When one calls to mind what human qualities and historical events were needed in order for us to be able to begin to exist, then each of us surely has good reason to symbolically rescind the beginning of his or her own existence.
What Sigmund Freud reveals about the history of the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” is further proof of how inappropriate all pride of the species in itself must be: (>Species Shame): “What no human being desires to do does not have to be forbidden, it is self-exclusive. The very emphasis of the commandment: Thou shalt not kill, makes it certain that we are descended from an endlessly long chain of generations of murderers, whose love of murder was in their blood as it is perhaps also in ours“. (Freud, Zeitgemäßes über Krieg und Tod)
Karl Jaspers too saw us as neganthropic profiteers, and he too neglects to even raise the question of whether the complex of generative guilt, once recognized, might not be dissolved by means of natal abstinence: “He as an individual, once he has awoken to full consciousness of his freedom, knows himself to be guilty in the chain of all those who have lived since the beginning of time. When Man entered into the world, he must, through his freedom, have become guilty already at that time. And each following generation took part in this guilt inasmuch as they appropriated for themselves that which, in the handing-down of life, entered their lives as something that ‘went without saying’. Each individual has from very early on, before becoming aware of it, already taken part in the guilt of his forebears, inasmuch as he must have founded all that which is his upon older stages of life, not only as regards what was good in these but also as regards what was bad, and inasmuch as he both took up untruth and himself committed it. He as an individual becomes, furthermore, guilty of all the wicked things that occur in his lifetime in so far as he did not do all he could, to the point of engaging his own life, to prevent them happening and to bring about the good. He remained alive only at the cost of doing nothing and allowing evil to exist in his world.” (Jaspers, Von der Wahrheit) We associate ourselves with Jaspers’s critique of active omission of action (see on this issue also Saner’s development of Jaspers’s thought under >Complicity) but do so not, indeed, in order to demand action to the point of self-destruction. Instead, we point out that the individual is guilty in the measure that he fails to muster the will necessary to prevent new guilt coming into the world through his own children.
Blumenberg opens up an anthropological perspective with which he brings to light a complicity of a special type: we ourselves as profiteers from the sufferings of human history up to this point. As “profiteers” of this history only, indeed, if we understand our own existence to be something good:
“We presently living people are the ‘profiteers’ of all the gruesome horrors which have so far occurred in history already simply in the sense that we are the descendants of the survivors, who were surely themselves the stronger ones, the more ruthless ones, the more ‘guilty’ ones and thus make their descendants profiteers from their strength in holding on to existence. Wherever one forms the latest link in the chain of an ‘evolution’, guilt is implied in the very basic question of existence. The ‘order of the world’ does not allow us to see ourselves as so morally privileged as to be the descendants and heirs of the guiltless. Whoever presently exists at all owes the fact of this existence to those who succeeded in persisting to be when others could not manage to do so.” (Hans Blumenberg, Wie wird Schuld zum Mythos?)
Feldmann’s aphorism demonstrates that the basis of the beginning of our existence consists not only in the human victims of history up to this point but also in the hecatombs of animal victims: “We are all worthy people and in our veins flows the blood of that countless number of living beings on whom our ancestors had to feast in order to bring us into being.” (Kurznachrichten aus der Mördergrube) The insight of Blumenberg is reiterated here: that those of us alive today are the profiteers of the countless unspeakable cruelties that were inflicted on animals in the past for no other reason other than the preference for consuming their flesh as opposed to insentient vegetables. Because this was indeed, at bottom, a preference and it is only true in a very qualified sense that our ancestors “had to” nourish themselves with meat.