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Thursday, April 14, 2005 

When Reasons Become Excuses

Greeks blame the state of their economy on the 400 years of Turkish occupation which ended in 1821. Native North American Indians blame the disparity in their social and economic status on the invasion of white Europeans to their continent. African Americans blame their problems on the American government which allowed slavery to flourish and their sluggish pace to attempt to rectify the situation.

Even the female gender in almost all societies around the globe have been discriminated against up until the first quarter of the 20th century when most of them were given the right to vote...give or take a few countries. Even today, in the most modern and progressive western societies, there still exists a gender discrimination with regards to work and pay.

My own great-great grandfather was a colliery slave. Can I use that reason to justify the fact that I’m not a millionaire because of the discrimination he suffered then and because of the discrimination I’ve experienced as a woman? I don’t believe I can.

I’m sure the majority of the population can find someone else to blame for the problems they may face in life today.

Great injustices have been done to each and every one of our ancestors and in many cases, the discrimination is an ongoing issue. At which point does the reason become an excuse? Is there a specific amount of time they’re allowed a grace period before people must become responsible for their own problems in life?

People can’t ‘unright the wrongs’ within a day but there are many examples around us of individuals and societies as a whole, who have managed to turn their lives around within one generation. And because of those examples, I believe the same is possible for everyone. It’s amazing what a little determination, ambition, perseverance, education and personal responsibility can do.

Remembering the past can help us avoid repeating the same mistakes of our ancestors and can deepen our resolve not to permanently return to it. Too many people choose to live in the past thereby preventing their future from ever happening. It’s time to see the past through a window in our minds instead of the revolving door it’s become for many of us to escape through when the door of the present isn’t as wide as we want it to be.

Somewhat related is the misunderstanding of how we should learning from the past and use it to aid us in the future. The past guides us by showing what the experiences of something could be, it does not predict what literally shall be. But many will cite the infamous Santayana quote as reason to rally against anything with similarities to tragic events in the past. The difficulty is in knowing when that is in one's best interest. Would it not be so much eaiser if end results could be predicted in such a manner? As for the effects of repressive, oppressive, and so on, policies, it would depend on, of course, what opportunities exist now. It is unlikely that non exist, unless one is more inclined toward cynicism than I am, but I cannot say either that they exist in a manner that is always within the reasonable grasp of everyone. If there is a perfect system with perfect fairness, I do not know what that is.

Oh, saw your reply. I gave it a couple of replies back.

Yes, you're right...the past can't predict the future but as cliched as it sounds...you can learn from it. When I read about the gross injustices caused to African Americans from slavery and the how racism can spawn a genocide like Rwanda, then I am that much more resolved to ensure that racism has no place in my mind and that I will not tolerate anyone with those beliefs around me because the past has shown us many times where it can lead. I know my great great grandfather had a difficult life but like him, I resolved to better my own life so my child won't grow up facing the decisions he had to make at a young age. Sure, there is no perfect system to insulate us from problems and difficulties, but most of us do have within our reach to make our lives better that our ancestors never did have. It's up to us to take full advantage of them.

Learn; yes, as there are somethings we do not use to justify our actions, at least we do not claim to, as they are what we rightly consider to be egregious. While I am a rationalising person, there are somethings that are unacceptable.

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