“I am born with a past”

By Alasdair Macintyre

I have always thought past wrongs of my country is not my responsibility.

You are not alone in this world
“You are not alone in this world” France 2015

I was aware of the importance of learning from the past, but if someone asked me “Are you responsible for what your country has done 100 years ago?”, I would’ve said “No, I will not make the same mistake again and I regret what they did, but I wasn’t even born then. I did not have any say in the matter.”

However, this morning I came to learn a philosopher called Alasdair Macintyre, and to be honest, it may have changed my view on the responsibility of past wrongs.

His central idea is Narrative, which means we shape our identities and define who we are through our relationships to surroundings (family, community, country etc.).

“the story of my life is always embedded in the story of these communities from which I derive my identity”

The way you think, the way you act, the way you speak are all influenced by your surroundings, therefore, you would lose your identity – the story of your life – without your surroundings. Recognizing this tight relation to your surroundings means that you are a member of certain groups, such as, a member of your family, a member of your community or a member of your country.

Since these surroundings shape who you are today, and these surroundings are shaped through their history of past, you are a part of history of your surroundings.

“I am born with a past, and to try to cut myself off from that past is to deform my present relationships”

Because the past is a part of who you are, you are responsible for the past wrongs even though you might have not directly participated in those events.

This narrative conception of Alasdair Macintyre gave me another way of looking at myself, my role in society and my responsibility. Whether you agree with him or not, one thing for certain is that we wouldn’t have been who we are today if we were born in another family, community or country.

In this regard, while embracing freedom of individuals is an important matter, it is also indispensable to ask yourself what you should do as a member of your family, your community, your country or even the world.


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