16
Nov
09

On air: What do government apologies achieve?

child migrants“We come together today to deal with an ugly chapter in our nation’s history.”

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to thousands of children abused in state care – following a 20 year campaign by the victims – is another example of governments saying sorry for historical events.

Saying sorry has come up a lot recently: we blogged on apologising for slavery last week … and then there’s British codebreaker Alan Turing, Native Americans and, a bit further back, Japanese internment.

But this writer believes such apologies are “absurd” and even “treacherous”. She says we’re in “The Age Of Apology” and politicians should concentrate on things happening today. This blogger agrees – and so does this one.

Do you want your leaders apologising for things which happened years ago? Is it right to recognise wrongs in the past? Are we in The Age Of Apology – and is that a good or a bad thing?


80 Responses to “On air: What do government apologies achieve?”


  1. 1 Jimmy
    November 16, 2009 at 11:50

    better a late apology than none at all!!

  2. 2 ARTHUR NJUGUNA
    November 16, 2009 at 11:58

    We cannot afford going through circula motions of denial and live in guilt forever. Its good to blut it out because no one succeeds in cheating their own psych. When an apology lacks, you cannot deny that you are in some way legimizing the wrong through a false legality. Experience has shown us that, those societies that are not bashful to admit their mistakes overcome their scrapples quicker and are able to develop faster. Denial is the height of imaturity and can only be no more than delutions.

  3. November 16, 2009 at 12:14

    An apology can be liberating. It acknowledges what has been hidden, and it is a promise that this grievance will never happen again. Ideally it is a moment when everything can change, and you can act differently, and be friendly with your neighbors.

  4. 4 JanB
    November 16, 2009 at 12:59

    The best apology is learning from history, this whole game of public apologies serves only the political game of the kind of people who’s actions will have to be apologized for in the future, it doesn’t serve reconciliation as long as the apologies are one-sided and some people continue to believe crimes are hereditary.

  5. 5 guykaks, nai
    November 16, 2009 at 13:15

    it looks absured and out of mind to apologise after committing the atrocities.i ithink they should first be accountable for their crimes before apologies.

  6. 6 scmehta
    November 16, 2009 at 14:03

    It’s good that we are entering “The Age Of Apology” ,after all those painful and sad times of the various ages of slavery, cruel-exploitation and atrocities. The best purpose it serves is to feel repentant about the past historical mistakes/blunders, and to remain consciously and conscientiously mindful about our future behaviour towards one another; suchlike gestures/actions, around the world, do help to shape-up better or more humane societies.

  7. 7 Nanci
    November 16, 2009 at 14:41

    I think apologies can be beneficial. It is an acknowlegement that a wrong was committed and people who’ve been hurt can find that comforting.

    It also clears the way for the future. By acknowledging past wrongs, it means that there is a possibility the future can be better and different.

    There is no way to ever compensate people for something they’ve lost in the past. A dead loved one can never be brought back. But, an apology is an acknowlegement of the loss and a wrong committed that can free a person to forgive and move into the future.

    It’s not the be all end all. It does not erase the offense and it doesn’t mean people should forget what has happened. It does mean that people can cancel the debt owed them (much easier to do when the person who’s committed the wrong acknowledges it!) and move on with their lives.

  8. November 16, 2009 at 14:47

    If you (or the people you represent) benefit from wrongdoings of the past, then you have an obligation to apologise.

    If not, just say that you regret the suffering caused, apologise for not doing anything useful until now (if applicable) and explain how you are going to do something useful now (if applicable).

  9. 9 Tony from Singapura
    November 16, 2009 at 14:51

    I am a 48 yo Australian and I must confess to being in a state of total ignorance on this matter, my apologies for that.

    I suppose that the bad stuff is never taught in history lessons in-country.

    The Apology has brought focus to this little known issue, so there has been some educational value in the apology.

    So what happens next, will there be some form of mitigation or compensation?

    If you make the apology you have to be prepared to make suitable amends otherwise the apology will be seen as shallow.

    All of these “victims” are now adults and I guess most would have their own life and family by now. maybe they should just get on with their lives and don’t get to bent out of shape over history.

    Perhaps that sounds a bit harsh, but I think thats how I would feel if I were in the same shoes.

  10. November 16, 2009 at 14:52

    Apologizing might not make everyone feel better, but I know that when I have been slighted it is nice for the offender to apologize. I believe that as long as the apologies are given without too much time spent on it that it can be a good thing. It doesn’t hurt anything, and even if politicians are predominantly doing thins for political points and good PR, it can still help to heal old wounds. I still would love to hear an apology for the atrocities that Rom people continue to suffer to this day. I have never heard one word of even recognizing the evils that we have endured at the hands of states and, for my family at least, an apology would do our hearts a great deal of good.

