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Sorry, not sorry

  • Published at 07:11 pm December 1st, 2015
Sorry, not sorry

“Sorry” is the hardest word to say. This difficulty is the chief antagonist in human development, for the individual and the race. Denial is easier. It gives the perception of treading that half-true fine line of obfuscation between lying by omission and lying intentionally.

Apologies require taking responsibility, being honest with oneself as well as the wider world, and impliedly or expressly promising to rectify past mistakes and remedy oneself. The mature act of apologies cleanse, but they also demand a measure of vulnerability, which people too easily mistake for weakness.

Climate change-deniers embrace ignorance and invite the world to do so too. It has an allure that few can refuse.

It is easy, in light of the events at and surrounding the Conference of the Parties 21, to be lulled into believing that every man and his dog has denounced the deniers, establishing climate change as the defining cause of these times.

Real change is unlikely to happen because, contrary to this misperception, the vast majority of the world neither knows enough nor cares enough about the subject.

If that was not the case, steps to tackle and eradicate the effects of global warming and its fur-shedding friends would already have been underway. Denial trumps holding oneself accountable, apologising sincerely, and moving forward shaped by said apology.

Native Americans, recently asked by the 21st century voice of the Republican Party to return to Nativia -- read: “go back to the backwaters you came from” -- are still awaiting an unreserved apology for the crimes committed against them to build the land of the free. The fallout from the Reformation never saw the word “sorry” uttered, which caused frictions as recently as the 1990s in Britain and Ireland.

Slavery never prompted any apology. Muslims did not receive one either for the Christian virtue that expelled them from Europe, nor did they issue one for their own sectarianism and the violence it has caused.

The greatest crime of them all, the one that makes “sorry” seem too insignificant to stand a chance of being remotely sufficient, thereby allowing the very same tendencies to continue to dictate world politics, is imperialism. It has never been, will never be, apologised for.

Bangladesh wants an apology from Pakistan. The list for seeking this justifiable apology is long. Some of the highlights: 1971 -- a number that sums it up neatly, and that speaks more than any combination of words ever can; before that, 1952 -- the Language Movement forced the government to revoke its thoughtless policy two years later, but the oppressive measures adopted up to that point and beyond were justified instead of being atoned; Pakistan’s insistence on denying the Liberation War, everything that caused it -- even a stubborn dunce can see Pakistan’s culpability, nationalism-tinted glasses be damned -- and everything that has happened since; war crimes -- where there is war, there is crime, and any piece of paper saying otherwise does so under duress, but does not change cold, hard facts; Pakistan’s overt and subversive attempts to interfere with and manipulate the sovereign affairs of Bangladesh -- a charge that can be laid at the doors of other regional and global imperial powers as well; Pakistan’s unwillingness to foster friendly relations with Bangladesh, which render every word spoken to that effect -- refuted by the evidence of actions and reactions -- an unconscionable lie.

Bangladesh wants an apology, and it deserves a long, heartfelt one, complete with closure and reparations. It is a sad indictment of the Bangladeshi people that not enough demand it. Indifference may come from believing it will never happen, thinking that asking for one is an exercise in futility.

It is a miracle that such an attitude was not prevalent in 1952 and in 1971, since if apathy had been the order of the day, India would still be surrounding East Pakistan, and East Pakistan could have descended into another Kashmir.

For its part in the pantomime, Pakistan does not want to apologise. Politically, it has never made any sense for it to repent. It is the same school of thought that led the once-prince of liberalism, Imran Khan, astray.

The belief in Bangladesh is that demanding an apology of this immoveable crumbling country is a politically beneficial act, although parties other than Awami League have rarely relied on this gambit.

While these political games are enacted, the flimsy social fabric of both are torn apart and patched together to display the partisan lines and make a case for lies becoming truths. Pakistan and Bangladesh have never made their peace with the deplorable chapter of East Pakistan, and leaders in both countries through the decades have looked to make personal and political gains from it rather than having the integrity to resolve the issue.

However flawed the attempt is on part of the current Bangladesh government -- and they should be held accountable for the flaws -- it is an attempt nonetheless.

That Pakistan still does not see sense, and that certain Bangladeshi leaders and citizens echo Pakistan’s nonsense, is indicative of a greater malaise.

An apology is not enough, especially when interest accumulates as a result of its conspicuous absence.

It is a good starting point, but it is the beginning of a yellow brick road no proud oppressor has any intention of ever constructing. What is paved from that one word makes the one uttering it re-evaluate one’s worldview, philosophy, and life.

That is not something the audacious arrogance of once, reigning, and would-be oppressors can ever allow, which is precisely why apologies should relentlessly be sought from them.