Sunday, February 17, 2008

Apology

The first day I landed in Sydney was the illustrious, much emphasized and much talked about "Sorry Day", an event that was omnipresent in all forms of media that I happened to get exposed to. The day when the state offered a former apology to the indigenous people of Australia for the misconduct towards them in general and a state policy in particular. This was a policy which allowed the state to forcefully separate indigenous children (now known as the Stolen Generations) from their parents and put them in various institutions, orphanages, etc. Australians went to the Parliament to hear this apology, children voiced concerns against such a ghastly act, and in general there was a general pool of emotion.

New as I am to my knowledge of Australia outside of their cricket, I was a little shocked to hear that this policy had been in use till as recently as 1970. But I was even more surprised that an answer to such a glaring and blatant injustice was merely a delayed apology, over which an entire nation was going hysterical. Is there really an expectation that the people stolen from their mothers, who never found a home since, will be moved to tears at this state apology and not hold any resentment anymore? Is an apology strong enough to do that?

I am not undermining the value of apology as a concept - it is the first step to setting things right often enough. But there is a context for everything. I can understand an apology for misconduct in general, but can you simply apologize for a holocaust and expect the victims to respond? And that when simply apologizing took so much deliberation, so many years of planning?
May be it helps someone, somehow - and may be the government will try to set things right. But imagine if someone stole you from your parents and twenty years later came back and said sorry. Would you refrain from punching his head for that word?

1 comment:

shiva said...

Yes, in some cases, an apology is not enough, but most importantly, it in this case reflects a change in attitude and coming from the prime minister, it has the potential to start the process of healing.