Why does no one say sorry properly any more?

From Telegraph blogs January 18, 2013

Lance Armstong has done his apology thing, sort of – he’s admitted to cheating and now we can get on with his rehabilitation.

It wasn’t the weakest confession, admittedly: at least he didn’t cry or claim to be suffering from depression.

The cycling cheat said: “I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times,” and that “I made my decisions, they are my mistake and I’m sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I’m sorry for that.”

But there’s something unseemly about the process of confession by Oprah, and the implied all-too-soon rehabilitation.

I suppose we should be pleased that our society has become more gentle than in times when the publicly disgraced blew their brains out, or committed effective suicide by heading to the Holy Land, but some period of self-ostracism would seem appropriate.

What Armstrong did was truly appalling. He cheated the entire sport and dented public confidence in it, including youngsters who aspire to cycle professionally. He denied real sportsmen their rightful prize. And when a newspaper found out, he used Britain’s absurd medieval libel laws to cover up the truth (medieval is the most overused pejorative term in British newspapers, but our libel laws are literally medieval, dating back to Edward I).

No one seems to apologise for anything these days. Consider the case of John Profumo, disgraced for his affair with a woman who was a security risk: he virtually disappeared until his death, head down, doing good works quietly. If it happened today Profumo would probably be back on TV within a week, sitting on a sofa and telling a compassionate interviewer that he’d been sexually abused as a youngster and it would all be revealed in his upcoming book, available on Amazon.

Today the House of Commons is full of publicly exposed liars, thieves and adulterers, almost none of whom have shown the slightest remorse for what they did. When MPs are found out they talk about “an error of judgment” or say that “mistakes were made”, the passive tense being used to suggest that they had no agency. What made them steal money from the taxpayers – the gods?

It’s hard to pinpoint what caused this cultural shift. Among the reasons must be the general move in favour of rehabilitation over punishment which began around the 1960s; the increased fear of lawsuits (the number of lawyers per head of the US population doubled between 1965 and 1995); the managerial revolution and its culture of “cover your ass” and rewarding failure, as witnessed during the banking collapse; and perhaps the cult of celebrity, whereby celebs (armed with PR machines) are subjected to lighter punishments than mere civilians.

The Northern Irish are the masters of the non-apology, or I should say Northern Ireland’s murderer community is. One of the conditions of the Troubles ending was that various IRA and UVF murderers appeared on television offering regrets about the people who had suffered during the conflict, all these things occurring in the passive tense, the gunmen actually blaming the killings on events, history and everyone but themselves.

In the meantime Tony Blair apologised for the Irish famine, and for slavery, because while no one apologises for their own misdeeds, people are quite happy to say sorry for things they had absolutely nothing to do with, such as this chap.

Maybe we can have a compromise, and get Lance Armstrong to apologise for the Crusades or the plight of the Australian Aborigines.

What do you think?