but lost the peace – very different. ”

    that makes evident that one can always split reality to make his thesis right. Now, then, we have to consider 3 different points:

    1. who invaded whom (not sure about the grammar in English, sorry)
    2. who won the war
    3. who won the peace

  7. “Every German soldier who died there could have said No, I will not set foot on non-German soil, and if enough had organised and said No then nothing could have been done.”

    First, everyone who said no would have been shot on the spot. While we should perhaps respect those who die rather than do something they see as wrong, I don’t think we can demand this of everyone. Many of the soldiers were quite young and of course this was not the information age, so in many cases I doubt they even had a clear idea of the geopolitical situation. Yes, as we have seen several times in history, when a majority is subjected by a minority, an uprising can sometimes overthrow it. But often such uprisings are struck down. It is probably never clear to the people involved what the chance of success is.

    “What does your proposal do for the millions of French families who lost their breadwinner fighting a purely defensive war for their own nation’s freedom on their own soil?”

    Some problems don’t have a solution. In any case, I fail to see how holding those responsible who had committed no crime (i.e. future generations, German citizens opposed to the war etc) is a solution. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    From time to time, someone gets a gun and murders a few dozen people, then kills himself or ends up with a life sentence or on death row. I don’t think there is any solution in such a case for all of the victims and their loved ones. Certainly holding the gunman’s family responsible is not a solution. All we can do is try to change the world so that less evil is possible.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      “Every German soldier who died there could have said No, I will not set foot on non-German soil, and if enough had organised and said No then nothing could have been done.”

      “First, everyone who said no would have been shot on the spot.”

      Not if enough of them said it. The first 50,000 *might* have been shot on the spot. But after a while the German high command would not have found it possible to commit genocide on their own people. A lot fewer Germans would have died than subsequently died trying to steal another country – and no Frenchmen.

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