Saying sorry is fashionable and it is right 2 July 2020
When I was sixteen years old a poster of Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw in Love Story (1970) adorned my bedroom wall.
Across the image was written “love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
A lot has happened in those 50 years since and apologies seem to be quite popular these days. In fact, it’s the first thing called for. Justice appears to be high on the list but saying sorry tops it in many – well let’s call them journalists’ – minds.
It was gratifying to see The West Australian’s humbling apology for printing a Modesty Blaise comic strip on Monday. It contained an offensive description of black people.
If you try to find it, The West has sensibly deleted the strip from their digital platform. The comic strip is product of another age and The West got their just desserts by running it. No one checked the copy. I wonder if anyone checks the crossword before putting it to print. Could one day fuck appear instead of duck (only a key away so an easy error) or aunt be replaced by a word even more despised? The days of newspapers employing “readers” and long tables of eagle-eyed sub-editors are long gone.
As an aside, I recently read a Biggles book. Capt. W.E. Johns wrote these boys own adventure tales, first published in 1932 and they were still being written in the late 1960s. “Nigger” was frequently used in the text. Modesty Blaise falls into similar territory and, a bit like the early James Bond films, have inappropriate sexual and racist references not attuned to modern society.
However, The West apologised for its blunder on their own front page and the crowd loved it. Letters to the Editor praised The West. Love was there because the newspaper did say sorry.
On the same day, environmentalist Michael Shellenberger in The Australian apologised for scaring people about climate change.
“On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologise for the climate scare we created over the past 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.
“I may seem like a strange person to be saying all of this. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30.
“But as an energy expert asked by the US congress to provide objective testimony, and invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to serve as a reviewer of its next assessment report, I feel an obligation to apologise for how badly we environmentalists have misled the public.”
Michael Shellenberger, page 1 The Australian 1 July 2020
One suspects “environmentalists everywhere” were not happy being included in Shellenberger’s apology but then The Australian wouldn’t be that group’s daily publication of choice.
Many, like me – without Shellenberger’s experience or credentials in these matters – thought his comments made common sense.
Many of us believe climate change, we just don’t believe those who want to scare the pants off the rest of the world with it. In the year (age?) of Covid-19, climate change certainly does not get as much air play as it once did.
(Some could argue that with travel restrictions and people locked down at home, the earth is getting a break it needed from fuel fumes so their concern is lessened?)
Once at a pristine beach near my home I saw a young family walk past. The pre-primary school age daughter looked out to sea and saw a ship with smoke coming from its funnel. “Look Mummy, a pollution ship,” she said. How sad, I thought, to fill such a young agile mind with these fears. One great advantage of childhood is not having to care about adult problems. Then that was yesterday.
Anyway, back to Shellenberger. The Australian’s readers were very happy an environmentalist had apologised. Just what readers of left-wing leaning publications would expect of The Australian’s readership.
There is a lesson here, especially for politicians of all persuasions: Apologise immediately. Come clean.
“Minister, can you explain how your female chief of staff and you had only one hotel room on that trip to the Gold Coast? How a restaurant bill of $445.50 for only two diners was charged to your imprest account when the diners were in fact yourself and Ms Sharpe?”
“Very interesting you should raise that. Ms Sharpe was feeling quite poorly after eating a dodgy bacon and egg breakfast on the flight to the coast. I thought it better if she stayed in my room so I could keep an eye on her well-being as she has a history of nausea and vertigo after plane trips.
“The dinner bill was exacerbated by two bottles of St Henri which I mistakenly believed were a gift of the management. My personal credit card was maxed out so I put it on my electorate account credit card. Of course, I will be paying the full amount back.”
“So the two of you stayed overnight in one room, despite you being married for 32 years and Ms Sharpe was well enough to imbibe in expensive red wine by dinner time?”
The story runs for a week with every aspect of ministerial expenses and sexual connections investigated. Why not just tell the truth?
“My chief of staff and I have been having an affair for two years and I apologise for the hurt this revelation has caused to my wonderful wife, Margaret, and our children, Brett and Tori.
“As a Federal Government minister I do not apologise for drinking fine red wine. I earn a bucket load for my role and it is one of the few benefits I take from the job.
“I thought as Ms Sharpe and I were travelling for ministerial reasons, it was fair to put the bill on my electorate account. It has since been pointed out to me that this is not a legitimate parliamentary or electorate expense and that I should repay the amount with one strike recorded against my name for improper use of public funds.
“Again, I apologise to my family, my fellow party members and the Australian public.”
Massively embarrassing. Over in a day.
Erich Segal, you got it wrong. It looked good on the poster but even love requires you to say sorry when you are wrong.