  11. 11 Dan
    November 16, 2009 at 14:59

    An apology for an egregious harm MUST be followed by action to redress the harm and mechanisms put in place to insure it will never happen again.
    Otherwise simply saying “I’m Sorry” are 7 letters arranged into two words and are totally meaningless.
    However Obama making his apology tour of the world and bowing low before Dictators and other elected Heads of State angers Americans at home and accomplishes nothing abroad other than the politically correct crowd saying “aww, isn’t that nice” and appease those whose “feelings” have been hurt.

  12. November 16, 2009 at 15:01

    Apolgise are good for the sole and recognise a wrong has been done unfortunately, they generally come too late for the majority of those wronged. If those wronged and their relatives feel an apology is acceptable and addresses their wrongs then, it has acheived its purpose. I assume the apology by the Australian PM was because of political pressure albeit it was made on behalf of a nation. Now Gordon Brown is to make an apology but on whose behalf because it was not the British Nation who sent the kids it was the govt of the day and the whitehall cronies, We did not abuse the kids it was the Aussies. However, there seems to be a memory block of the kids who were dispatched by train and bus across the British Isles and who themselves suffered at the hands of their own kind or is Brown going to be apologising to them as well. Apologise are fine but in the main insincere and just a way of hoping it will go away.

  13. 13 Dinka Aliap Chawul-Kampala,Uganda
    November 16, 2009 at 15:17

    I think apology is common things for all human beings to do irrespective of race OR religion because we must to acknowledge! the past wrongdoing of our forefathers & avoid carrying on the same denial-denial policies.However,the absentee of perpetrators should not be use as a basis of pleasing yourself with your,racial or Country’s wrongdoing.

    More so this can works as a solid base for future co-operations & development of the society, also there are other things that people can’t apologize for, the like of ordering your army,police or militias especially by presidents/dictators & his affiliates to crush the opponents in the daylight e.g the tear-gas squads,military police,riot police amongst others because this were made intentionally by unknown sources with an aims of retrogressing people’s voices.Be inform that nothing can go unknown this world though you made it on your single bed-room.

  14. 14 patti in cape coral
    November 16, 2009 at 15:18

    I believe I heard on the news that they are not planning on giving any restitution money. I think apologies can be a good thing, if they are sincere, and maybe it helps to heal some of the damage. Sometimes kids think they did something to deserve abuse and hopefully now, as adults, it is not too late to get the message that they were not at fault in any way and a terrible wrong was done to them.

  15. 15 Roy, Washington DC
    November 16, 2009 at 15:22

    Apologizing for someone else’s actions achieves nothing. We should acknowledge the past and learn from it, but we shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for what our ancestors did.

    • 16 Dinka Aliap Chawul-Kampala,Uganda
      November 16, 2009 at 17:29

      No one is born a life without root from ancestors and what they did in the past is still fresh on our mind now though no survivors are present in the world of today maybe.

    • 17 mark brisbane australa
      November 17, 2009 at 07:24

      roy .. its not an ancestral thing, he was alive when this was still going on ..

      it was government action / inaction that caused this situation to exist ..

      he`s just showing the current government cares ..

      maybe your government should apologise to the native americans and slave descendants for past actions, if they haven`t already

      its symbolic and helps a great many people feel they are not alone and that we are trying to make things better

      peace

      mark

      brisbane

  16. 18 Jennifer
    November 16, 2009 at 15:24

    Re: Do you want your leaders apologising for things which happened years ago? Is it right to recognise wrongs in the past? Are we in The Age Of Apology – and is that a good or a bad thing?

    Yes, we are the age of apology-mindless apologies that people believe give assurance of promises that bad things will never ever happen again. It is a bad thing because it has people living in the past making amends for things that are not amendable. It’s right to recognize wrongs of the past but dwelling on those things does nothing to prevent them from reoccurring in the future.

  17. 19 Tony from Singapura
    November 16, 2009 at 15:30

    I would say these children were given a golden opportunity. As unwanted, orphaned or poor children in the UK, their prospects most likley would have been worse if they had not been deported.

    During the period of the “deportation” Australia enjoyed good growth and if I remember correctly, fairly good employment prospects all the way into the late 70’s.

    In addition to this they have enjoyed better weather, and better cricket results.

