Apologies are heard all too frequently these days after a reckless insulting assault aimed at convenient racial targets or the less powerful. They seem to come too easily and smoothly nowadays, these empty canned lamentations of remorse. It as though they possess a practiced professionalism about them that infuriate further watchful listeners and observers. My thinking is that in many instances they are meagre in both substance and genuineness. The graceful thing to do is to accept, give benefit of the doubt and move on, and hope for no future repetition of the ugliness that made an apology necessary in the first place. In view of the increasing tendency to speak or lash out or beat down first, and hope for the brain to catch up later, they are worth another look. The whole question is this: do these public apologies mean anything?
First of all, I wonder what does “I am sorry” really mean? A lot of the time, it is a tossup between the supposedly contrite sorrowful over being exposed and forced to express regret for being so stupid by going public with private bigotries (or failing to appreciate that the offensive diatribe would go public). Does the apology have anything much to do with the hurt inflicted? Or is it merely a pro forma confession demanded by the circumstances, now part of a shabby ritual? In this day and age, it is mindboggling that the offenders believe that no pain would be caused or felt; that deep piercing follows the contemptuous verbal batteries. Everyone is so smart, so connected, so modern that the pretense of ignorance or momentary lapse (not the real me) fails to register on the authenticity scale and only provokes scorn.
As examples, there are those individuals in the public domain who take advantage of mass media or cyberspace channels to spread lies, sleaze, prejudice, and rancour. They carry on until caught. Then comes the interesting part when one observes the carefully structured, patently hollow words of contrition. When caught red-handed in mindless rants involving some outrageous inexcusable folly, there is the oral hara-kiri and the solemn cosmetics that reek of insincerity and forced humility. These apologies are usually (not always) exercises in hypocrisy. Having been uncaring and searing, there is the staged mea culpa compelled by the angry backlash. Having tasted the vicarious thrill of calling humans animals or condemning a whole race (or lifestyle) to hell, there is now the unconvincing breast-beating and handwringing. Those offering patented apologies should know that they are not antidotes for what had to be psychologically toxic and bound to be electronically viral. Who among the forced confessors could not have known that a lot of pain and angst would result? For those who are inclined to be lenient, I say that there are some excesses that strain Christian patience and must be looked upon skeptically. In all of this, there is difficulty in believing the public relations exercises of those rendered red-faced through red-handed evidence of exhibiting their true inner self and then suddenly finding god.
Because they are delivered so effortlessly in these times, I view apologies as a dime a dozen; sometimes they may not be forthcoming at all, including after some really foul circumstances. In terms of the dime-a-dozen variety, they have been so overused by some that they have worn thin; they have become so hollow as to lack meaning and not worthy of the courtesy of serious consideration, or of even cursory reception. As for those needed apologies that are definitely overdue but rarely, if ever, issued, all one has to do is review the history of politics and political leadership in this country. Many huge mistakes have been made, great wrongs inflicted and perpetuated where the will of the peoples of this nation has been continuously subverted for rich personal gain. And yet, there are only those walking tombs of baleful silence and ominous defiance. Over the decades and up until just recently, the populace in one form or another has been thoroughly misled and injured; citizens are still subject to the same ruthless exploitations, despite the fancy speeches and hand-over-heart promises to change and start from scratch and which has reduced to shabby salesmanship the interests of the continually neglected and mistreated. Guyanese need more than apologies; they need clean action and self-sacrificing leadership in all realms before the apologies, if they ever are delivered, are to mean anything.
As can be gleaned, I have serious problems with apologies from those who share naked hurtful biases and then rush to coverup to regain credibility.