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Are we all guilty? Er, no


PRIME Minister Trudeau of Canada recently said in response to the burning of Canadian churches following the discovery of ‘mass graves’ of native Indians: ‘We should be every day committing ourselves to the hard work we need to do to actually rebuild a path forward that reflects the terrible intergenerational trauma and present-day realities of suffering that we are all collectively responsible for’. That last phrase stood out to me. How can all present-day Canadians be responsible for the alleged injustices of a few dating back generations? Incidentally, the identification of the remains is yet to be done and the story behind them (if there is one) is not yet known, so Justin Trudeau’s comments are presumptuous to say the least.

This is another example of how we are made to feel guilty for things for which we are not responsible. There are many examples of leaders trying to impose collective responsibility and punishment on an entire nation. ‘We’re all in this together’ was the rallying cry over a year ago when we were called upon to do our bit to protect the NHS and each other. Apparently ‘all’ does not include the G7, top business people or football officials. This cry has morphed from an exhortation to help into a sinister form of coercion. For example, those refusing the experimental Covid ‘vaccine’ were divisively blamed for delaying the end of lockdown; a suggestion which has since been exposed for its hollowness as the government clearly has no intention of letting anybody go free at the moment.

There is nothing new or fundamentally wrong about the idea of conducting our lives in a manner which considers the needs of others above our own. This is a tenet of Christianity. History is littered with self-sacrificing heroes who put the lives of others before their own. We rightly applaud their actions. The important thing to remember about those heroes is that their self-sacrifice was motivated by personal conviction and arose out of a sense of what is right and honourable, not out of state-mandated guilt. In other words their actions were genuine and not aimed at signalling compliance and virtue to others.

Soviet Russia relied a lot on collective guilt to control and manipulate its people on the path towards socialist utopia. The state expected people to exhibit behaviour and attitudes that furthered the progress of Communism. Dissenters were ostracised, punished or eliminated. Soviet heroes were people such as Pavlik Morozov, a 13-year-old Soviet youth pioneer who betrayed his father to the authorities in the 1930s for illegally withholding wheat from the state. The father was imprisoned and the boy was subsequently murdered by his own family in revenge. Stalin hailed the boy as a national hero for his actions against his kin.

Totalitarian systems work by turning people against each other. They encourage one group to scapegoat another for not following the perceived wisdom. The state controls the narrative and deflects blame from itself to others, even when that blame is baseless. The state knows the masses prefer simple, tangible targets to the complexities of seeking and dealing with the truth. It is easier for the state to peddle a simple narrative such as ‘everyone needs to be vaccinated’ or ‘we must all become carbon-neutral to save the world’ than to encourage a rational debate based on science and evidence. Such dogma is easy to maintain once it is embedded in the people’s psyche, even if it is scientifically unfounded. Divergence from the orthodoxy then becomes a matter of shame and guilt for those who dare to challenge it or refuse it.

Fear and guilt are powerful emotions. If I were to stand in a supermarket and shout ‘fire!’ I can guarantee most shoppers would dash to the exits without checking whether there actually was a fire. If I then cried ‘false alarm!’ I doubt if many would re-enter the shop. Once frightened it is difficult to ‘unfrighten’ people, especially those who live by assimilating simple diktats.

Likewise, if someone shouts ‘racism!’ then, like a Pavlovian reflex, others will dash to condemn it without even knowing the underlying allegations. One can call it cognitive laziness. It’s simpler and quicker to follow the groupthink than to ask searching questions, especially if the answers leave you separated from the herd. Some people seem to spend their lives in this fast lane of cliches and quickly digestible notions. Everything is ‘common sense’ and needs no further analysis. It never occurs to them that some of it is ‘common stupidity’. Those who resist the siren call to jump on the groupthink bandwagon get a pretty tough time for their independent thinking. On the plus side they are liberated from endlessly following the herd, especially when it is heading for the cliff edge.

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Nicholas Britton
Nicholas Britton
I am a software developer, amateur musician, and a (very) concerned citizen. I enjoy nature, science, and a bit of cooking.

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