    • 20 mark brisbane australa
      November 17, 2009 at 07:33

      TONY in SINGAPURA ..

      many of them were sexually and physically abused by the people who were ment to care for them

      nuns and priests mainly

      thats what this is about

      you make it sound like a big holiday but it was hell for many of them

      not much chance of your better prospects if you been beaten or raped repeatedly

      guys tell stories of terror as the priest would open the door to the dorm and 8 yr old boys would be listening to footsteps get closer and be praying it was not their turn to be raped

      would you want an apology

      mark

      brisbane australia

  18. 21 Gary Paudler
    November 16, 2009 at 15:55

    The age of Apology? How many apologies are there in an “age”? There are meaningless apologies: “I’m sorry you feel that way”. and meaningful apologies:
    “Our country engaged in heinous acts which much be acknowledged so that we can be justified in claiming the mantle of honor and compassion to which we, as a society, aspire”. There is a fashion among powerful men, emulated by the merely arrogant and insecure, to never apologize; that’s what passes for principle among those people. An apology does not connote weakness, it is a way for a transgressor – even an innocent, distant descendant of a transgressor – to connect with a victim or their descendants. In the context of, say, slavery or aboriginal abductions or war crimes, the apology can – and must – imply and constitute the promise that such acts will never again be tolerated and acknowledge and, if possible, correct, any inherited or on-going effects. What is the possible down-side of a sincere apology?

  19. November 16, 2009 at 16:01

    There are governments who subjected their people to brutal repression culminating in summary executions. Examples can’t be exhausted as past and current governments still have much of what to account for concerning human rights abuses.

    However, government apologies are a good means to recognise repressed forgotten categories, which should have an honourable place in the history of their countries. Financial compensations are by no means a healing source as the psychological scars remain because of a long period of humiliation and the deprivation of a normal life, especially those who had to be in jails, servitude or marginalised for most of their lives.

    Apologies should serve as a lesson for current and future politicians not to repeat the same brutalities for the same reasons. They are a test for them to see how human rights are fully implanted.

    • 23 Crispo, Uganda
      November 16, 2009 at 18:23

      Yes, Abdelilah, I agree with most of what you say, except the financial bit. Surely, you do not want hungry gov’t officials to enrich their coffers in a bid to reward the victims. Many, a time, such schemes expose more scam than had been expected. Reconcillation through apologies first, would be the most apt solution, and not financial settlement. Remember too that determining the actual cost of compensation isn’t after all eating sweets. Often, than not, this is the source of real trouble – at least in Africa.

  20. 24 steve
    November 16, 2009 at 16:03

    I really don’t think people are even capable of apologizing for something they weren’t themselves responsible for.

    Also, when is the Russian government going to apologize for their brutal occupation and forced governments in eastern europe. We hear constantly about how the west installed evil governments in Iran, etc, but we never hear about how The soviet Union violently put down protests in other nations, invaded them when they voted for democratic governments, yet we only hear about the horrible USA and the CIA and Mossadeq. Why? When will the communists apologize for their treatment of E. Europe, or the millions of dead Chinese from Mao’s policies? Why is this apologizing thing only a western, liberal thing?

  21. 25 Peter in jamaica
    November 16, 2009 at 16:09

    In my opinion apologies are only beneficial when it comes from the individuals who committed the act. For the child to apologizes for the “acts of the farther” has no baring on the individual doing the apologizing. They apologize out of their own shame and morality. The shame and the morality that the perpetrators lacked.
    To hold the child or the inheritors of the act responsible for the acts of their forefathers and to expect them to apologize for them has no impact on the present. What they should do is to ensure that no such acts ever happen again in their life time or in the future yet to come.
    To recognize the act publicly and to eliminate a re-occurrence is a far more effective means of an apology. An apology from those who didn’t commit the act is all well and good but change is what is asked for and expected from all, nothing more and nothing less.

  22. 26 Dan
    November 16, 2009 at 16:20

    @Gary Paudler
    There is no one alive any longer in America that owned slaves or was a slave so what does apologizing for slavery accomplish?
    Should the Greeks apologize to the Iranians for what King Leonidus did to the Persians descimating Zirksis’ army at Thermoplaye?
    At some point this all gets rediculous and is meaningless as is the phrase “I’m Sorry” now has become.

    • 27 Gary Paudler
      November 16, 2009 at 16:32

      I’m sorry you feel that way Dan, but if you read my post you’ll see that I distinguished between meaningful and meaningless apologies. We are bathed in meaningless gestures and empty words; will you demand that words not be spoken unless they accomplish something tangible? If somebody is comforted by the acknowledgement of a historical wrongdoing, what is the cost to society? If an apology by Greece to Iran eased tensions and drew them closer to a cooperative relationship then yes, by all means, say the words.

