There has been a lot of debate, both on blogs and in the media about the merits of an apology being issued by someone in a position of power, say Tony Blair, for the role that Great Britain had in the international slave trade.
There have been quite a few arguments against apologising, most have some merit as far as I can tell, but some a just plain wrong: "There is no point in apologising for slavery because as everyone else was doing it" and the flip side to that "there is no point in apologising because no one else has." Er nope that won't do - that is the sort of argument used by a small child trying to excuse their bad behaviour because it was as part of a group. Notwithstanding the other arguments about apologising not doing so because of them others is unacceptable we are responsible to ourselves and our behaviour should be led by our moral compass not what other people/nations are doing. As far as I see it, it matters not one whit whether or not France apologises for its role in the Slave Trade or the Vatican expresses regret for the damage done by the Crusades, because they are/were not responsible for what Britain does/did.
Most of the arguments I've seen are against apologising, mainly on the basis that if you are not responsible for the wrong deed or the person(s) who committed them then you can't apologise for it as it is meaningless as you have not made the decision not to do that again or realise that what you have done was wrong as you didn't do it. I can see the merits of this argument, it narrows down the circumstances where an apology can be given but it does have thought.
What if you have benefited from the deed, should you apologise then? Many are arguing in the case of slavery that we, this present generation have had no choice in accepting or rejecting the benefits that the slave trade gave Britain and it's not if we are likely to start rejecting those benefits even if we could seeing as they have been subsumed into the fabric of the country. I don't think you can apologise in this case cos it does smack of hypocrisy.
What no one has mentioned though is shame. I feel ashamed that my country was involved in the slave trade, that it allowed it to happen and made money from the trafficking of people, I don't think I can apologise for what was done to the Africans by British Slavers because I could not have influenced it but I do feel regret, sorrow, and shame that it was done.
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