Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

Gosh, there are some sparkling wits in the Liberal party, aren't there.

There's Tony "Stand Up" Abbott, with his hysterical improvs. "Did you hear the one about the suicidal NSW Opposition Leader? Yuk, yuk, yuk". I was almost rolling off my seat clutching my sides with mirth here, just as I was over 10 years ago when Leckie Downer took to the comedy club mike and gave us a riotous routine about domestic violence - "the things that batter" (yuk, yuk, yuk).

Stop it, boys, you're just killing me! Any funnier and they could host a live variety show to challenge Rove.

If you've finished wiping the tears from your eyes from all that laughter, I want to share my thoughts on apologies. There's been a few of them lately. Broggie tried to apologise for his own routine inspired by Helena Carr ("did you hear the one about the mail-order bride? Yuk, yuk, yuk"). Then, after attempting to top himself, Bob and Helena sort of, in a roundabout way, apologised for not originally accepting Broggie's apology. Now the Mad Monk is apologising for making light of the exceptionally unfunny issue of mental illness, responsibility for which falls under his charge as Health Minister.

In fact, for MM it's an unnervingly comprehensive, unqualified apology:

I do accept that the statements that I made were insensitive. I do accept that they should not have been made. I do accept that they were altogether inappropriate, and I am sorry for making them. I have apologised and I am happy to apologise again. I am very sorry that I have given offence to the former Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales. I am very sorry that I have given offence to some of my own colleagues. I am even very sorry that I have given offence to members opposite.

Oh - nope, wait, there is a qualification:

We live in a tough public culture. Politicians give each other no quarter. The media is absolutely ruthless with everyone’s mistakes. The public is highly judgmental. I am not complaining about it any more than I am complaining about the caterwauling from members
opposite; it is just the world that we live in. I accept that my colleagues have a right to make critical comments about me under all these circumstances and I certainly am not in any way going to quibble with the judgments that they make.

Falling back, as so many of the far-right kiddies will, on Kamahl's lament: "Why are people so unkind?"

So they should be allowed, apparently, to make as many grossly offensive and inappropriate "jokes" as they see fit, but as soon as they're pulled up over it, it's the media being "ruthless" or the public being "highly judgmental".

Excuse me? MM, who sits in judgment of the "national tragedy" that is (allegedly) 100,000 abortions, whining about the judgmental public? I think that might be the pot calling the kettle fat, Kimmy.

The point of all this is, none of these apologies strike me as being at all sincere. Brogden didn't apologise because he was overcome with remorse over his racist and sexist behaviour, he did it because he got caught out. Likewise Abbott. Likewise Bill Heffernan in 2002, when he abused parliamentary privilege to level lies against Justice Michael Kirby (and who inexplicably still has a job in politics). And yet now, suddenly Heffernan is the "vocal morals campaigner" kindly and altruistically rushing to Brogden's aid and disproving the "fallacy" that Howard (for whom Heffernan is a lap-dog) hung Brogden out to dry? You'll forgive me if I'm not lining up outside Heffernan's office waiting for guidance, as I'm not in the habit of taking my moral cues from a bitter, homophobic back-room numbers man whose apology sounded as sincere as a three-year-old mumbling it behind his teacher's leg when he's got caught out stabbing another kid with blunt scissors.

Anyways, I digress.

I'm intrigued by Howard's double-standard regarding apologies (I know - Howard having double standards, amazing isn't it?) When Brogden, a moderate, does the wrong thing and apologises, Howard says it's up to him as to whether or not he should choose to resign (translated into Howard dog-whistle code: "You're gone"). That is, an apology just isn't enough. It is enough, however, when Abbott offers one, even though his crime is arguably worse (not to excuse Brogden at all, but Abbott was actually sober during his stand-up routine).

Of course, such offensive behaviour is not the exclusive domain of conservatives. Alan Ramsay outlines one of Bob Hawke's finer moments making a joke about fucking Mrs Gandhi and wonders why he still went on to become PM for so many years. The short answer is that people's tolerance for such bullshit is a lot lower than it was 20 years ago. This is a consequence of that "evil" politicial correctness. And Tell-Us-About-It-Janet wants us to believe Brogden was no worse than Mark Latham in his raw days. She may have a point. (Drunken straight yobbo) Boys will be (drunken straight yobbo) boys, regardless of which side of the political fence they're on. And most of them will not learn from their mistakes. They'll apologise but only because it's in their political interests to, not because they realise the folly of their ways.

Offensive politicians are not so far from everyday "civilised" society, however, one in which an attitude of "I am who I am, I never apologise for that, fuck you" is the dominant theme in most prime-time television, especially reality TV. There is a fine line between self-confidence and total insensitivity to other people and things in the world external to fulfilling one's own Id. If politicians actually led by example to demonstrate this, we might have sincere apologies or, heaven forbid, no need to apologise as such stand-up routines would never happen to begin with. Who knows.


At 6/9/05 6:30 pm, Blogger mikey said...

I only slander religious extremists (like Abbott, Clarke and Alex Hawke) when I'm drunk. Does this make me a drunken gay yobbo?

At 6/9/05 10:55 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it any wonder we have clowns when the whole ****ing Parliament is a three-ring circus? JT

At 7/9/05 9:11 am, Blogger Sam said...

You're far too witty to be a yobbo, mikey. You might be two from three otherwise - do you hide alcohol around your computer? ;-)

At 7/9/05 3:06 pm, Blogger mikey said...

Um, no *hic*.


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