  23. 28 Elias
    November 16, 2009 at 16:27

    Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology for the Government of Australia was past over due by many years, he apoligised for the miss treatments by the way chuldren who were forced to leave their parents and sent to Australia during and after World War 2 which was for their safety and well being. The inhuman abuse and treatment by Australians who accepted the children into their homes was diabolical and disgusting for they were exploited and abused in any and every way.
    The writer who believes it is absurd and treacherous is living in the world of absurdity, and has no compassion for those children who have now grown up, some have died of old age. The ones who are alive today reflect on their past sufferings at a time as children without the love they so much needed and to top it all being abused in every way. For them that are still alive, the Prime Minister’s apology does help in some way for this shocking episode that befell them. A Nation that admits and apologises for their past wrong doings, is a better Nation for the good of all. It cannot be right to do a wrong on to others, and it cannot be wrong to apologise for it.
    Perhaps The Government of Australia will go further by paying compensation to those who have suffered in the past.

  24. 29 Alex in Nairobi
    November 16, 2009 at 16:31

    I agree that honest apologies diffuse tense situationswhich have the potential of exploding to devastate the nation. However, I’m not sure Rudds apology was really genuine. I read politics in the apology. Trust me, Rudds popularity is currently headed for the heavens thanks to the apology.
    Gordon Brown just apologixed for thousands of children forcefully shipped out of the country illegally. I don’t know but I’m afraid its won’t be long before Bush apologizes for attacking Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m not holding my breath for this but I won’t be surprised to see and hear my president and pm literally drowning microphones with saliva and tears of apology and regret come 2012.

    Regards

  25. 30 steve
    November 16, 2009 at 16:31

    Yeah, when are the Romans (or the Italians) going to apologize for ransacking Jerusalem and expelling the Jews?

    When will The ottomons apologize for invading Eastern europe?

    THe moors with spain?

    When will the French apologize for invading England in 1066?

    When will the Egyptians apologize for enslaving the Hebrews? The Bablylonians?

    How abot the Ottomons for conquering Constantinople?

    The Barbary Pirates for attacking all of those ships?

    • 31 Gary Paudler
      November 16, 2009 at 16:37

      Steve, Dan and everybody inclined to list all the unissued apologies; the absence of comprehensive apologies for every wrong ever experienced does not diminish the meaningfulness and benefit to society of any sincere apology.

    • November 16, 2009 at 17:14

      The particular apology being discussed today is relevant to people who are alive TODAY, just as the apologies that I have desperately desired from many governments for the atrocities that they have visited upon my people Rom (gypsies) within MY LIFETIME. On a broader level you might have a small sense of a point, but on this topic you are way off base.

  26. 33 steve
    November 16, 2009 at 16:45

    @ Gary

    Why is it only western, liberal governments apologizing. Are all other governemtns innocent angels. Or they for some reason don’t have to apologize for the horrific acts they committed, such as mass murder of millions of people, while the UK apologizes for a much lesser thing, of abuse of children, which is horrible, but it doesn’t compare to the millions of deaths by the soviets or the chinese.

    • 34 Gary Paudler
      November 16, 2009 at 16:56

      Hey Steve, It looks like you are advocating more, not fewer apologies, I agree with you, the Soviets and Chinese should apologize too and change their policies so that the apologies mean something.

    • 35 gary
      November 16, 2009 at 17:24

      @ Steve
      Liberalism and (sometimes unwarranted) trust in others coincide as surely as do Conservatism and trust in self (usually one’s self alone). One does not apologize to people whose trusts are not needed.
      g

  27. November 16, 2009 at 16:55

    Besides calming a lot of frayed and agitated nerves; it places on the record that “this government is not proud of so, so and so that happened in the past. And considering how difficult we find it to apologise to you dear citizens, we are determined to ensure that these kinds of things do not happen in the future if you keep us in power”. That’s about it, I think.

    • 37 Crispo, Uganda
      November 16, 2009 at 18:13

      Nengak, that’s precisely what i’ve been saying. Good as the apology is, noble as the intentions of the characters have been, to me it’s a political tool to urge the populace to hand that government another term in office under the pretext that such heinous events won’t recurr.

  28. 38 ARTHUR NJUGUNA
    November 16, 2009 at 17:07

    Saying sorry or lack of it is voluntary. We cannot castigate those who say these appologies and at the same time ignore that it has an impact ont the victim. Past crimes though bad is a useful database from which to craft better societies and our future. Saying we don’t care is to be unmindful of other events and those our society that are touched by them directly.
    Our experiences are sometimes shaped wrongly by lawyers who tell you that you should deny everything and presume yourself to be innocent. You might win the trial but honestly you cannot cheat your own concious even if you escape the trap of paying for your mistakes. It will haunt you won’t acomplish much in your life. It is the past but people in the past represente or misrepresented us. It is our duty to make that clear.

