Monday, April 25, 2005All Apologies
“What else should I be. All apologies. What else should I say. Everyone is gay. What else could I write. I don't have the right. What else should I be. All Apologies” do you remember this song by Nirvana? if don’t even remember Nirvana than I must be really getting old. All right, forget it... its irrelevant but damn I couldn't get it out of my head the entire morning!
Anyway, during a summit for Asian and African leaders in Jakarta. Koizumi the Japanese Prime Minister... presented his country formal apologies for its savage past and for the atrocities made by Japanese armies during the WW2. The Japanese apology was mainly heading into the Chinese direction, after series of anti-Japanese protests erupted earlier this month in major Chinese cities over Tokyo's approval of school textbooks that China claims play down wartime atrocities
On the other hand, a couple of months ago, Gordon Brown, the British Finance Minister declared that Britain shouldn’t apologize for its colonial past, he added that the Brits should take pride in their past because the were able to spread their values through the savage world (that’s us).
As weird as it may sound to you, I agree with the British minister somehow... I don’t mean agreeing that the Brits were spreading their values, but what good is an apology? It will not erase the history or make you feel better in anyway. War crimes are not something that people will forgive easily. Since I find there is no need for Apologies, there is no need to forgive too... I’m sure that Mr. Brown will not deny this right from the colonial times victims. What people can do is to find a way to move around these apologies and forgiveness charade and just move on in order be pragmatic. Many believe that apologizing is a progressive step and related to “self-purifying” and a pillar for a starting a new page a la Alcoholics Anonymous twelve steps. In which the seventh step is apologizing to all the people around you who have been effected by your drinking problems.
Relating to the apologies game, the Catholic Church during the late John Paul II reign made quite a progressive jump by offering apologizes to the world for atrocities made through history, mainly during the Crusades and Inquisitions. Although, the apology was vague towards the Muslims. So, Al-Azhar and other Islamic institutes that kept nagging to get a formal apology from the Vatican like the one made towards the Jews. This nagging backfired when the Vatican demanded a counter-apology from Muslims for their expansionist wars mainly the invasion of Spain and the Ottoman wars in Christian lands. But Al-Azhar responded by saying that those wars didn’t represent Islam but the ambitions of Muslim rulers at that time, which is not true because Muslim rulers at that time were Caliphs and they were the sole legislator of Islam. And when the Vatican presented this fact in Muslims face, Al-Azhar refuted be saying that those wars were not as cruel as the Crusades and the Christian subjects were not forcibly converted like the inquisitions. The Azhar folks became stubborn like Mr. Brown the Brit minister, saying no remorse or apologies for invading Spain, Sicily, Constantinople etc. as they were important historical points for spreading values, science, philosophy etc. in Europe (the savage world then). Nevertheless, they were still wars. So, this ongoing dilemma caused a small drift between Arabs and the late Pope... but resulted in a massive PR failure from the Arabs side, wasted on stubbornness and unnecessarily arrogance. You have to read Twosret’s excellent post, where she explained how the Arabs failed in seizing the opportunity of a tolerant Pope like John Paul II.
I don’t see the importance of cultural apologies, but if they are an important prerequisite for reconciliation, then let’s start exchanging them.