Are you responsible for your family's crimes?

BBC has an article about the descendants of famous Nazis. Bettina Goering, great-niece of Hermann, decided to have herself sterilised (as did her brother).

""We both did it... so that there won't be any more Goerings," she explains. "When my brother had it done, he said to me 'I cut the line'." [Is this related to Germanic notions of blood and family?]

I'll link to article at the bottom, but Bettina's actions got me thinking about what she did. It also seems to be a peculiar way of looking at things (though I understand her emotional response). Have I got murders and rapists in my bloodline? I'd be amazed if I didn't. Over the course of 150,000 years, how many people were killed by my relatives?

How responsible are we for our ancestors' actions? Is there some kind of formula we should use? Closeness of relative + number killed = X?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-1...

Not even vaguely the tiniest bit at all. Now, if I live a life of luxury based on inheriting the spoils of said crimes there's certainly an element of "make things better", but if you mean responsible as in "they killed someone, so it's also my fault", it's crap. There is no original sin, bibilical or genetic. We're our own people.

Actually, could a mod move this to P&C?

Can a discussion of whether or not sin is genetic be had without talking about inappropriately eaten apples in a certain Garden?

The concept of genetic sin (or whatever you want to call it), while silly and laughable to a good many people here - including myself - is an extremely old, hugely powerful, and very pervasive concept - possibly because of the complex yet very predictable and repetitive behavior of members of the same family over the path of generations. Even reading that article I feel empathy for the descendents of the guilty.

1Dgaf wrote:

Actually, could a mod move this to P&C?

You should be able to yourself if you edit the op, under forums you can select the forum you want to move it to and whether or not to leave a shadow copy.

On thread;
For our ancestors - clearly not and as you point out we would all be guilty under such a schema, it becomes meaningless very quickly.

For current events - If you are of age and aware of anyone, including family members, currently committing terrible crimes or planning to do so and you do not make an effort to stop/report/etc them then I would suggest that you are in some way responsible. Perhaps not in the same way or degree but implicated nonetheless. Last I checked the law is generally written to agree with this but in practice seems to have a great deal of room for lenience depending on the specifics of the case.

People decide not to reproduce for far lesser reasons than "My great-uncle was a monster". If that's what it takes to get them to opt out, then fine. No problems from me. Heck, one of my nephews and his wife have decided not to have kids because they can't stand the sound and mess kids make.

People are just weird.

If punishing populations for the actions of individuals is considered a war crime, how could punishing children for crimes their parents committed be any different?

How could you possibly be responsible for your predecessor's crimes, barring time travel? The assertion just doesn't make sense.

However, here's an aspect that might not have been mentioned. Let's suppose that in my family, all of my uncles, both of my parents and both of my brothers are all convicted pedophiles. At that point, I might think twice about having kids, wondering if there's a genetic component at play, while bearing no actual responsibility for the heinous crimes of the people who happen to share my DNA.

Malor wrote:

If punishing populations for the actions of individuals is considered a war crime, how could punishing children for crimes their parents committed be any different?

True, but largely irrelevant; the only punishment here is self inflicted, and then only if the people wanted children in the first place.

There's some evidence that psychopathy is genetic, but I think that's irrelevant too. these people are free not to have kids for whatever reason they want.

While the guilt these people face sort of prove they've broken the family cycle, there is some credence to the idea that families repeat their mistakes.

Malor wrote:

If punishing populations for the actions of individuals is considered a war crime, how could punishing children for crimes their parents committed be any different?

True, but largely irrelevant; the only punishment here is self inflicted, and then only if the people wanted children in the first place.

There's some evidence that psychopathy is genetic, but I think that's irrelevant too. these people are free not to have kids for whatever reason they want.

While the guilt these people face sort of prove they've broken the family cycle, there is some credence to the idea that families repeat their mistakes.

If punishing populations for the actions of individuals is considered a war crime, how could punishing children for crimes their parents committed be any differen

What are you thinking of here? Logically, individuals make up populations, and could conceivably contribute to mass actions (such as being part of a lynch mob). The relationship of children to parents is functionally different and so there's not really a comparison between the two. Individuals can take part in group crimes, but children don't usually participate in the crimes of their parents in situations like the Goerings (although nothing stops them from it once they come of age). It's hard to say that just being Hermann Goering's great-neice is equivalent to being an SS captain handling tasks in Goering's office...

This conversation is one of the many reasons why I love this forum.