  29. 39 steve/oregon
    November 16, 2009 at 17:14

    Apologies do nothing for anyone it is simply more propaganda they are only words.

  30. 40 ernesto
    November 16, 2009 at 17:16

    Again, apologizing as an act of self reflection enhances the insight a people have.
    In this case it increases the understanding of the whole world of what was done by a civilized society to its own poor. Maybe others start looking for theirs own historical mistakes.
    Somebody has to start this movement towards a humane society. Where-ever. Stalin’s and Mao’s children could follow suit, but beware of the social upheaval this might cause. Ideologies and statistics, used in politics, are abstractions bound to lead to horrific results. Maybe one day politicians will think-out their policies before implementing them. Anyway, exporting your ‘humane waste’ will cause way more damage than it saves ‘tax-payers money’.

  31. 41 Dan
    November 16, 2009 at 17:32

    @Gary Paudler
    I believe that an apology without an act of contrition or establishing mechanism for change so the offense is not repeated is useless.
    If Greece were to Apologize to Iran to bring the two countries closer together reveals that both countries have immature leaders.

  32. 42 Crispo, Kampala-Uganda.
    November 16, 2009 at 18:00

    An apology in time honoured fashion isn’t worth mention. A true, sincere apology within a reasonable time frame is worthwhile. However,why wait till the victims demand one, why wait till they are almost depleted? How come its someone else and not the perpetrator who is apologising? Are those true apologies? I don’t think so.

    Yes, some of it though forced, sort of boosts the spirits of those who’ve been wronged, but in no way does it show one owning their responsibility. The Australian PM might have been sincere but to me its a political tool to buy public sympathy towards his government and party. This is a dry apology. It shouldn’t be accepted for it was induced out of him.

  33. 43 Peter_scliu
    November 16, 2009 at 18:03

    Wow! After all these years of speaking on the morale high ground , I was surprise that the paragon of democracy could have treated children so harshly.

  34. 44 Shannon in Ohio
    November 16, 2009 at 18:04

    I think national apologies are generally a good idea if for no other reason than they represent at least the attempt to acknowledge historical atrocities/injustices etc.

    I have never understood the anger of right-wing types here in the U.S. who become instantly enraged by any statements of contrition regarding this country’s horrifying legacy of slavery. True, no one living now ever owned slaves, but many people now living have benefited directly or indirectly as a result of blanket discrimination against African Americans. The national apology for slavery is, obviously, “too little too late” but, like all admissions of wrong, it has the potential to help current and future generations to confront their nation’s true history, rather than clinging to some beloved account that is so sanitized it bears no resemblance to reality whatsoever.

  35. 45 Grace Igweta
    November 16, 2009 at 18:07

    Honestly, I wouldnt feel obliged to apologise for my grandmother’s mistates… although I would acknowledge if I think it was indeed a mistake and promise that it will not happen in my time, and if I was in position of power, ensure policies in place to ensure it doesnt.

    Grace Igweta, Nairobi-Kenya

  36. 46 Mike in Seattle
    November 16, 2009 at 18:13

    Of course I want my leaders apologizing for the things the government they lead have done. It costs nothing for it to happen and it sends a clear signal to everyone that the government will do better in the future.

    Furthermore, for the cost of appearing in front of a camera and speaking for a few moments, it brings to the forefront an important time in history so that it will never be repeated again.

  37. 47 Peter
    November 16, 2009 at 18:17

    Please all these apologise for past sins if not done with an act of contrition is just meaningless. Don’t forget the British has lots of skeletons in the closet. There will a lot of apologise. How about doing it all at one go.

  38. 48 Guido Schloegel
    November 16, 2009 at 18:20

    The funny thing is that apologies are usually made by the kids and grandkids of the responsible persons. In Austria and Germany, for example, the crimes of the second world war were not seriously discussed in politics, until the war generation left politics.

  39. 49 Ronald Almeida
    November 16, 2009 at 18:27

    Show us through action, that you mean it.

  40. 50 steve
    November 16, 2009 at 18:35

    I’m curious when Russia is going to apologize for flooding Vladivostok with ethnic russians and then expelling the chinese and korean populations there. Oh right, they aren’t Americans or western, so it doesn’t matter and should be swept under the carpet. er, omg, look what israel is doing!

  41. 51 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    November 16, 2009 at 18:49

    To apologize is to weigh pride and arrogance against the reality of a wrong or wrongs committed, to admit the reality of those wrongs, and to take the first step towards righting those wrongs.

