Thursday, 5 September 2013

Sorry is the New Word for Oops.

Players from the team I support and have loved my whole life recently celebrated their end of season by setting a dwarf on fire.

I will give that a moment to sink in.

I know what you’re asking – surely a sport worth billions has a code of conduct to guide its members during off field celebrations, something along the lines of:

                    CLAUSE 18A: DWARVES
                            RULE 17D: DON'T SET A DWARF ON FIRE

Alternatively the St Kilda football club could issue appropriate behaviour illustrations to all players.

Of course the dwarf was upset, although he later admitted it was only a small matter and not something to get heated over. (It's just so hard not to!) 

He threatened to sue and the moment he did the social and traditional news media lit up. (No pun intended, but still - giggle.)

Anyone who dared make a joke about the incident was mercilessly flamed on twitter. (Irony lost on the flamers)

The head of the league was told of the incident during a live interview and broke down in laughter. Later he declared his outrage over such a heinous act and said he thought he was being told a joke… you know, like…
                      Flexo the Indian rubber man and Helga the fat lady are proud to announce they are expecting a baby. They don’t care if it is a boy or a girl as long as it fits in the cannon.

You know, a joke – because it has a dwarf in it – and they’re funny. And a dwarf on fire - Hilarious!

I don’t think anyone believes another human being set on fire is funny. 

I think anyone, on hearing that a group of highly paid men felt the need to celebrate their end of season party by hiring a dwarf as entertainment, and then, conceivably, found the entertainment fell short, so decided to set that performer on fire to liven up the act, would find that series of circumstances funny. 

Not funny in the sense of, ‘what a cleverly conceived, wonderfully witty wordplay you offer us, Oscar.’ But more along the lines of a sort of hang your head in shame funny... like...

“This is the school, your son has got his head stuck in the chair again and as you know from our previous calls it’s our policy to call you to get permission before we call emergency services. Also, you now owe us three chairs and a set of wooden bannisters.”

As a result of this extraordinary story unfolding during the week I got to thinking about what sort of society we live in where our role models, men we idolize and adore for their on-field prowess, aren’t able to calculate that setting a human on fire isn’t funny and being a dwarf doesn’t make some one less human.

Then I heard of the fire starter’s apology and his donation of two thousand five hundred dollars to the inflamed performers charity of choice and that got me thinking of how many times I’ve heard the culprit of some sort of outrageous behavior shout sorry, do a few Hail Mary’s and walk away with little more than a slap on the wrist.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Where does that sort of idea come from - that you can do the worst possible thing imaginable, say a quick sorry, maybe throw in an act of penance and then walk away absolved of all sin?

Today on the news I listened as another player received a two year good behavior bond for spitting in a policeman’s face. The player wasn’t in court, he was probably home beating up hookers on Grand Theft Auto, but his lawyer said he deeply regretted his actions, he issued an unreserved apology to the officer on the player's behalf  (again because the player was home with better things to do) and the lawyer committed the player to donate three thousand dollars to police charities.

Is this starting to sound familiar?

It dawned on me that this is the standard of behavior being learnt and understood and repeated everywhere. And it's not just a practice isolated to the overpaid and undereducated.


We have to stop accepting these apologies because all a modern apology does is allow someone to feel they have finalized an event, tied it up in a neat little bow and been given the green light to go on with their lives as if nothing had happened. You have to be accountable for your actions and accept that those actions will dictate how you are seen as a person going forward. 

How many times have we heard of a person, head of some board or body, sportsmen or politician, a person who is caught out and says sorry, and then within a short space of time re-emerge to receive the sort of offer or opportunity that few people usually receive in a lifetime? 

And they didn't say sorry because they realised their mistake and regretted it; they said sorry because they got caught and need to garner sympathy to ride out the storm.

It has to stop. You cannot simply say sorry and go back to the way life was before you set the dwarf on fire.

(Incidently, just as jumping the shark has become a euphemism for a TV show that has broken out beyond the boarders of its original premise, I belief ‘set the dwarf on fire’ has tremendous appeal as a saying to be applied to someone who has acted in an inexcusable and indefensible way.)

“Those bankers responsible for the GFC really set the dwarf on fire with that one.”

One of my favourite sayings is 'Action talks and bullshit walks' - because it's true. You are known by your actions and we should be teaching and underling to all that a momentary action, and even more so for an action calculated and taken with a clear head, will forever colour the way people view you and therefore the way you are treated.

Certainly you can undo that damage, but only over time and through actions that redeem your character and clearly show and illustrate your contrition. A few words uttered at a time when those words gain you an obvious benefit are hardly enough. It does nothing to help the people or persons metaphorically set on fire by whatever was done.

Just because everyone from the Pope down is doing it doesn't make it moral. Show us you're sorry. Win back our respect over time before expecting anyone to treat you the way they treated you before that poor innocent dwarf went up in smoke.

Hiegh-ho, heigh-ho
Sor-ry and off we go
Then just repeat it all day long
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, heigh-ho

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