Sorry and the police lorry

Barbara
Gloudon

Friday, August 23, 2019

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Have you noticed that “sorry” has become a sorry word? It seems to have lost its power, or maybe we no longer understand the concept. “Seh sorry!” — Parents demand that quarelling children utter the word. It very often was delivered grudgingly, sounding like a curse, as the offending child pitches the “sorry” like a stone.

Children aren't the only ones who can weaponise the “sorry”. In recent times we've seen public apologies making the rounds which really leave you wondering, who should be sorry? “I'm sorry if you took offence.” Translation: Why are you nyamming up yuself? I never really do nutten wrong!

In its truest intention, an apology is an act of contrition, an expression of regret, an attempt to make amends.

The latest paltry apology comes from the alleged driver of the motor car which was recorded spinning wildly on a busy thoroughfare in broad daylight. The 'apologiser' stated that he only came to find out that recklessly stunting on a public road was wrong when concern was raised by the public. Furthermore, he said, it only happened because the car was so powerful and fast.

Perhaps the apology should come from the car, which clearly led the alleged driver astray with its “aggressive” engine?

According to retired Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis, in an interview regarding his views on the incident, he said the car should have been arrested.

In the meantime, the police are under fire for accepting the apology and not bringing charges against the driver. The matter has now become complicated as another video has come to public attention showing that the apologiser may not be the doughnut-spinning driver. So, enquiring minds want to know: Will the police now have to reject the sorry and issue an apology for accepting the regret?

Fun and joke aside, apologies should not be a throwaway activity. There should be more value attached to sorry. Sorry should come from a place of compassion, where a genuine, heartfelt step is made towards making things right.

Apologies are a two-way process. Someone must accept the apology for there to be value to the exercise. But when we are wronged, do we want to accept the sorry? The receiver must also be ready to take the apology. Still, some say it's not the word but the action that counts.

In 2006, the Anglican Church issued an apology for its involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. The church body recognised its actions in sustaining and profiting from the trade. Rowan Williams, who was then the archbishop of Canterbury, said: “To speak here of repentance and apology is not words alone; it is part of our witness to the gospel to a world that needs to hear that the past must be faced and healed and cannot be ignored.”

Some accepted the declaration, remarking that it took deep contemplation to acknowledge and admit the error, and that brought them a level of peace. Others have said an apology is not enough; it must be followed up with action, specifically reparation paid to the descendants of slavery. Discussions continue not just in the Caribbean, but it has become a talking point in American politics as well. The details of how recompense should be handled is still a hot topic.

How do you show that you are really sorry?

On a different level of regret and restitution is the commonly heard statement that convicted prisoners should be made to work and pay back the victims of their crimes. The idea being that whoever takes the life of the breadwinner of a family, or causes the victims to be disadvantaged, should be made to assist and support those who have felt the brunt of the crime.

A friend once said, “I woulden want nutten from them. I could never tek that money and buy food. It would ride mi chest.”

For her it would be too hard to forgive, much less forget, and how would she forget if every pay cycle she was reminded of the crime?

In our thirst to make those who have wronged us pay for their deeds we sometimes call for severe and harsh punishment. The current head of the Jamaica Teachers' Association says the cat-o'-nine should be brought back to make paedophiles and other criminals really feel sorry for their actions. Sorry, Boss, I don't know if whipping the flesh off criminals will help our current situation, but I would be sorry to see that our answer to the savagery around us is to mete out more brutality.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@gmail.com.


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