Is there such a thing as collective, national guilt?

Jul 2018
67
United States
#1
It's common to hear people proclaim that they feel ashamed or guilty to be from [country] because of [historical transgression]. My question is: should the guilt of a government/culture/ethnicity be passed on to later peoples who live under the same government or live in the same region?

To take one example, should Japanese people living in the 21st century feel a degree of guilt for the country's wartime imperialism and aggression in WWII, or are these people adequately disconnected to the actions of the government and people of 1940s Japan?

If you say yes, they should feel guilty, how many generations does it take to "forgive" this shame? Should Mongolians still feel remorse for Genghis Khan's bloody conquests?

If you say "no," that guilt can't be passed on because modern people can't be held accountable for the historical actions of their government or culture, then is it still possible to feel pride in your government or people's accomplishments? Would an American be entitled to feel patriotic when they hear of the successes of the 101st Airborne Division in WWII?

Just some discussion questions, not necessarily taking a strong stance either way.
 
Oct 2014
77
Osaka
#2
Absolutely no!

Most modern people of Japan were not even alive at the time of WW2. How can I possibly be blamed for something that happened long before I even existed? This makes no sense at all.
Education is important and people need to understand the past but you can't blame little children for actions of their ancestors, else every person alive on Earth is guilty at some point.

People who want blame should look at Hideki Tojo and others who lived at that time and made the decisions, not people like me who were born more than 100 years later (Tojo was born in 1884)
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,156
Portugal
#3
It's common to hear people proclaim that they feel ashamed or guilty to be from [country] because of [historical transgression]. My question is: should the guilt of a government/culture/ethnicity be passed on to later peoples who live under the same government or live in the same region?

To take one example, should Japanese people living in the 21st century feel a degree of guilt for the country's wartime imperialism and aggression in WWII, or are these people adequately disconnected to the actions of the government and people of 1940s Japan?

If you say yes, they should feel guilty, how many generations does it take to "forgive" this shame? Should Mongolians still feel remorse for Genghis Khan's bloody conquests?

If you say "no," that guilt can't be passed on because modern people can't be held accountable for the historical actions of their government or culture, then is it still possible to feel pride in your government or people's accomplishments? Would an American be entitled to feel patriotic when they hear of the successes of the 101st Airborne Division in WWII?

Just some discussion questions, not necessarily taking a strong stance either way.
The past has a long tail. It is quite different talking about events of the WWII, that is historical time are quite recent, from talking about the Middle Ages. In other words, time and the changes operated under the time, change our perspective. Besides “guilt” is quite relative, it is a sentiment. And probably is underlined if we feel emotionally attached to something.

But I can give you a personal example: My father, my father in law, my uncles, the generation previous to mine fought in Africa in the colonial War, in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. They were fighting for the idea of a right-wing dictatorial regime that the independence shouldn’t be given to those Portuguese territories. And while I think that the independence should be given, that the right-wing regime in Portugal was dictatorial, and I am political against dictatorships, and that the regime had a wrong vision for the colonies, I don’t have a slightest shadow of guilt. I understand that generation, that was called to defend their country, I admire their effort, but politically I consider that it was the wrong move. In other words, me, and I think that in Portugal, generically speaking my generation, made its peace with the recent past, both dictatorial and colonial. With this reasoning it is fair to say that the peace is also made with the more distant past.
 
Last edited:
Dec 2011
2,119
#4
Is there such a thing as collective, national, PRIDE?

I ask because there are some who will be happy to be proud of their country, including the great things that their country did in the past, which they identify with. But then they will refuse to accept any guilt for the bad things their country did in the past.

I believe that, at one level, it is obviously the case that each individual should be judged on his own actions, so a person cannot be convicted of, for example, the enslavement of others by citizens of his country centuries ago. Similarly, nobody alive today can be given a medal for the heroic actions taken by the men of his country in the First World War, obviously.

At the same time, the conditions of nations (and their inhabitants) now, can still be influenced by what was done generations ago. Suppose a colony of an empire had restrictions on its industry by laws imposed by the imperial power, that would hold back development of the colony, and benefit to the imperial power, lasting up to now. But there again, the instalment of new technology (such as railways and mines) might in the long term, right up to today, have given a boost to the colonial economy.
 
Likes: dukeofjive
Jun 2018
210
New Hampshire
#5
Yes there is a such thing as collective national guilt. Just take a look at 21st century Germany, where historic churches are being converted to Mosques, contentious objector status is more the norm than military service, and speaking out against the Islamic invasion could potentially cause one to wind up in jail. Modern Germany is perhaps the poster child for collective national guilt.
 
Jun 2018
210
New Hampshire
#6
And to more specifically answer the OP's question: No the modern Japanese should not feel guilty over the military success of their ancestors. By that logic, the descendants of the Aztecs should feel guilty for human sacrifice, and the modern Egyptians should feel guilty for their ancestors enslaving the Hebrews.
 
Mar 2016
923
Australia
#7
No, and anyone that claims that descendants of people from previous generations are guilty of the same wrong-doings, or should be insulted and criticised because of that, is a truly awful, despicable person.

If you say "no," that guilt can't be passed on because modern people can't be held accountable for the historical actions of their government or culture, then is it still possible to feel pride in your government or people's accomplishments? Would an American be entitled to feel patriotic when they hear of the successes of the 101st Airborne Division in WWII?
Do you feel pride if a family member or friend achieves something impressive and worthwhile? I would hazard to say that every normal person does. And yet you personally had nothing to do with it. But that doesn't make the pride any less valid. You feel a positive emotion towards someone achieving something good; it's a completely natural response. The same logic applies to older generations and their achievements. They represented and defended your country, i.e. a worthwhile achievement, and honouring that is the normal thing to do.
 
Likes: Swamp Booger
Feb 2019
259
California
#8
It's common to hear people proclaim that they feel ashamed or guilty to be from [country] because of [historical transgression]. My question is: should the guilt of a government/culture/ethnicity be passed on to later peoples who live under the same government or live in the same region?

To take one example, should Japanese people living in the 21st century feel a degree of guilt for the country's wartime imperialism and aggression in WWII, or are these people adequately disconnected to the actions of the government and people of 1940s Japan?

If you say yes, they should feel guilty, how many generations does it take to "forgive" this shame? Should Mongolians still feel remorse for Genghis Khan's bloody conquests?


No.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,668
Dispargum
#9
The value of national guilt lies only in its ability to provide an example of what not to do in the future. It's that old saw about not studying the past and repeating it. Should descendants pay reparations or take other corrective action for the sins of their ancestors? Generally no, but I can see why such a gesture might be useful for purposes of national reconciliation or for some other good reason.
 
Feb 2019
259
California
#10
No, and anyone that claims that descendants of people from previous generations are guilty of the same wrong-doings, or should be insulted and criticised because of that, is a truly awful, despicable person.



Do you feel pride if a family member or friend achieves something impressive and worthwhile? I would hazard to say that every normal person does. And yet you personally had nothing to do with it. But that doesn't make the pride any less valid. You feel a positive emotion towards someone achieving something good; it's a completely natural response. The same logic applies to older generations and their achievements. They represented and defended your country, i.e. a worthwhile achievement, and honouring that is the normal thing to do.

You know Mr. What I must say that I have been generally quite impressed with the tone, tenor, and logic of your comments on this forum. Is that why you think you might be becoming divine?? ;-)
 

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