Cast member Spacey poses at the premiere for the second. REUTERS Cast member Spacey poses at the premiere for the second. REUTERS

The Culture of Apology

Mon, Nov. 6, 2017
CAIRO – 6 November 2017: Most people will apologize many times a day for a wide range of trivial circumstances. Take this from a Brit who has spent the majority of his life surrounded by apology addicts – there’s no better way to put it. We all know someone like this, and if you have ever travelled to England you will have experienced this by the barrel load. Failing to open a door, not buying someone a pint, even tripping over someone’s outstretched leg can lead to a barrage of apologies, remorse and requests for forgiveness.

A sincere apology is one of the most powerful things somebody can say. A sincere apology has the power to repair damage, fix relationships, heal wounds and restore broken hearts. Yet delivery is crucial. Even when an apology is offered with the best of intentions at heart, this meaning can be lost in translation and undermined by an inconsiderate delivery and a poor choice of words. Instead of offering console this can increase emotional pain and anger; the opposite of the original intention.

The power of an appropriate and correctly delivered apology is immeasurable. Not only providing assurance to one side that there is an acceptable amount of guilt and culpability; the one who offers an apology also gains surprising value.

On the centurion anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Palestinians in particular, Arabs at large, and vast swathes of the population called on the British government to issue an apology for its state building project in Palestinian territories in 1917. Although this would not reverse any of the wrongdoings made in the fallout of the First World War – particularly that to the Palestinians – the recognition of one’s mistake shows understanding and sympathy, and contributes legitimacy to the Palestinian struggle for retribution.

Regardless of your language, your culture, your religion or residence, there are certain rules we all associate with an apology. Of the many subjective rules which invalidate an apology, there are several which are essential. First is the absence of pressure and manipulation. Second is the absence of the conjunction “but,” which immediately annuls everything said previously. Third is to provide an attempted justification for one’s actions. And fourth is to avoid supporting one’s apology with subsequent corrective action.

These unspoken but essential rules have been abused by many individuals and states alike that have tainted the reconciliatory mechanism with an alternative set of ethics.

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A protest by Palestinian activists demanding the UK issue a formal apology for supporting the idea of a Jewish state in the Middle East. REUTERS

Many countries have gained infamy for their use of forced confessions and apologies to unjustly convict individuals of crimes. The signed issue of an apology confirms guilt, and thus allows authorities to prosecute individuals accordingly. This practice is widespread in many countries and undermines a principle so fundamental to our existence and social order.

In light of recent sexual harassment allegations, we have seen apologies, and often the lack of, used to an extraordinary effect. The most astonishing response thus far came from Kevin Spacey, one of the most admired and highly respected actors in the world and the face of some of the most watched films and TV shows the world.

When it was alleged that Spacey had made unwanted sexual advances towards actor Anthony Rapp when he was just 14, Spacey posted a feeble apology on Twitter which was condemned from all sides. Spacey committed many cardinal-apology sins in his statement. Not only did he say he could not remember the event, he highlighted his drunken state as a subtle justification for why he may have acted in such a manner.

Spacey also took this tweet – this apology – to come out to the world. To publicly open-up about one’s sexuality is a major feat for any man or woman, especially someone in the public eye, however to conflate the two together was a disturbingly miscalculated act by a man who’s on-TV character displays the greatest aptitude and skilled manoeuvring possible.

Highlighting his sexuality publically stole the headlines of many of the world’s most influential newspapers, and overshadowed the half-apology offered to Rapp. It has been seen that he fuelled the age-old belief shared by some that gay men pose a physical threat to children, this belief has arguably lost attention as the western public becomes more accepting of peoples’ sexualities.

Apologies are a power thing, and essential to keep out social order intact. Everyone makes mistakes in their life, yet apologies allow people a channel to break-away from their mistakes. However, the use of apologies has been used and abused by many people, places, companies and causes in the aspiration to gain some notion of an advantage.

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Joseph Colonna


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