April of apologies: Why the entire world is suddenly feeling so sorry

Apologies are flying thick and fast.

 |  It Could Happen to You  |  4-minute read |   16-04-2018
  • ---
    Total Shares

"April is the cruellest month." Most of us have quoted the first line of TS Eliot's The Waste Land without ever wondering what it really means: Why is April the cruellest month? Is it the cruellest month? What makes it more cruel than any other month? The answer is finally blowing in the wind: April 2018 is turning out to be the cruellest month for a whole lot of people. Because a whole lot of people are being forced to say, "sorry", this month. And according to psychologists, saying sorry is the hardest thing to do.

Elton John was right when he sang, "Sorry seems to be the hardest word," way back in the 1970s. According to the "science of saying sorry", although an apology heals, restores trust, brings in closure and also shifts public attention from what is wrong to what should be done next, a whole lot of people refuse to apologise even when everyone thinks they clearly should. And it's not plain stubbornness or selfishness, for a lot of people apologising is a scary thing to do. It makes you feel weak and vulnerable, even when you know you have made a mistake. Hence saying sorry sincerely is the hardest thing to do.

It began just before April kicked in. On March 25, full-page ads in nine US and UK newspapers appeared: An apology in print from Facebook for the way political consultancy Cambridge Analytica made off with information on more than 87 million users, thanks to FB's weak data protections. Why now, after months of silence? New polls were showing significant dip in FB user trust.

That very night porn star Stormy Daniels described on CBS' 60 Minutes how she was threatened to keep quiet about her alleged affair with US President Donald Trump. The upshot? Trump lawyers instantly asked her to apologise.

Then came a tear-drenched Steve Smith. "To fans of cricket all over the world and to all Australians who are disappointed and angry: I'm sorry," the former Australian cricket captain spoke out on his role in the ball-tampering scandal.

In India, too, things were hotting up: By April 2, the Aam Aadmi Party's sorry spree came to a head with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal apologising to Union finance minister Arun Jaitley and bringing to an abrupt end the long, acrimonious court battle over defamation.

On April 4, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the high priest of our internet age, ticked off a list of things FB has messed up, during a call with reporters - fake news and hate speech, viral hoaxes and propaganda, data and privacy breech, troll-bots and false clickbait stories in elections and so on: "We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility… I'm sorry."

Whether it was triggered by the calls to delete FB - with high-profile users quitting it, from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to Tesla CEO Elon Musk - is another matter. But on April 10, when Zuckerberg fielded questions from the US Senate and appeared truly, deeply, profoundly sorry ("It was my mistake, and I'm sorry…I started Facebook. I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here"), FB stocks surged.

Union law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who had earlier threatened to "summon" Zuckerberg over to India, now trained his gun on Congress president Rahul Gandhi: "Now that Cambridge Analytica's role in manipulating elections is clear and Facebook has assured to stop it and maintain integrity of India's elections, probity demands that Rahul Gandhi should apologise.'' In response, the Congress termed the fast proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi against disruption in Parliament a "farce", suggesting the PM to seek an apology over banking frauds, leak of CBSE paper and dilution of SC/ST Act.

Apologies are flying thick and fast: Shirdi Trust demanding an apology from Gandhi, Shiromani Akali Dal another from the Congress; Amit Shah apologising to "Dalit sisters and brothers" for the wrongs of "dejected and rejected" politicians; Indian Railways apologising for the train that rolled without engine; SGPC tweeting an apology to the Sikhs for granting permission to Nanak Shah Fakir; AIIMS apologising for a wrong procedure on a patient; "Will Britain apologise, or not, for Jallianwala Bagh massacre?"; UP netas saying "sorry" after tweeting Gurpurab greetings seven months in advance.

But many more apologies are due. This time, to the little people of India: Those who languish in jail for a life-time for no reason, those who get raped and then face atrocities when they dare to report, those who can't even be told about the reality of immense brutally that befall their infant daughters; those great malnourished, stunted masses, who go to bed hungry every night and die prematurely of deficiencies and diseases.

Those of you who haven't said sorry to them as yet, this season offers you the perfect opportunity. Go ahead, say "sorry".

Also read: Clean chit for Aseemanand in Mecca Masjid blast reignites saffron terror debate

Writer

Damayanti Datta Damayanti Datta @dattadamayanti

The writer is Executive Editor, India Today.

Like DailyO Facebook page to know what's trending.