On topic, one thing you guys haven't mentioned is the influence of people around them. If I found out one of my co-workers was related to Charlie Manson, I'd treat them differently than I did before. They would become 'that person who's related to Manson' and I know I wouldn't be the only one looking at it that way. They could be the nicest, most incredible person in the office, and people would still associate them with Manson and treat them as such.

krev82 wrote:

For current events - If you are of age and aware of anyone, including family members, currently committing terrible crimes or planning to do so and you do not make an effort to stop/report/etc them then I would suggest that you are in some way responsible.

Knowledge would make you morally responsible maybe, but not legally. I don't think there's duty to report a crime outside some special status of the witness like being a doctor, childcare worker, etc.

we had a very interesting discussion awhile back about whether some crazy Florida nut job was responsible for the deaths of people in Afghanistan because he burned a koran, which caused some crazy Afghan nutjobs to riot annd kill people in Afghanistan. I feel like this is a related topic. I remember Hypatian specifically giving some very nuanced points on it.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

Not even vaguely the tiniest bit at all. Now, if I live a life of luxury based on inheriting the spoils of said crimes there's certainly an element of "make things better", but if you mean responsible as in "they killed someone, so it's also my fault", it's crap. There is no original sin, bibilical or genetic. We're our own people.

I was going to basically make this point. However,

Jonman wrote:

However, here's an aspect that might not have been mentioned. Let's suppose that in my family, all of my uncles, both of my parents and both of my brothers are all convicted pedophiles. At that point, I might think twice about having kids, wondering if there's a genetic component at play, while bearing no actual responsibility for the heinous crimes of the people who happen to share my DNA.

is also an excellent point. We already know that certain behavioral propensities have a genetic component (alcoholism for one), and it seems reasonable that if there is a significant portion of one's ancestors within recent generations who have certain sociopathic tendencies, then yeah... maybe it's time for the line to die out. That still doesn't make you responsible for your ancestors' crimes, though.

Seth wrote:

we had a very interesting discussion awhile back about whether some crazy Florida nut job was responsible for the deaths of people in Afghanistan because he burned a koran, which caused some crazy Afghan nutjobs to riot annd kill people in Afghanistan. I feel like this is a related topic. I remember Hypatian specifically giving some very nuanced points on it.

The main difference there is that you can trace a line and make an argument that one's actions now may inform future actions. Whereas here, you can't trace a line backwards and claim that one's actions now informed actions in the past. At least, that's how I read it; you might be making a different point that I'm missing entirely!

Seth wrote:

we had a very interesting discussion awhile back about whether some crazy Florida nut job was responsible for the deaths of people in Afghanistan because he burned a koran, which caused some crazy Afghan nutjobs to riot annd kill people in Afghanistan. I feel like this is a related topic. I remember Hypatian specifically giving some very nuanced points on it.

I don't think it's related at all; in that case, the question was whether one individual's actions are responsible in any way for irrational reactions. In this case, it's just whether or not an ancestor's crimes are your fault in any way. In the first, it's related to something the actual individual did, and possible downstream ramifications; in the second (the case for this thread), it doesn't have anything to do with the individual themself.

Honestly, I would have the opposite reaction. Like I would feel some sort of unrealistic obligation to undo the relative's attrocities. Goals of kind acts and philanthropy may be unrealistic but that doesn't mean they should not be done or it doesn't devalue their benefit.

Odd question - do we know that Goering was a psychopath in any way that could be medically passed down?

I know what he was part of, but that wasn't a mental disease unless politics and being good at being a soldier counts. All I could find on a quick search was a stint of being hooked on morphine and he had to be locked up but the psychologist who treated him said it was just the drugs.

I would be far more worried about Himmler, who was the head of the SS and all it's atrocities, or Goebbels.

Farscry wrote:
Seth wrote:

we had a very interesting discussion awhile back about whether some crazy Florida nut job was responsible for the deaths of people in Afghanistan because he burned a koran, which caused some crazy Afghan nutjobs to riot annd kill people in Afghanistan. I feel like this is a related topic. I remember Hypatian specifically giving some very nuanced points on it.

The main difference there is that you can trace a line and make an argument that one's actions now may inform future actions. Whereas here, you can't trace a line backwards and claim that one's actions now informed actions in the past. At least, that's how I read it; you might be making a different point that I'm missing entirely!

Yeah it's not apples to apples, but we're discussing whether or not one person is responsible for the actions of others, so I don't understand Milkman's objections. Definitely related, to me anyway.

Honestly, I would have the opposite reaction. Like I would feel some sort of unrealistic obligation to undo the relative's attrocities. Goals of kind acts and philanthropy may be unrealistic but that doesn't mean they should not be done or it doesn't devalue their benefit.

