Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Personally, of course, I Regret Everything

Tony Blair expressed 'deep sorrow' for slavery. He didn't actually say he was sorry. This was wise. If there are going to be apologies for slavery then Africans - chiefs sold slaves - and Arabs - very enthusiastic traders - should also be bowing their heads. And, of course, slavery was finally banned because of the British. Meanwhile, Tim Willis in the First Post suggests the Romans should apologise for their invasion. This may have been 2,000 years ago but the British still haven't recovered from the 'collective trauma' that ensued. In addition, the Romans enslaved 100,000 of us. Willis does not go far enough. To my delight - see this post - we seem to have discovered that Norwegians served in the Roman legions. I have always wanted to wring an apology out of Oslo. But what about the French? They invaded in 1066 and I have had a slight headache ever since. Speaking of which, the Dutch have always made me uneasy. Who do they think they are? And don't get me started on the Swiss. Or the Austrians. I'll apologise for the British Empire - maybe - if they'll apologise for being annoying. And, ohmygod, cake-muffins! Just say it, America. Sorry. And I apologise to everybody I've ever offended in this blog. Except Yvette Cooper. And Ed Vaizey. And Richard Dawkins. And Jeffrey Archer.
*The wonderful headline, since you ask, is not mine but Samuel Beckett's.
**Good grief! And I just discovered this site. Go there and apologise now.


  1. I can't apologise to my wife for leaving the toilet seat up. Just as well I'm not in politics.

  2. Wasn't it the Normans who invaded in 1066? But hair-splitting apart, I think the Norweigans have a lot more to answer for than either the Normans or the French, because if Harald Hadrada had not invaded first and worn poor old Harald Goodwinson out, he would have won the battle of H, and we would not be a nation with any inclination to apologise to anyone. (maybe -- but I make the assertion in the spirit of this blog being a Thought Experiment).
    Good post, Bryan -- great blog. (And I didn't write that just to get through your comment moderation system.)

  3. Oh yeah, sure, they called themselves Normans, Maxine, but didn't you notice the hooped sweaters, berets, strings of onions and marked lack of soap? French. Definitely.

  4. One has to agree with Anthony Beevor on this one. An apology such as Blair's is utterly meaningless. He's not sorry. And he's not speaking for the British nation, as I'm quite certain no sane British person is beating themselves up over the issue. He also made a statement about the Irish famine in the past few days that stopped short of an apology. This was noted by some, but as an Irishman I can quite honestly say that I couldn't care less whether Mr. Blair apologises or not. As long as it doesn't happen again, we can all be friends. Of course, if we did experience another famine, it probably wouldn't be a potato famine. Perhaps, it would be something on a smaller scale, and with less deaths and emigration: "The Great Cappuccino Famine" of 2020.

  5. One would have thought Blair's first apology ought to have been to the Iraqis.

    I'm a Celt - or half Celt - and the Celtic half of me was traumatised when we were invaded by waves of Anglo-Saxons and then Norsemen who took our lands and our daughters and deprived us of our ancient language. An apology from the Norwegians would be a good start.

  6. I think the Romans came here in about 55 BC. Or so I was told when I was 7 or 8 by one Mr Ross. Then the Germanic invaders, followed by the Vikings. Mr Ross liked the thought of them chasing some fat little monk with a huge battleaxe. So did I. Clearly explains a lot. The Normans themselves were, of course, frenchified Norsemen, who settled in Normandy in about 960 AD. The Norman Conquest of England (as well as Sicily) was a joint-stock enterprise, involving Bretons- stripey shirts- Poitovains, Flemings and many others. The late, great Channel Islander historian Jean-le Patourel was good on all this. I seem to remember that the Dutch invaded Britain too in the 17th century, but we tend to regard this as liberation from James II. No we don't need to apologise for the slave trade, not least because Evangelical British Christians played a major role in abolishing it. Apologies will only perpetuate group grievances- victimhood being one of the primary 'moral' incentives for persecuting others. Grow up, move on, and sing the new anthem: 'Polly, Polly, Toynbee Hurrah, Hurrah, Joy to the Community'.

  7. As ever, CaptainB says it all - but here's a linguistic footnote.In English the word 'sorry' has auseful degree of ambiguity built in - it can express either regret or apology, two very different things, only the second of them bearing any weight of moral responsibility. This enables
    Anglophones to appear to apologise while doing no such thing. The IRA
    mastered this art long ago, but it can also be quite a handy tactic in the battleground of marital strife...

  8. Good Lord is rather depressing.

    I think the French should apologise. No reason. I'd just like to see it.

    Maybe the biggest regret and the most important apology should come from us, the human race, to planet earth! Too deep? Sorry.

  9. I dug deep, wrestled with my conscience and left a comment on that site. And I have to say I feel immeasurably better for it. Truly, a weight off my mind. I hope my wife reads it.

  10. No, no, Lee, we like deep. It is what we aim for in our roundabout way. And apologising to the earth is eminently sounds. Well done, Neil, I am sure you feel much better.

  11. I really don't see the point in apologising for slavery. We as a society know now how wrong it was and have made sure it will never happen again, as with a lot of things. Who was he trying to please? Again Tony Blair speaking for a country that has lost all respect for him and no longer feels he's a spokesperson for.

    As for the potato famine, being a mid twenties male educated at a comprehensive school, the only knowledge I have of it is what I have learnt through TV. There was nothing in our history lessons at school that covered it. I was only directed to look it up after an episode of Alan Partridge where he said "At the end of the day, they will pay the price for being a fussy eater".

  12. We could, of course, have a national sorry day, get it all out of the way, breathe again and get on with it.

  13. About that weasel word, "Sorry." My favorite usage of it is when you're having an argument with a significant other and s/he says: "I'm sorry you feel that way." Isn't at all the same as saying you're sorry!

  14. In the U.S., Tony Blair would have said a few words more. He'd have expressed deep sorrow "to anyone who may have been offended by slavery." You British have a ways to go before you catch up to Americans in the oily, sneering yet groveling, non-apology apology department.

    P.S. Have Angela Merkel and Jacques Chirac expressed regret yet for Charlemagne's mopping up of the Avars?

    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder is More Fun Away from Home"

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