How not to apologise
We do not seem to quite understand what is meant by an apology.
As the dictionary says an “apology” is: A regretful acknowledgement of an offence or a failure.
Every day I hear and read of people in the public eye purporting to apologise for something or the other that they have said or done and it is clear to me that far from apologising, we simply go through some format and move on.
The latest in the series issuing these non-apologies would be the Member of Parliament for Madina, Francis-Xarvier Sosu.
I had been following this Member of Parliament especially when he sponsored a Private Member’s Bill that has led to the striking out of the Death Penalty from our laws.
He is reported to be also currently involved in trying to get taxes removed on sanitary pads and I had been toying with writing to him about my ideas on the issue.
But before I could do that, he was shown spewing a tirade of unbelievable foul and vile language at the #OccupyBOG demonstration organised last week by the Minority in Parliament.
The very next day, the MP issued what was reported on the radio as an “unqualified apology” following his outburst during the demonstration.
He followed it up with various appearances on media outlets.
The statement he issued was short enough to be reproduced here.
First thing I noticed was that he himself had labelled his apology as “unqualified” and it was not an adjective supplied by the reporters.
I wish to sincerely apologise for my choice of words during my outburst yesterday.
I unreservedly apologise for my actions and words and ask that all those offended would find a place in their hearts to forgive me.
I have reflected and realised that though I spoke those words, out of anger and extreme provocation, I was completely out of character.
Hence, consistent with my avowed values, I am sincerely sorry.
When I reached the second sentence of the statement, I discovered that far from it being an unqualified apology, there were qualifications.
He unreservedly apologises for his actions and words and asks that all those offended would find a place in their hearts to forgive him.
Obviously, the Honourable Member of Parliament did not think that the actions and words he was apologising for, had offended everybody.
He knows there are some amongst the public on whom he unleashed his foul language who would not be offended and would probably laugh it off.
The apology therefore is aimed at the thin skinned amongst us.
If the MP indeed wanted to apologise, he would not be directing it to “all those offended”, he would know that the apology should be directed to everybody, without any qualifications.
Then he proceeds by stating that he had “reflected and realised that even though I spoke those words out of anger and extreme provocation, I was completely out of character”.
At this stage, the Honourable MP lost me completely.
We are supposed to understand that it was the anger and extreme provocation that drove him to utter those words and he wants us to believe that the words were completely out of character.
So, indeed, this is not an unqualified apology.
As he went from media station to station to expand on his statement, it was clear that the fault did not lie with the Honourable MP, even though he said he was taking full responsibility.
Of course, he did not make himself angry and it was the “frustration about the rotten system” in the country that had driven him to such language. If only things weren’t so hard in Ghana and the system weren’t so rotten, the Honourable MP would never have been driven to such extremis.
He is obviously not accepting any, never mind, full responsibility.
Going on this tangent of a qualified apology, he now asks us to take a truly huge leap in the dark on his behalf.
He says what he said and did, as a result of anger and extreme provocation, were completely out of character.
Character? I was taught that there are certain words and expressions that would never come out of your mouth, even if you were in a room by yourself, with the door locked.
Honourable MP, life is full of anger and extreme provocation and we can’t ever tell when we would walk into one of those situations.
If anger and extreme provocation can drive you to such language, then it is surely dangerous to take a chance on what you would come up with the next time.
The Honourable MP is suggesting that if we are conversant with his character, if we know the type of person that he is, when he is not angry and when he is not provoked, we would know that the foul language that poured out of him, was not the real him.
Well, when I watched that video of him, I must say he did not sound at all like he was saying something that was alien to him or that he was employing language that he was uncomfortable with, indeed, he sounded quite practiced, like the type of thing he says regularly.
And that is what I mean by the Honourable MP going into dangerous territory, inviting us to accept that what happened was out of character.
As a Member of Parliament and lawyer, you could, if you thought you could get away with it, try a qualified apology; show us the extent of the provocation, tell us about the young man, out of camera shot who was mouthing the words to you and you just repeated them.
You could tell us, like I have heard a panellist on TV3, who when challenged on his persistent use of abusive language on the President of the Republic, claimed that our politics allows for “robust language”.
But it would seem to me that if you are going to apologise for use of “unsavoury” words, it is better to stay on the straight and narrow.
The apology is and must be to ALL, and not to those you think might have been offended; even if some friends of yours tell you they enjoyed your outburst.
You decide that what you said was offensive, that decision is not up to the public, that is how we judge character,
Don’t try to find any justification for what you are apologising for, no matter how tempting.
And as we all know, our lives are now ruled by an unforgiving and unforgetting Internet, so don’t send us to look up your past use of language.
An apology is first to yourself and if you are not persuaded you are wrong