    Bravissimo, Australia and the Uk!

  42. 52 Linda from Italy
    November 16, 2009 at 18:50

    I think demolishing arguments by using reductio ad absurdum parallels is in itself absurd, at some point some a pragmatic historical line has to be drawn which may be arbitrary but serves a purpose.
    In the case of the Australian story and the Brit deportations, this was happening right up to the late 60s, so it is certainly within my living memory, and people of my parents’ generation would have been responsible. Slavery is similar as, although historically more distant, the ramifications for people of colour were all too concrete and long-lasting, in terms of legally sanctioned racism in SA and the US (to name the two worst offenders), and their effects are still felt today in surviving attitudes and prejudices.
    I do not believe that sins of fathers/mothers should be visited on sons/daughters, but as the surviving links with wrongs committed by people with whom we share some sort of ethnic/national link we do at least have a responsibility to offer a proxy apology, more as a way of trying to demonstrate that we have learnt something from history and will try our best to fight against injustice, in whatever from it may rear its ugly head.

  43. 53 Ibrahim in UK
    November 16, 2009 at 18:51

    It’s more relevant to apologise for something if people are still suffering the consequences of that action, and of course to put mechanisms in place to ensure that no one suffers the same fate again.

    @Steve
    The US claims to interfere politically, financially and militarily in other countries to preserve democracy. People bring up the reality of US wars against democracy and support for dictatorships to highlight and expose the lies of past and present US foreign policy so that the free people of America are not deluded by them, in the hope that they become aware of their nations crimes and put an end to them.

    PS: there is a website that monitors who has apologised for what:
    http://political-apologies.wlu.ca/doclist.php

  44. 54 Tom K in Mpls
    November 16, 2009 at 18:53

    In many respects, governments are no different from individuals. It helps to view them this way. This is one such case. An apology is often just a politically correct gesture used to achieve an end. But it also can be be a starting marker on substantial changes. What matters is what happens next.

    They have attracted attention and lets see what they do to their reputation.

  45. 55 Linda from Italy
    November 16, 2009 at 18:59

    If the apology is sincerely meant and sincerely accepted (call me naïve if you wish), it is not meaningless, what does upset me is this idea that throwing money at people who have been wronged is they only way of proving “sincerity”.
    Many of us are horrified by the practice in some cultures of blood money, in that if someone coughs up some cash for a murder victim’s family the killer is effectively off the hook.
    The fact that compensation and reparation can only possibly come in the form of money leaves a horrible taste, as it smacks of a rich person being able to get away with things a poor person may not, not my definition of the rule of law.
    If victims of injustice do require practical help, by all means offer it, but buying them off is an equally meaningless charade.

    • 56 Ankamah Frederick
      November 17, 2009 at 13:07

      Hello Linda,
      I will never use naive to describe your view on this point, it will be totally unfair on my part to say such a thing. Don’t you also agree with me that, the fact of them recognizing their fault itself is applaudable ? WE ARE HUMANS AND TO ERR IS HUMAN . LET US GIVE THEM THE BENEFIT OF DOUBT.

  46. 57 S
    November 16, 2009 at 19:03

    Apologies are a means for gaining political legitimation. Because an apology doesn’t fix what needs to be fixed. It’s only platitude, cleverly constructed in emotionally provocative words. Actions are more crucial than words – they lead to possible conciliation as opposed to issuing out formal apologies. Although sometimes I am uncertain what even actions can achieve. It certainly can’t undo things like The Holocaust or any other politically motivated events; so there isn’t much scope in this whole apology business except to maybe move on and take adequate measures to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.

  47. 58 Lisa from Pennsylvania, US
    November 16, 2009 at 19:06

    For Prime Minister Gordon Brown his “sorries” are starting to mean less and less lately. First he apologized about the poorly written letter he sent to the family of a deceased British soldier and apparently even the apology itself was subpar! And now he’s the next person slated to apologize for these atrocities, which will most likely also lack sincerity. An insincere apology is worse than no apology at all!

  48. 59 Fouria
    November 16, 2009 at 19:11

    How come sorry is the only thing they can say!!!!

    Thats wrong, how would he like it if it happened to them…

    That country needs to be checked, and compensation he says NO..

    Whatta a sorry country!!!!!!!!!!

  49. 60 viola
    November 16, 2009 at 19:17

    If countries are entities that exist over time, in the same sense as corporations do, it is appropriate for the government officials who currently represent those countries to apologize on behalf of their countries if it is now recognized that wrongdoings were committed in their countries’ names.

