My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

My ebook
Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
" is available at
this link

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Sorry Onslaught

In most cases, it may be too late to apologize. Still, this year is surely the year for saying “Sorry”. The Sorry season began in February with the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd saying sorry in the parliament for the laws and policies that "inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss" to the aborigines. This was followed by the Canadian Prime Minister, Steven Harper, who said sorry to Canada’s aborigines for policies similar to those in Australia. Recently, Obama's presidential campaign said sorry to the two head-scarf wearing Muslim women who were denied a seat behind Obama so that his non-Muslim credentials were not jeopardized. And Fiat, CNN, Mattel, BBC and several corporations said sorry to China over the last 12 months for various reasons.

Of course, these apologies are on top of the millions of utterances of “sorry” everyday, a word repeated so much that it has lost much of its power. So much pestered was a teacher in my small town school by irrelevant apologies that he frequently repeated a rhyming maxim, “Sorry is not a lorry to carry your faults”. Also given that we hear “sorry” most while using public transport, the word has got associated with minor inconveniences like a nudge, a sneeze, or an accidental stepping on feet. According to a survey conducted in Britain, a person on an average says sorry 1.9 million times in his lifetime. This should mean that a person also commits more than 1.9 million mistakes in his lifetime. No wonder we hate each other so much.

Given this loss of impact of the word “sorry”, people are using different methods to embellish its effect. Some take to saying it several times as Kevin Rudd did when he said “sorry” seven times. Some add lavish garnish; the Canadian “sorry” was backed up by a $1.9 bn deal to placate the affected.

But then, a lot of people can still hang around without uttering the word “sorry”. Take immigration officials, college admin staff, traffic police, or credit card collection agents for example. These are the very people who should say sorry the most; instead it is being used by hapless commuters.

Some may argue that the public transport “sorry” is as apologetic as saying “you suck” or as fake as saying “I am liberal”. But then, if this is a sign that true feelings cease to exist, there is indeed hope. One just has to hear the automated yet well-rehearsed and sugary sweet apologies while dialing customer support numbers.

No comments: