On Collective Guilt, Individual Responsibility and Forgiveness

Since launching this blog, with its focus on “helping seat-of-the-pants peacemakers see they are not alone,” I’ve joined several conversations in which the topic of justice comes up almost immediately after the mention of peace.  More than once I’ve heard variations on the popular wisdom, “No justice, no peace.”

In conversations with people involved in Restorative Justice, the focus is more on repairing the harms of crimes and less focused on immediately finding a peaceful solution.  Justice lies in all parties being heard, especially the victims of crime or violence.  Focus on the larger issue of social justice is secondary to the goal of bringing offenders, victims and all relevant parties together to find solutions which restore community.

There is a creative tension between individual responsibility for wrongdoing and broader social forces which often shape individual actions.  Today a friend sent me a link which explores individual responsibility, national and group wrongdoing, and forgiveness — and, it included a movie clip, always a plus in my book.

Written by David Burns, a London-based feature film producer and composer, the essay cites the film, Tracker,  released in 2010, written by Nicolas Van Pallandt, directed by Ian Sharp, starring Ray Winstone.  (The film is now available on DVD, and it’s next up in my queue on Netflix.)

Burns explains his interest in the film in his reprised article on Day1.org:

When I first read Tracker . . . I knew I’d found the right script.  Set in 1903, the story revolves around two mature men whose lives have become defined by the atrocities they’ve suffered at the hands of the British.  — David Burns

David Burns on Day1.org

David Burns is a London-based feature film producer and composer

As a Brit, Burns confesses that he feels a deep sense of shame over the misdeeds of the British Empire, the expansive historic enterprise over which “the sun never set and the blood never dried.”  But this same civilization, which wrought such grievous harms, also gave the world Shakespeare, Dickens, Wordsworth and Donne, and was the first nation in the world to abolish slavery.

“But it is this very contradiction that reveals the problem.  It was Wilberforce whose indefatigable persistence led to the stopping of slavery, not “the British”.  It was individuals in the invading British armies that carried out the atrocities, not “the British”.  It is this distinction between individuals and a Nation’s responsibility that Tracker explores and makes it unique.”