Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Some Thoughts on Australian Forgiveness

My friend in Australia rejoices at Prime Minister Paul Rudd's decision to apologize to the indigenous Australian population for forced separation. Other Australians like Tim Blair says this in an aptly named post Happy Sorry Day!:

Sadly, the effect of the apology on those it’s aimed at is a secondary concern. This is more about smug white folks feeling nice about themselves. That’s why, despite it being an apology for allegedly terrible events, everybody is smiling.
Manny at Auspundits sees this as the beginning of indoctrination which is the government's ultimate goal:
Today, across Australia, state Labor governments and teacher's unions encouraged public schools to feature Prime Minister Rudd's apology to the "stolen generation" and to "educate" its pupils of the historical importance of this largely symbolic gesture. The kind of impetus and vigor with which this was pursued has not been seen in Australian life for well over a decade. Not even the "Public Schools: A National Priority" campaign was so shamelessly promoted.
My concern and the one I voiced to my friend a couple weeks ago, is that the apology is essentially toothless. It cannot right the wrongs. The children are damaged. (Google search it here.)

I'm highly suspicious of collective guilt generations on. Claire Berlinski wrote of the German psychology a few generations after the horrors of Hitler's regime. It's not good. Germany has its own peculiar need for pride and strength and discipline that has been lost in nihilistic angst but boils beneath the surface. It seems to me a uniquely German perspective. The guilt and fear feed resentment. At a certain point this reactionary emotion needs to be left behind.

In the Anglicized West--Britain, America and Australia--an uncomfortable pall rests on them for various reasons. Britain struggles with a pernicious multiculturalism and integrating Muslim populations. America struggles with another form of pernicious multiculturalism where Blacks harbor the legacy of slavery (and some still seek reparations), Latinos vie for special status and American Indians live apart, cut off from the American dream. In Australia, the Aborigines are, according to my friend, a shadow people operating out of the view of everyday Australians.

These strains of shame from the past suck the possibility from the present. They also separate peoples, isolating them from the potential of the new age. For the Aborigines, clinging to old custom will leave them behind the modern world. Is recognition that you're a victim a good thing?

My concern is that casting oneself as victim can be damaging long-term. If it induces helplessness and hopelessness, what's the point? And for those apologizing: Did you do the harm? Then, what good is the apology?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

You said: "Did you do the harm? Then, what good is the apology?"

Aside from the context that you are writing about here, I can only say that an apology is good for a number of things.

1. It shows a desire never to make the same mistake again - change of heart and change of mind.

2. It shows concern for those who have been injured.

3. It solidifies both number 1 and 2 by actually stepping out and physically and verbally doing the apologizing.

4. It heals the person doing the apologizing.

5. The person who has been apologized to will never forget it. They will feel valued on some level.

6. On a broader scope, we all mess up and we all need forgiveness at some point or another. We will also need to apologize at some point in our lives.

7. It is a level of human compassion and love and saying "I am so sorry," increases that capacity in all of us.

Melissa Clouthier said...

I understand your sentiment, Anonymous. But how would you feel apologizing to the grandchild who came out of the rape your grandfather committed? It was not your crime, nor was it the grandchild's to forgive. To me, this belated apologizing smacks of condescension as if mere words said by people marginally involved can make it better.

Anonymous said...

With this kind of thinking, I suppose, that the only thing left is "the cross" where all of man's sins have been forgiven.

Human beings are only capable of forgiveness if they choose to do so. They are the ones that choose to bind others to their sin. At that point, the one who has committed the wrong deed can and should free themselves once and for all- despite the justified reasoning of those who think it should not be that easy.

David said...

In 1940, C S Lewis wrote an essay on Dangers of National Repentance. The essay was sparked by a movement among liberal Christians calling for repentance of Britain's sins, which were considered to include the Versailles Treaty.

sandy said...

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