The politics of apology

Kevin Rudd has taken full responsibility for the failure of the home insulation scheme. He is ‘disappointed’ in himself for not asking more questions, he said. Yet, had he asked more questions, he may have been accused of not trusting his own minister – a minister, who is an ‘excellent minister’ and a ‘very genuine person’. Rudd apologised to the home insulation industry. He said sorry again. We are, therefore, back in the realm of apology – a new phenomenon which has enveloped left wing governments of the entire western world over the past few years. Yet the geography of apology is another country. It is a country, thus far, unknown to any politics. Yet authentic, genuine apology is well recorded as transformative. 

Probably the most widely known and accepted program of apology was developed by the ‘Oxford Group’ ( a Christian group of the 1920 and 30’s) and which became well known as The Twelve Steps, used by Alcoholics Anonymous and many other programs addressing addiction problems. All these programs require rigorous honesty from the individual as they admit to God, themselves and to one other person, the nature of their wrongs. Step number eight requires the individual to have ‘made a list of all persons we have harmed, and became willing to have made amends to them all’. This step above all things requires the individual to ‘become willing’ to make amends. Step number nine requires the individual to have ‘made amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others’ 

It is not necessarily ‘the amends’ which Kevin Rudd and the global left are having trouble with. It is the ‘becoming willing’ to make amends – particularly when it can be seen that they, the left, have been involved in the action for which they are apologising. Governments are not individuals, and therefore cannot feel the responsibility necessary to ‘become willing’. These governments do not enact apologies to take responsibility, they do it to abduct responsibility. The minister ‘did not know’ or it was the flawed imperialist thinking of the early twentieth century enacted by the other side. They continue the small lies of politics unable to enter the real spiritual arena of true apology. They are much more focused on bringing a matter to a point of closure than they are in transformation. Any compensation to be paid will be paid with other people’s money and will need to go through particular guidelines or courts. 

The apologies of these governments can never be complete. They do not understand the level of honesty required for them to be considered genuine. So the threat of a relapse, further addiction and the impending doom remain. Though they apologise, somehow, they have not been forgiven.

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