The term generational curse is a biblical one, it basically refers to the sin of one generation being passed down to the next. This is yet another theme in anime that has stood out to me recently. Magi’s Cassim was a character convinced he was scum, simply because his father was, and Little Buster’s Saigusa was shunned by many of her fellow classmates for having a criminal father. But do these curses exist, do these characters deserve to be treated badly because of the actions of their parents, and do their own actions redeem themselves somewhat?
From a religious standpoint, the Old Testament talks a lot about generational curses. According to some of the books in it, the sins of one can be passed down three, or even four generations. This may seem unfair, but what it really means is that, if one, or both, of your parents has a sinful lifestyle, you’re more likely to lead a sinful lifestyle yourself, and be equally condemned for it. This can be backed up by scientific research. Osborn and West, for example, found that 40% of the sons with criminal fathers in their study turned to crime, compared to just 13% with non-criminal fathers. Farrington’s findings were similar: in his sample of over 400 boys, 50% of the convictions recorded had only been acquired by 5% of the boys, the boys with criminal parents. Indeed, it has long been accepted that if you’re raised by bad parents, you’re more likely to wind up bad yourself. This could be due to social learning- we observe bad behaviours, and learn to imitate them to reap their rewards- or the environment you’re raised in- poverty breeds crime. Some even stipulate that there exists a ‘criminal gene’, that is, a gene responsible for criminality, as you might think, and that it is possible to inherit that off of criminal parents. Certainly the way in which our brains are structured can influence criminality, and this is definitely something which is determined by who our parents are.
Nevertheless, is it fair to tar children with poor parents with a similar negative brush? Should Cassim have felt worthless, or Saigusa be treated so abhorrently because of their parents? I don’t think so. The problem with theories on inherited criminality is that they don’t take into account free will. Very few of us want to be recognised for what our parents have done, even if what it is they’ve done is a good thing. We all start off in life wanting to make something of ourselves, to be recognised for our own achievements. It is because of this we feel compelled to fight back against what may seem to others to be a hopeless situation, a theme I touched upon in my Nekomonogatari: Kuro post. The characters I’ve mentioned already are no exceptions. Cassim fought back, attempting to overthrow the king of Balbadd and reinstate himself, thus achieving worth. Ironic that he was to turn out just like his father through the methods he used… And Saigusa didn’t let the fact her father was a murderer, and her other relative’s treatment of her because of this crush her spirit and stop her from making friends.
I can definitely identify with all this. I didn’t have the best start to life myself- my parents split at a young age, so I was raised in a single-parent family unit during some of my most impressionable years, and I lived in a crime-infested city where I witnessed violence and people being under the influence of both alcohol and drugs from as young as 8. So according to most text-books on the factors influencing criminality, I should be a bad egg because of all this. But, although I’m not without some issues, I’ve turned out to be a pretty well-rounded individual- I worked hard not to let any of what I experienced affect me too greatly in the long term, graduated from school and college with good grades, and am now attending one of the best universities in the country for my course. I’d say I have a pretty bright, and happy future ahead of me (hopefully)!
Because of this I really empathise with and admire characters like Cassim and Saigusa. They too, against all the odds, try to make something of themselves. They’re like salmon, constantly trying to move upstream whilst battling the current. Sure, like the salmon, it may not always work out for them, they may, occasionally, get beaten down by the current, their oppressive situations, but they never give up trying, and that’s pretty amazing!