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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Uses of Apology

The new Pope, while speaking to an academic audience in Germany, quoted another pontiff of 600 years ago, who made statements that were highly critical of the Islam of his time and earlier. As a result, a tremendous outcry rose in many parts of the Muslim world, with demands for an apology, and after a while that was duly given.

In short everybody did what was expected of them, and so what has been accomplished?

Nothing much that I can see.

I think we can be certain that no minds have been changed. In such situations, whether they involve the statements of world leaders or ordinary citizens squabbling on a street corner, there should always be a question as to the function of apologies, despite the thundering demands that they be made. Surely everybody must know that no matter how profuse the apologies are, most of the time it is merely a case of the weaker party bowing to the stronger to get them off their backs and nothing else. There is never any way of knowing how sincere the apologies might be, and actually there are always grounds to suspect that they're not.

So why demand an apology? The offender wouldn't have given offense if that wasn't what he or she meant to do, and minds don't change that easily or at all. Maybe it's better to be grateful instead, for having been given valuable information on the adversary's true state of mind.

As in so many things there are exceptions to this, now and then. The most obvious ones are the several apologies that Bill Clinton, as President, made for past egregious follies of his countrymen. There can be no doubt that he was always genuine in his remorse about misdeeds in which he had played no part, and his apologies were all the more remarkable in that he must have known that they would furnish fresh fodder for the numerous attacks leveled against him by the Repubs.

In so doing, these congenital enemies missed an important point, which is that in these circumstances apologies did have an important use after all. They showed that in the U.S. there are still some, even in high places, who do have a high quality of conscience. So there's hope in that, at least.


Blogger Kiyotoe said...

These days, even an inkling of hope is worth being grateful for in this country.

Good read.

10:42 PM  

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