Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Australia's Indigenous People and the Sorry Issue

I was trying to post a comment on Neil's (Ninglun's blog) blog when I ran into a system issue. I have no idea as to whether the comment go through given comment moderation , so I am posting again here. My comments follows:

Thank you for the positive comment, Neil.

I am not necessarily opposed to symbolic acts of reconciliation, nor indeed to more substantive action. My problem lies in the words and actions of some of the proponents.

There has, at least as I see it, been remarkably little substantive discussion on what some of these things mean. I have not tried to disentangle issues for fear of entering a minefield. Maybe I will one day when I feel stronger. The key thing is to identify and understand core principles.

What does saying sorry mean? Sorry to whom, and about what? And who should say sorry?

This is not meant to be argumentative. There has to be a dialogue, but it needs to be just that, a dialogue. I do not think that there has been a dialogue for many years.

So here is a challenge to you. Answer the questions about sorry I have set out above and I will respond, not in attack dog mode, but as a genuine response seeking to clarify issues.

Over to you, Neil.


As Neil said in a comment on this post, the issues has triggered an interesting discussion in the comments section of his original post. You can find the discussion here.

Among other things, the discussion draws out the different meanings attached to the word "sorry". This lies out the heart of my problem with the use of the word in this context. Any married male will know just how many meanings that word can have!

In one of his comments Neil pointed to a post he wrote some time ago on the nature of evil, referring to Jonathan Glover’s Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century (Pimlico edition 2001). I had not read this post, but did so with interest because it refers to an issue that I know worries many of us, the continued existence of inhumanity in the human species.

School starts today, and I have to get Clare up at six, so I will not be responding further to Neil until tonight.


Anonymous said...

Would I ever censor your comments, Jim? The discussion is going fine. Now of course I am right... (Joke!)

Seriously, it is interesting how we agree on so much about this but do diverge on something rather basic. I mean I had in 1996 a visceral hatred of Pauline Hanson, which I have got over... I felt she was destroying, or seeking to destroy, about thirty years of painfully acquired progress in our vision of ourselves. There you go... We could have had some hot conversations eleven years ago, but I really do prefer the tone of our conversations now.

People can visit the discussion if they want to.

Jim Belshaw said...

Neil, I too much prefer the tone of our current conversations.The visceral differences come from apparently different passions.

Anonymous said...

It has become quite a splendid conversation, I think. I hope you agree, Jim. It really has turned into a discussion of historiography, as well as the semantics/morality of the word "sorry". But now I too must go to bed...

I added a comment over there inviting an ex-student who is doing a PhD in history at Cambridge -- one of my former debating coachees -- to join in. I hope he does. A Hong Kong born Chinese studying Medieval French History -- which I find rather marvellous.

Couldn't have even thought of that invitation before the internet, could we?

Jim Belshaw said...

It has become a good conversation, Neil. I will put the link to it up on the main post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that very intense conversation, Jim. It probably helped protect us both from Alzheimers. ;)

We got into some interesting territory, I feel.

Jim Belshaw said...

Neil, what an unkind cut! Alzheimer's indeed!But it was an interesting conversation.