20 Comments

  1. The guru is giving standard generic advice. The questioner has a very specific situation that he wants justified, which the guru won’t do. He does the general, not the specific. As does the next guru over. At first, I thought it was the father who sent the son to the guru, but they went for the old (old, old) punchline, as used in Monty Python’s bookshop sketch, “Funny, they sent me here.”

  2. I thought the guy is asking from a perspective the guru just isn’t prepared to deal with, like Tax Law. Then, as Divad points out, the general level of advice he’s prepared to give doesn’t fit anymore. Especially as the guru’s perspective or context is moral judgement, while the guy is asking from a viewpoint that is, at best, amoral or legalistic.

  3. I’ll agree with Mitch’s account of the background interaction. (And I take it that “at best amoral” implies “and likely immoral”, and “at best […] legalistic” implies “and likely illegal”.)

    But the joke is, as Divad points out, more like the never-ending transfer of a phone caller among different departments.

  4. At the very least the “son” is committing the crime of receiving stolen property and profiting by stolen property. (he used stolen money to purchase items)

  5. “You should not pay for the sins of your father” typically means that a person should not be punished for crimes that an ancestor committed. For example, a grandchild of a war criminal should not be punished for the atrocities committed by his grandfather, even if that grandfather died before the punishment was ever finished, or even carried out.

    But in this cartoon, the protagonist is interpreting “pay for the sins of your father” as “literally paying money for the stolen goods inherited from your dad.” While his father was the one who technically did the stealing, the greedy son is wondering if that means he has to pay for them, or if there’s some sort of rule that’ll let him keep the goods for free, despite the fact that they’re stolen.

    The guru realizes that there’s no getting through to him, and tries to make him somebody else’s problem. And the punchline reveals that this has already happened.

  6. Thanks, D. McKeon, that had unexpected depths! I too remember from school the U S Constitutional prohibition saying no bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed by Congress; but the short explanation we got was just something like an act of legislation decreeing a criminal verdict against an individual. This business about the corruption of blood is amazing!

    Also thanks J-L for connecting “sins of the father” to its cultural origins for us. The Judeo-Christian texts that mention it sometimes do count the punishment passed down to “the sons to the third and fourth generation”.

  7. ‘…the protagonist is interpreting “pay for the sins of your father” as “literally paying money for the stolen goods inherited from your dad.” While his father was the one who technically did the stealing, the greedy son is wondering if that means he has to pay for them, or if there’s some sort of rule that’ll let him keep the goods for free…’

    I think the ‘it’ he’s referring to in the first speech bubble is the money, not the goods, as he says, “The stuff I buy with Dad’s stolen money is mine, right?” He’s already paid for the goods, but with cash his father came by illicitly.

    To me, it seems like he’s saying that he’s not involved in sinning at all, either his own perceived sins or those of his father, as he’s only the ‘spender’. He’s attempting to distance himself from the ‘sin’, making the guru’s point moot. The guru doesn’t know how to reply to this, or just doesn’t want to get involved in this debate, and tries to send him away.

  8. … as I remember it.

    Moses said (Exod 34:7): ‘He visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children.’ was the the byword of its time. e.g. The fathers has eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.

    Ezechiel 18:20 (centuries later) denies this: “The person who sins is the one who will die. The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sins. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own righteous behavior, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness.”

    If we look at some of the great fortunes, we discover that the respectable “old money” people may actually trace their wealth to bootlegging during Prohibition, profits from slavery, etc.

  9. The sins of the Tom Brokaws shall be visited upon the Boomers, yea and upon Generation X, indeed the Y Me or Millennials, and verily unto even the Zed Zoomers.

  10. Mitch4: I don’t know about the 7th or 70th generations, but there is this:

    “…for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (NRSV, Exodus 20:5-6)

    This always bothered me a little, because what if your ancestors two generations ago had rejected God, but your ancestors three generations ago had loved God, and kept His commandments?

  11. Thanks — the article I linked before also cites the Exodus 20:5 verse, but the translation they are using (New International Version) has “hate me” instead of “reject me”.

    “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:5).

    And then bring up this elaboration from Deuteronomy:

    “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Deuteronomy 5:9-10).

    Yikes, again with the “hate”, but the bright side is the mercy to thousands, which, according to the commentater, is saying a thousand generations. ‘We know that a thousand in the Bible means “a very long time.” ‘

  12. The word that gets translated as “hate” or “reject” only appears twice in the Bible (in those two verses), so it may be that the translation is unclear.

  13. And since one is quoting the other, it should still technically count as single and qualify as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hapax_legomenon 🙂

    Even if it were dis legomenon , the point about difficulty establishing meaning still holds.

    When I worked for the Journals Division, assigned to write some sales copy for Classical Philology, the sample issues the journal editorial office suggested we look at had a notorious article trying to pin down the meaning in context of the rare verb irrumare.

  14. Tracy Klujian, I applaud you on going there. I think it’s more along those lines. At least to have any deeper meaning. And it’s a legitimate question. When there are people alive today living on the interest from massive fortunes that were earned in the slave trade or on slave labour, it’s a legitimate question of what responsibility to make amends (I think “reparations” tries to go too far into the weeds of accountancy, etc)? And then there is the question of us non-indigenous inhabitants of the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, etc, and how we have benefited and continue to benefit from immoral acts that have built the comfortable lives we live. I mean, we’re not going to leave. That’s not going to happen. And we’re not going to send all the aboriginal peoples cheques totalling trillions of dollars. But “business as usual” is perpetuating the sins.

    Mitch4: I don’t think many human actions can even be amoral. Maybe something like breathing, but that releases C02 and there sure are a lot of us doing that. And a lot of us making even more people to do that. But that is really pushing it. However, when most people say “amoral,” I find most of what they’re describing is immoral (I’ve never seen it used for a moral action). For example, when the head of the multi-billion dollar bank I once worked for fired 3,000 people, not because the business was in trouble, but because they were concerned that the banks profits might not increase as quickly as they wanted (they were still increasing), and then took a $10 million dollar bonus, that was immoral. Saying “It was amoral. It was just business, the numbers don’t lie, blah, blah, blah.” Is horses***.

  15. SingBill, I don’t disagree with you about “amoral”. I think Danny Boy in an early reply also took the point correctly that my saying “at best amoral” was already a polite indirection from outright disbelief in the category.

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