    It is not appropriate for one individual to apologize for the behavior of another individual nor is it appropriate for private citizens to individually apologize for their country’s behavior. In order for the individual’s apology to have any meaning with respect to the nation, there would have to be a vote to determine the will of the people.

  50. November 16, 2009 at 19:18

    Apologies can be polite meaningless words or the start of the healing process. Government involvement which caused thousands of children to be abused and misplaced in State Care have a lot to be sorry for, a lot of explaining to do and a lot of work to do.

    Immediate corrective action is required in order for people to believe the apology is sincere. Hopefully, the people responsible for this atrocity are no longer in power. However, you almost want those people brought back to face the humiliation and punishment to make things right.

    An apology truly means that you know a mistake was make and wont rest until the people who were hurt understand and have proof that you really mean it.

  51. 62 viola
    November 16, 2009 at 19:20

    To clarify my previous post, any government official who apologizes for the past actions of his country had better be certain that his apology represents what the citizens of the country desire.

  52. 63 steve
    November 16, 2009 at 19:27

    Yes Lubna, an apology won’t bring back the dead, but when will the Jihadists apologize for deliberately targetting people in Iraq? You seem to me more upset with the US than the people actually killing iraqis.

  53. 64 Danoski
    November 16, 2009 at 19:30

    Its silly to apologize at all. What’s done is done, and apologizing for wrongs in history is the definition of uselessness. We need a better future, not a rehashed past.

  54. November 16, 2009 at 19:33

    I suppose a belated apology is better than none.If it makes the offended feel any better,all well and good.If it makes the offending country feel better,all well and good.But if this is to become a popular way of easing a countrys conscience,we had better clear the airways, because they will be choc-a-block,for the next 100 years.

  55. 66 Albert Gans
    November 16, 2009 at 19:35

    What I find outrageous with such late apologies is that it indicates that society was not ripe to apologise earlier. While one can appreciate that the apology is made in the end, the problem with it being so late is that every day that passes without an apology (or more) the hurt gets reinforced. A late apology will only right this in part

    Albert Gans
    Antwerp, Belgium

  56. 67 Roy, Washington DC
    November 16, 2009 at 19:43

    If we’re going to start apologizing for the past if we benefit off of it (as some are arguing we should do with slavery), where do we draw the line? Are we still going to be apologizing for it in 50 years? 100? 500?

  57. November 16, 2009 at 19:46

    Apology welcome.Britain should apologize too. The main culprit is Britain.The so called developed and civilized countries of present have been the perpetrators of heinous crime against humanity in the past. At least acknowledgment and apology will be a minimum compensation.

  58. 69 steve
    November 16, 2009 at 19:47

    Let’s be honest, the lessons of the past are still not learned, even when there are apologizes. After WW2, there still has been numerous genocides, like in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Darfur….

  59. 70 Tom D Ford
    November 16, 2009 at 19:50

    Some of the Corporations that made money from these abuses are still in existence and they ought to be made to pay reparations for what they did.

    Cheap prison labor in Australia, slavery in the US, on and on.

  60. 71 steve
    November 16, 2009 at 19:54

    Another example of whitewashing of history, is ignoring that Africans themselves were involved in the slave trade. It wasn’t europeans capturing africans. It was other africans. Tribes would have rivalries and capture other tribe members, then give them to slave traders. This was how the slaves were acquired in the first place, yet the entire blame of the slave trade gets pinned on the europeans who transported them.

  61. 72 Jasper Visitor
    November 16, 2009 at 19:56

    How come Africa has not applogized for its role in the slave trade. Afterall did they not sell their who people to the Europeans.

    What about the Middle East. They still have Africans and Asians as slaves.

  62. November 16, 2009 at 22:58

    In scientific research, and that includes medical science, relabelling things which had seemed certainties as errors, or gliltches, is an importantduty, which facilitates progress towards greater understanding of the natural world.
    Relabelling past policies as Injustices, Exploitation; Abuse of Human Rights, helps clear the way for political and social advancement.`
    The apology to Indigenous Australians by the people of Australia, subsequently endorsed by Prime Minister Rudd on assuming office was very meaningful to the Indigenous Australians I know personally.
    The message of Jesus to love your enemies, also your neighbours, and restore to those you have wronged, aand to confess the wrongs you have done yourself, is the real deal.

  63. 74 Sedi, UK
    November 17, 2009 at 00:20

    It is a step in the right direction. A sign that shows that collectively we condemn those deeds of our ancestors and today share and empathise with those who went through the ordeals. It helps heal those emotional wounds for the victims and allows governments to gain people’s confidence.