I would say visiting the grounds where your direct family committed heinous acts of evil and meeting with the descendents of the victims fulfills an unrealistic obligation to undo those atrocities. The act of taking responsibility for something uneccessary is....well it's an important enough act that there's at least two major religions based on it.

+1 on that!

And in a related note, I find it ironic that we seem to be discussing eugenics to "solve" a problem with a Nazi.

momgamer wrote:

+1 on that!

And in a related note, I find it ironic that we seem to be discussing eugenics to "solve" a problem with a Nazi.

I didn't know we were discussing that. Aren't we discussing whether or not the descendents of Nazis should be able to choose to reproduce or not?

Ummmm... Yes? It's a concept of basically applying the principles of selective breeding to humans.

You can personally believe in the principles of eugenics and apply them to your own reproductive choices, or society/government/medical can work to impose them. Both of those things are under the umbrella of the topic.

Both concepts have been skirted here.

My sociology teacher, a deep believer in the importance of nurture, once said, "you can clone Hitler till you're blue in the face."

I mention that because I think that's what it comes down to, nature versus nurture... I just really enjoyed the way he phrased it.

If someone wants to cut off their bloodline because they think it's somehow tainted, that's their call. I'm not going to tell someone they HAVE to have kids just to prove or disprove a point. Just the same I'm not going to call someone irresponsible for having kids because their family has a history of violence.

Now if we're going to say that, if Goerring had some biological imperative to commit those atrocities, his bloodline should not be allowed to perpetuate, I think that begs a further question: does an existing psychopath have a right to life, even if they have committed no crime? Is a predisposition to evil an evil itself?

Seth wrote:

Aren't we discussing whether or not the descendents of Nazis should be able to choose to reproduce or not?

We could force them to reproduce to prove that we're not in favor of any form of eugenics at all, whether voluntary or involuntary.

Funkenpants wrote:
Seth wrote:

Aren't we discussing whether or not the descendents of Nazis should be able to choose to reproduce or not?

We could force them to reproduce to prove that we're not in favor of eugenics at all, whether voluntary or involuntary.

I can't tell if you're being snarky or not. I had always considered coercion an integral part of eugenics, but google-fu says both voluntary and private sterilization are included.

in other words, if I could have "liked" momgamer's post as a sign of acknowledgement, I would've.

These are a couple of nutjob Goering descendants who aren't even direct bloodline talking like something in their genes would lead their descendants to become future leaders in a Nazi party. There's a story here about children of Nazis taking on guilt from their parents, but the voluntary eugenics angle is peripheral to the story.

Goering was an ex-fighter pilot who was promoted above his ability and was notoriously crap at his job. If there's one Nazi leader who nobody should ever worry about reproducing, it's that guy. But I don't think these two are looking at this rationally.

Funkenpants wrote:

These are a couple of nutjob Goering descendants who aren't even direct bloodline talking like something in their genes would lead their descendants to become future leaders in a Nazi party. There's a story here about children of Nazis taking on guilt from their parents, but the voluntary eugenics angle is peripheral to the story.

Bingo. Guilt and responsibility are not the same thing.

I don't agree that it's totally peripheral but I do not think it's the only core issue. If nothing else it's a statement of how deeply they feel that guilt. They hate the concept of what their ancestor did so much they chose to end their family line.

I agree with your assessment of Georing. I asked that question above. And I think it brings up a point. Rather than continuing to Godwin this thing, lets try some other thought exercises.

If Custer had children, do those children owe a debt to Native Americans? How about his grandchildren? My father was in the SeaBees and helped build the airstrip at Da Nang during the Vietnam war. Does that make me in some small part morally responsible for My Lai? Am I morally responsible for whatever my son did when he was in combat in Afghanistan?

How much guilt do we personally take on for Hiroshima and Nagasaki just by virtue of being American? That happened five years before my mother was born. Do I carry more than others because my grandfather was in the Army at the time? He wasn't involved and unless you count the roadbed of the Richardson Highway a crime there's not much there.

momgamer wrote:

Ummmm... Yes? It's a concept of basically applying the principles of selective breeding to humans.

You can personally believe in the principles of eugenics and apply them to your own reproductive choices, or society/government/medical can work to impose them. Both of those things are under the umbrella of the topic.

Both concepts have been skirted here.

So even though Brazil is filled with Hitler clones we're still safe?

How much guilt do we personally take on for Hiroshima and Nagasaki just by virtue of being American? That happened five years before my mother was born. Do I carry more than others because my grandfather was in the Army at the time? He wasn't involved and unless you count the roadbed of the Richardson Highway a crime there's not much there.

My mom's father was part of the manhattan project...