[ExI] yet another ethical dilemma

spike spike66 at att.net
Thu Sep 5 04:18:34 UTC 2013

-----Original Message-----
From: extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org
[mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of PJ Manney
Subject: Re: [ExI] yet another ethical dilemma

On Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 5:14 PM, spike <spike66 at att.net> wrote:

>>... Look at that a different way.  That thought experiment, if it turned
out the same as it did for me, is equivalent to saying your own ancestors
were better than average people.  We tend to think highly of our own
>>... If so, is it not upsetting to learn that one of our own was an evil

>...I'm fascinated that someone can't imagine their ancestors as complete
assholes/psychos/sociopaths.  Everyone has nasty ancestors.  Everyone.  From
an evolutionary bio standpoint (calling Keith!), we're all the product of
rapists and pillagers...

Hmmm, thanks PJ, this is all excellent food for thought.  As is my custom,
this entire episode has sent me into deep introspection, and has resulted in
some useful insights.

>...If you were Australian, Spike, you'd brag about how badass your
transported ancestors were.  It's a mark of distinction if your GGGGdad was
a serial killer as opposed to a lowly and all to common thief.  The worse
the crime, the greater the pride...  ;-)

I don't get Australia in that way.  I recognize what you are saying is true,
but it just doesn't work for me.

>...Hell, both my grandfathers were SOBs...That doesn't make me less of a
successful and happy person, with a great family life...

PJ I am truly proud of you and I am proud to have you as a friend.  I admire
those who overcome adversity and succeed in spite of disadvantageous

>... In fact, it's a testament to the malleability of the human spirit that
my parents came from such damaged beginnings and succeeded on their own
terms, together.  They celebrated their 50th anniversary this April...

Excellent!  Best wishes to them.

>...Why would you -- or anyone -- care about the bad deeds of someone from
so long ago, just because you share the tiniest bit of genetic material?  I
just don't get it... PJ

It might be related to my thought experiment regarding collecting your
ancestors and rating yourself against them in all the characteristics you
care about.  Both my grandfathers were outstanding men, for whom I have the
greatest admiration.  They had their faults of course, but I would consider
myself successful if I could be like either of them, if I could be half the
man as either of these excellent men.

Many men catch themselves doing some mannerism their fathers did, at which
time we realize we have become our own father.  That never happened to me,
but I sometimes catch myself doing some quirky mannerism of both my
grandfathers.  An example, I recall when I was a boy seeing my grandfather
take up a habit of eating breakfast cereal for supper.  I thought it so
strange.  Now, about a third of the time I eat breakfast cereal for supper.
No particular reason, it is just what sounds good to me.  I never became my
father, but I am gradually becoming my grandfathers.  Or at least I want to.

But I digress.

In the particular case in question, my fourth cousin wanted to find a former
slave ancestor.  The union soldier was her last great hope, or nearly last.
We haven't ruled out that one of his parents may have been a slave, but
there are no known records of who they are.  So if I tell, as I probably
will, then it not only reveals that this guy was a rapist and possibly a
murderer, but it also casts doubt on his slave past.

There's another aspect to all this, a risk.  I have become online friends
with this cousin, as people do who correspond with a common goal (we both
would like to be descended from a freed slave.)  If I tell what I know
gently, suggesting he may have fathered a child while in the service,
leaving out the part about the raping and murdering, there is a risk she
could carelessly post something like "Oh yes, young soldiers being what they
are, he might have associated with some sleazy camp-following harlot."  Of
course then I would be highly annoyed and either tell her the rest of the
sordid story, or just not post back at all.  

My telling her only part of the story carries a risk, and my telling the
rest of the story carries a risk as well: it could strain a friendship to
the breaking point.  Had it been the other way around, and she was descended
from the victim, I would not feel welcome, and probably would not tell.   As
it is, we are both descended from the rapist, but only I am descended from
the victim.  Of course I am going to be sympathetic with my own
G^3grandmother, who went thru brutal hell, having her family and home
destroyed, her body violated, childhood stolen, left struggling to survive
while pregnant through a desperate winter with little food, then rejection
by her own community for choosing to keep her own baby.  That young lady is
a fighter and winner, and yes, more than yes, damn right I am proud of her.
I am proud of being her great^3 grandson, I am inspired by her tragic yet
triumphant story.  Yes I am ashamed of the man that raped her, even though
he too is my direct ancestor, and had he not done that shameful act of
violence, I wouldn't be here.

Oy vey, it's definitely a weird mixture of emotions.

PJ thanks for your insights.


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