‘Mea Maxima Culpa: The Ruse of Political Apologies’

“It all seems a little bizarre, and a reversal of normal morality, which is…that ‘those who do harm must pay’.

“Instead, we, who did no harm, must apologize publicly for something over which we had no control, and politicians — who stand to gain by appearing morally upright — are extracting money from millions of citizens who were not even alive at the time, using it to pay off descendants who have suffered no harm, and whose only connection to the deemed sins of the past is their blood.” ERBLMeaMaximaCulpaTheRuseOfPoliticalApologies800x800-2“Is there a vague public awareness that we may be engaged in some unspecified evil at the moment, for which we could be taken to task by future generations? And if so, are we trying to alleviate the coming judgement by our children, so to speak, by apologizing now for the actions of those who came before us?

“Why else are we judging our predecessors so harshly, and in such boldly self-confident terms? Why are present-day politicians so eager to pay off survivors (or their descendants) for actions or events deemed quite normal at the time — but considered sins today — with money that is not theirs? … 

“Let us be honest. It is far too easy — it is, in fact, exceedingly false and prideful — to judge the actions of our ancestors when we were not there, living through their particular experiences. Indeed, something I find intriguing is the thought that in the very same circumstances, we would behave in much the same way…

“It is interesting to try and determine what human actions today our children will be apologizing for, and paying for, tomorrow.

“If I had to guess, I think they will be crying lots of tears for the native apartheid we are currently operating, at some $8 billion annually {2008}, which makes the residential school stuff look like a tea party…

“You see — there always have been, and always will be, lots of things for which a generation’s children, and their children, will be able to apologize for.”

–William D. Gairdner,
‘The Ruse of Political Apologies’,
in “Oh,’ Oh, Canada!”, BPS Books, Toronto (2008)

http://www.bpsbooks.com/oh-oh-canada-william-gairdner/

http://www.amazon.ca/Oh-Canada-Voice-Conservative-Resistance/dp/0978440293 

PM Harper and Fontaine -- June11,2016 -- Chris Wattie, Reuters
PM Harper and Fontaine — June11,2016 — Chris Wattie, Reuters

‘Mea Maxima Culpa: The Political Apology as an Instrument of Public Policy in Canada’

“Given the recent proliferation of official state apologies in Canada, it may be surprising to some that the ‘apologia politica’ is a rather new phenomena, marking what certain authors have described as the dawn of an ‘age of expiation’ (see Olick and Coughlin,2003: 37-38; Barkan and Karn, 2006: 25; Howard-Hassmann and Gibney, 2008: 2-4).

“Indeed, the federal government has issued seven official apologies over the past two-and-a-half decades…beginning in 1988 with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s apology for the internment of Japanese Canadians in British Columbia during World War II and lately, in 2010, with Stephen Harper’s apology to the families of the victims of ‘Air India Flight 182’…

“…Canada’s history of official political apologies, which include the 1988 apology to Japanese Canadians for the government’s policy of internment and deportation during World War II;
the 1990 apology to Italian Canadians for their internment during World War II;
the 1998 Statement of Reconciliation to Canada’s ‘Indigenous Peoples’ for Canada’s policy of forced removal and residential schooling;
the 2006 apology to Chinese Canadians for the Chinese head tax and exclusionary legislation;
the 2008 apology to Canada’s ‘Indigenous Peoples’ for its policy of residential schooling;
the 2008 apology to Canada’s South Asian community for the ‘Komagata Maru’ incident;
the 2010 apology to the families of the victims of ‘Air India Flight 182’ for the Canadian government’s institutional failings in responding to the tragedy;
and the 2010 apology to Canada’s Inuit community for their relocation to the High Arctic.

“This recent proliferation should not be mistaken, however, for unanimity over the nature of political apologies. Indeed, whether apologies should be delivered and how, by whom, where and what they include, and most importantly perhaps, what work they perform, have proven to be contested notions, effectively demonstrated in all of Canada’s recent apologies…”

–Karen Sharma, University of Manitoba

http://news.umanitoba.ca/using-political-apologies/
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