  64. November 17, 2009 at 11:30

    Government apologies, or institutional apologies for that matter, accomplish many real things. Such apologies put in right perspective the enormity and social grossness of the collective inter generational sins or wrongs committed in the past by social institutions to individuals, and as such gives the right gravity to the action that was wrong. And public institutional apologies like a Government will do to a group of individuals or to an individual him self will institutionalise the apology, will put in record for ever that such institution was wrong, and will warn future institutions, future individuals, and future social groups that such wrongs or sins may happen again in the future if society is not vigilant enough.

  65. 76 T
    November 17, 2009 at 16:03

    Done the right way, an apology can be a good thing.

    What’s really bad is when politicians and celebs go on endless apology tours. This usually means that they’re plugging a book in the process as well.

  66. 77 clarence mcmullen
    November 17, 2009 at 16:07

    This fad of apologies is the most phony and insincere fad. If you really feel bad about doing something, undo it. Leave Austraila, Canada and many other nations to the native people. What about the injustice that the rich nations are doing to the poor nations or even the rich to the poor in one nation. It is easy to sit in your airconditioned office and fancy buildings and apologies. This is hypocracy in the extreme. Human history is a history of powerful exploiting and oppressing the powerless. We have seen the comrades turing into worse oppressors..

    The right thing to do is undo the wrongs, which no nation can do. How far back you can do in history? So just accept the fact that you are an explitor and oppressor and enjoy the good you have now. Soon your turn will come and you would be there where the people you are so condesendly aplogies to are now.

  67. 78 Josiah Soap
    November 17, 2009 at 16:45

    Is there apology sincere, or aimed at winning votes. I don’t know. Actually I am not quite sure what to make of these posts anymore. Here most the comments say that an apology is warranted and worthwhile. However, when you look at the same story that ran on the BBC news website several days ago, there was an overwhelming response that you cannot apologise for someone else’s actions. Maybe in a totally unmoderated blog we might be able to better judge society’s reaction.

  68. 79 Don in Detroit
    November 18, 2009 at 03:05

    Its easy for those who have been taken in by media propoganda to believe that only black americans were ever persecuted. A freind of mine who was both white and suburban and just a few years younger than I took his life by overdosing on pills and alcohol a couple of weeks back. Unfortunately in our culture his would not be anything particularly noteworthy unless you knew his back story. He was institutionalized as a child not because there was anything drastically wrong with his mind but simply because he posed an inconvenience to the public powers that were back in 1960. They hadn’t bothered to look past their hubris and insistence that everybody should be able to be filtered through the same meat grinder and expected to produce a homogenous product. During his institutionalization he was drugged and physically and sexually abused for three years more or less. Had he been in the cuttody of an agency of the Catholic Church when these atrocities happened (statutes of limitations do not seem to apply in those cases) he would have legal grounds to sue for sufficient damages to compensate him for the fact that he was so traumatized by the experiences that he was never able to consistently keep a job in all the years of his adult life. Since if was a government that perpetrated the abuses he was estopped from getting into a court of law to assert that they ever even occurred. What was even worse, the fact that he was deemed to have a “pre-existing condition (mental illness) which made him uninsurable” was more than sufficient excuse to dissuade any reputable employer from ever considering hiring him. In short, the prophecy that he would never be able to function in the world was not prescient – it was merely self-fulfilling. Governemnt words only help when they are backed up by putting reparations on the line and this governments have been far too self-aggrandizing, greedy, and arrogant of power to ever be willing to do. Words are the most useless form of reparation and serve only to assuage the consciences of the guilty on the cheap without doing a damn tning to validate the rage and sense of helplessnes felt by their victims.

  69. 80 Johann from Colombia
    February 26, 2010 at 06:41

    After living for five years in Britain as a postgraduate student, I can observe that it is a very British thing, this apologizing.And, as other readers write here, it is often meaningless and automatic, not at all heart-felt. For those of you who live in Britain, just think of small bumps with fellow passengers in the underground or bus, and the robotic, automatic “sorry” Brits always utter… do the bumpers actually feel anything inside except “aw, this guy is on my way, I can’t help but to bump in him!”?

    I find it extremely interesting that both the French president and the Rwandan activist find apologies for French involvement (or silence) during the genocide unnecesarry, or meaningles. “It makes no difference al all to me”, says the activist. Sure, she is not British, as neither is Sarkosy.

    A reader says “better a late apology than none at all”. But it seems non-brits seem to think “apologies – useless”.

    It seems to be a cultural thing then.

    Crimes have penalties. I someone commits a crime, they should be judged, and sentenced accordingly. Apologies are totally useless, and meaninlgess for many non-UK nationals


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