Mea culpa

Mea culpa is a Latin phrase that translates into English as “my fault”, or “my own fault” and it is one that has been used a great deal in 2010. The art of the apology has been much discussed in recent times as you will realise if you have been following the reaction to Tiger Woods’ 14 minute nationally televised mea culpa.

In today’s Sunday Star Times Finlay Macdonald explains why sorry is no longer the hardest word to say.

Let me take this opportunity to apologise publicly for not having apologised earlier. I’m sure there was something I should have apologised for, so take this as an all-purpose apology for whatever transgressions or offence I made or caused in the past. I’ve let my family down, I’ve let the public down and most of all I’ve let myself down. I’d also like to apologise in advance for whatever I do to upset people in the future. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

We live in sorry times, to be sure. Everyone, from horny sportsmen, to hapless corporate CEOs, to entire countries, is doing it. Sorry is the new black. If you’re not sorry – and expressing it publicly – maybe you’re hiding something. Get with the programme and beg for forgiveness.

Once upon a time, an event as stage-managed and ridiculous as Tiger Woods’ broadcast apology would have been a rare thing. These days it was merely another – albeit higher profile – mea culpa in the never-ending melodrama that is modern public life. The headline writer’s cliche used to be that “sorry seems to be the hardest word”, but these days the opposite seems truer.

I thought last year would be hard to beat, what with the collective shame of Rodney Hide, Bill “not a good look” English, Hone Harawira, Paul “retarded” Henry and Tony Veitch paraded across our screens almost nightly. Budget airline Jetstar was at it, too, buying full-page newspaper ads to atone for its check-in meltdowns. Overseas, musician Kanye West had to say sorry to Taylor Swift for being a jackass at the Grammy Awards, while Chris Brown apologised online for beating up his girlfriend Rihanna. It was a strange day indeed when no one felt compelled to publicly plead for mercy.

But 2010 is shaping up as an even greater annus apologeticus. Already, Britain has apologised for its evil child migrant scheme, and Toyota’s Mr Toyoda has been up before a congressional committee in Washington to apologise for selling wonky cars. Back in the UK, footballer John Terry has had to say sorry, as has broadcaster Jeremy Paxman – the former for actually doing what the latter only said on air.

Read the rest here.


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