Monday, 20 October 2014

There has been an interesting contribution

posted to another blog site over the weekend. It raised the question of whether it is possible to feel "ashamed" as a nation.
It brought back memories of one of the actions that angered me most about one of our former Prime Ministers. Kevin Rudd presumed to give an apology on behalf of others to indigenous Australians for the treatment they had received. It was seen as a great moment in the history of Australia.
For me it was anything but a great moment. I cringed. The way many, indeed most, indigenous Australians were treated (and often are still treated) was wrong. I don't deny that but Mr Rudd had no business apologising for it. He should not have said "sorry". Some indigenous friends found it insulting. They felt Mr Rudd should simply acknowledged that the past was, by our current standards, wrong and then said every effort would be made to do better. Yes, as the saying goes, the past is another country and things were done differently there. We can acknowledge that and, if we were wise, we would learn from the experience of others.
As adults we are presumed to know the likely consequences of our actions and we have to take responsibility for them. We cannot take responsibility for a past over which we had no control. We can disagree but we cannot feel an emotion on their behalf or on a nation's behalf. Emotions are personal things. I believe they are what we feel. We can empathise with others and sympathise with others of course but I also don't believe we can apologise for others over whom we have no control.
So can a "nation" feel "ashamed"?  No. People within it can but a nation is an idea not a person and people differ on every subject under the sun.
I might be wrong of course. I am undoubtedly wrong about a lot of things.


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