Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Why all these apologies are such a sorry state of affairs

I beg your pardon. I'm so sorry. Please accept my apology. There, I've got that off my chest, we can relax now. I've decided to get the offers of apology in early doors in any conversation, just to save time afterwards.

If you haven't noticed, apologising is very in vogue this weather. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that saying sorry is the new black, but someone would probably find that offensive, so I'll save one apology at least by avoiding that phrase.

In the past two weeks alone Nick Clegg apologised for calling bigots bigots; Andrew Mitchell apologised for not calling policemen plebs; the comedian Alan Davies apologised to Liverpool for making a comment about the disaster at Hillsborough; Peter Robinson told the southern government they should apologise for their role in the Troubles and the BBC apologised to Buckingham Palace because one of their reporters said the Queen expressed an opinion about the Muslim cleric Abu Hamza.

If you took all the column inches devoted to covering apologies, both real and demanded, out of the news in the past fortnight, the papers would be skinnier than Victoria Beckham ... no offence love.

We've become used to the idea of governments apologising for historical offences - slavery, the Famine, Bloody Sunday.

But it seems the need to say sorry has infiltrated every aspect of public life. What's going on? Have we all become very touchy?

Am I the only person who thinks the whole Andrew Mitchell episode - Plebgate - is a complete storm in a teacup? So he may or may not have ranted at a couple of policemen.

Maybe they should come over here for a few nights next summer and they'll get a whole new perspective on offensive behaviour. It wouldn't be the word "pleb", but rather the plebs themselves, they'd have to worry about.

If things carry on at this rate we'll have footballers apologising to fans every time they lose a match; Usain Bolt saying sorry to the other seven runners when he wins his next race; the Orange Order apologising for not apologising for whatever it was the other side thought they'd done or not done, or not said they'd done or not said the right way ... gosh, it's exhausting just thinking about it.

Perhaps the personality cult is so pervasive now that no public figure feels comfortable with the idea of someone not liking them.

Everyone needs to be loved. So even if you say what you think and it's correct, like Nick Clegg saying people opposed to gay marriage are bigoted, you have to retract your words, not because you don't believe them, but because loads of full-time homophobes can't handle the truth.

Ironically the strictly straight brigade, in this case, failed to take it on the chin like a man.

Can we look forward to a future when the heroes of today have to apologise for the very things we praise them for now?

Like the founder of Facebook, Zuckerman, making a big heartfelt apology in the year 2050, to all those people who lived their lives online and ended up complete morons, capable only of communicating the minutiae of their empty lives through on-screen status updates and Likes?

Can't wait! There's nothing I like better than a bit of retrospective humble pie. And for that, I make no apology.

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