Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Apologia per metered sewer

Public apologies come in different forms, but mainly fall into one of two categories:

The non-apologetic apology, which involves gritted teeth and an expression of regret that one’s accuser is a prat. The recent Papal apology is very much characteristic of this first type:
At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.
These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.
Yesterday, the Cardinal Secretary of State published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words.
And for the second type, consider the gush of turgid emotion, very common in ‘celebrity’ tiffs and divorcers. By no accident, today brings an A* example :
It's all over between Chris Tarrant and his wife, Ingrid.
The TV presenter has told reporters that he only has himself to blame for the marriage collapse.
"I am deeply sorry for the hurt I have caused to my loyal wife and wonderful children, all of whom I adore.
"I have only myself to blame for the breakdown of my marriage.
"While the liaison which has led to all of this was not significant in my life, I will always regret the hurt and pain that I have caused to those whom I love.
"I now appeal to the media to leave us all alone to allow us to deal in private with what are intensely personal and private matters.
Malcolm begs to persist with considering this second type a moment more.

In passing (ahem: let that be a warning of what is to ensue), a short while back, Malcolm was pleased to read of a project to teach the Norfolk dialect in local schools. Even so, he doubts that “Heb yer got the squits, bor?” will feature in the vocabulary taught. Anyone with a delicate constitution should look away now: the question is whether one’s digestive tract is severely over-active.

The verbal equivalent of the ‘squits’ is logorrhoeia. Think of it as the dia- version, but from the other end.

It persists in an acute form among elderly, decent, benign clerics, particularly those of the Anglican persuasion. Last February, the Church of England Synod received a motion (“Sarry ‘bowt thet un, mawtha”) to apologise for slavery. The motion needed to be stronger, so:
An amendment "recognising the damage done" to those enslaved was backed overwhelmingly by the General Synod…
The amendment was supported by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu.

Dr Williams said the apology was "necessary".

He said: "The body of Christ is not just a body that exists at any one time, it exists across history and we therefore share the shame and the sinfulness of our predecessors and part of what we can do, with them and for them in the body of Christ, is prayer for acknowledgement of the failure that is part of us not just of some distant 'them'."
Malcolm is sure that makes sense in the original Episcopal, because it passes him by like the idle wind (Malcolm wonders if anyone expected that to be attributed to Spinal Tap: oh well, by popular request).

Such apologetics took concrete form when the late, and somewhat lamented Bernie Grant, as MP for Tottenham, suggested that the Crown Jewels be flogged off, and their value – somehow – be returned to the exploited from whom they had been alienated. Now, Malcolm had a nodding acquaintance with Bernie, and Bernie enjoyed “stirring it”. However, had Bernie’s suggestion been acted upon, the first customer in the queue might have someone like the late and unlamented Emperor Bokassa I (and, thankfully, only), wishing to share such baubles with his grateful subjects and a Swiss bank-vault.

The Reverend – sorry, too much Private Eye, the Right Honourable Tony Blair has been a serial apologist: to the Guildford Four (for false convictions which occurred years before he even entered Parliament), for recent intra-party mouthings (which were not from him, but aimed at him), to an elderly heckler at Conference (who was evicted from his seat by private-enterprise marshals, not under Blair’s direct control), to the President of Brazil (for a shooting in which neither of them had any direct responsibility), and all the rest. google.com will find you two and a quarter million references to “blair+apology” (though by no means all of them refer to our Tone).

Malcolm was about to finger 1st June 1997 as said Anthony’s most cringe-worthy apology:
Tony Blair has issued a statement on the Irish Potato Famine 150 years ago which amounts to the first apology expressed by the British authorities.

At a weekend festival in [Millstreet,] County Cork to commemorate the famine, which claimed one million lives, a letter was read out from the Prime Minister in which he blamed "those who governed in London" at the time for the disaster. The statement was read to an audience of 15,000 at a concert by the Irish actor Gabriel Byrne. In it, Mr Blair said he was pleased to join in remembering those who had died and suffered during "the great Irish famine".

He went on: "The famine was a defining event in the history of Ireland and Britain. It has left deep scars. That one million people should have died in what was then part of the richest and most powerful nation in the world is something that still causes pain as we reflect on it today. Those who governed in London at the time failed their people."
On second reading, though, this is clearly and definitively a class 1 non-apology. Dontcha just love the damning of "those who governed in London at the time"? It clearly points the finger at Lord John Russell's Whig Government, and lets Peel's Tories off the hook. Possibly, just possibly, one might whiff the odour of sanctity from the history-teaching of Seafield Convent Grammar School, Crosby, herein.

Hmm, a public health warning here: Malcolm feels a creative urge coming on that, at some later juncture, he may need to put the world straight about the "Great Famine" and the "Irish Diaspora".

For the moment, though, Malcolm maintains we might usefully return to more robust times. Like all the best blogs, he resolves that he will "never explain, never apologise":
It is a good rule in life never to apologise. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.

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