Beware the cheap apology

Perhaps you heard the latest apology from Sean Spicer. The White House press secretary, was forced to make amends last week for his latest ‘woops’ moment when he was criticized for excusing Hitler.

He is certainly not the only public figure to find himself in this position. In today’s social media world, the faux pas of our leaders are outed fairly regularly.

Apologies are necessary in society. They are the lubricant in relationships and workplaces. We need them to smooth out the rough places. We all make mistakes and when we do, we need to own up.

In Canada, we are ahead of the game. We are a nation of apologizers. Here, apologies aren’t cheap, they’re free and frequent. We say sorry for each little near mishap as we navigate crowds. We continue to be the polite nation, apologizing for things that often need no apology. It’s part of our charm. Our boy, Justin Bieber captured this reality in his pop song, “Sorry.”

People in public office and others in positions of trust have a greater responsibility to maintain that trust. When they mess up, we need to know their apologies aren’t just publicity stunts and that they’re more than just words. Celebrities increasingly find themselves in the same position.

Sometimes apology analysts get involved. They try to determine which apologies are sincere and genuine and which are bogus, simple play-acting, posturing for the public, just words.

If only they could intervene and offer their insights when the cheapest apologies are spoken. Cheap apologies are the standard currency of batterers in situations of domestic violence. The battering cycle has a tension building phase, an acute battering episode and a honeymoon phase.

During the tension building phase, the spouse (and any children) instinctively walk on eggshells, trying not to trigger a battering episode. But of course, they cannot prevent it. It is bound to happen. After the episode, the batterer typically feels ashamed for the outbreak and apologizes, sometimes with tears for his or her behaviour.

These are ultimately cheap apologies because they do not lead to any change in behaviour. They are simply words calculated to restore the trust of the victim. The victim wants to believe. How dare they not believe the abuser has changed? And so the cycle continues.

These apologies are both cheap and very costly. Lives are at risk. Domestic violence doesn’t typically de-escalate, it builds, it gets worse. Victims who decide to end the relationship and leave are especially at risk.

Cycles of abuse are identifiable. Saskatchewan has a big problem with domestic violence. We need to help young girls and boys understand the cycle and what fuels it. We need to educate so young men and women can break generational patterns and head into relationships with eyes wide open.

I’m sorry to have to say this, but, beware the cheap apology.


The ultimate ‘Fakebook’ rant

When Facebook first blew past MySpace to dominate social media it was all the talk. A movie (The Social Network) was made about it. People piled on in droves.
Early on, it seemed to be the new confessional for young people who likely indulged in a little too much self-disclosure. We learned things we didn’t want to know. When their parents showed up in Facebook, a lot of the young ones bailed, opting for other upcoming platforms, like SnapChat or Instagram.
With time, people learned that if you weren’t careful, you could lose your job through a careless post. The gap between the public self and the private self was essentially gone. Most people have wised up and tamed down their posts, with some glaring and amusing exceptions.
Personally, I have a like-hate relationship with Facebook. Not love-hate. Or maybe it’s a tolerate-hate relationship.
For one, people are getting smarter (or is it dumber) on the platform. Their profiles are more carefully managed. Yawn. It’s like a family Christmas card. It’s nice to get but it doesn’t tell you much. It has morphed into Fakebook.
Now we are treated to a plethora of safe, sanitized content. We see themes like cooking, humour, self-tests (are you this or that?), family photos, animals and the like.
At the end of 2016 there were 1.86 billion monthly active users. One report says there are 1.15 billion mobile daily active users. Clearly there are masses who love it more than I do.
Like the ego-wall Facebooker. This person is busier than most with social posturing, posting selfies and tidbits of information designed to line up admirers.
Or the full-time Facebooker. This person may post every 20 minutes all day long. Regretably, I have to ‘unfollow’ you because I experience scrolling fatigue trying to get past all your material. It’s all good, but my time is finite.
What about the sentimental, positivity Facebooker? This person shares sweet sentiments and feel-good inspirational sayings with nice backgrounds. What’s not to love?
The teaser facebooker is simply annoying. Here’s a few words and now everybody jump in and ask what they’re referring to. Goodbye.
The latest is the Facebook broadcaster. It’s not enough that Facebook has a so-called “News” feed. Now it has live broadcasting features. Don’t get me wrong, I care about you. But only in rare cases will I look at your live broadcast. Again, it’s the time thing. Do I trust you to have trimmed down the content to only the barest essentials? Is everyone a pro-broadcaster? I err on the side of caution.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that fake news has found the fake platform. Social media is now the easiest way for all kinds of questionable people to find each other. It’s also an advertisers heaven. It is both much more and much less than a social network.
Where it is headed is anybody’s guess. Something else will come along. I predict an increase in private groups with greater vetting, that generate underground movements that steal across the global landscape, and break out when the time is right. Or not.
Meanwhile, it’s what we do. We amuse ourselves. Who am I to argue with a quarter of the world’s population?

You don’t own me

‘Knees together’ judge asleep at the wheel

Spotting inequities between the sexes can be as simple as going to my neighbourhood gym and discovering the guys have a steam room and the gals do no. But here’s the thing: pores are actually gender neutral.

While we may be lulled to sleep for most of the year when it comes to gender equality, International Women’s Day awakened us again to the reality that all is not yet well in the equality scales.

Perhaps the most notorious example of gender bias and sexual stereotyping in Canada is the recent case of a Canadian judge who asked a rape victim during a sexual assault trial why she didn’t just keep her knees together.

Justice Robin Camp came under fire and his actions were subsequently reviewed by the Canadian Judicial Council, which recommended he be removed from the bench. Among other concerns, they found him seriously lacking in impartiality. He also made the mistake of calling the 19-year-old victim “the accused” several times during the trail. Camp resigned earlier this month.

How this could happen in Canada is unfathomable. It seems like an obvious relic from the past, entirely incongruent with the present, but it happened

Camp insists women be the gatekeepers even when they’re being violated. Making the victim responsible reveals a deep ignorance or a willful blindness to the power imbalance in sexual assault.

National Post columnist, Christie Blatchford, found it astonishing that in Canada, judges like Camp, who had been a commercial litigator, could be appointed to criminal law. How can they be expected to manage the complexities of sexual assault?

Complexities no doubt exist in sexual assault cases, but that is not what we have here. It doesn’t matter if Camp had subsequently shown a willingness to be educated. It doesn’t matter if the victim’s credibility came under scrutiny. What was said was wildly inappropriate regardless of the circumstances. It should have been clear to Camp what was patently obvious to everyone else – that the ‘knees together’ comment was ridiculous. Camp lives in society. Was he that out of touch? Apparently so.

Sexual behaviour may well be one of the best measures of gender equality. We see the most egregious behaviour against women in nations where the power imbalance between the sexes is the greatest, where women are regarded as property and their every move is controlled.

We see it in intimate partner relationships too. Saskatchewan has the highest rate of domestic violence in the country. One of the common aspects of relationships with domestic violence is that men regard their wife as their possession. They can be extremely jealous and controlling.

Judge Camp has a little more spare time now, perhaps to spend in the steam room. The way forward for the rest of us begins by viewing women as people rather than property or possessions.

There’s a great song from the movie, “First Wives Club” called “You Don’t Own Me.” Stars Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler sing it like an anthem. Equality grows when women lose the desire to merge their identity with a man, to be a possession.

Education is needed. But once you’re a provincial or federal judge, it’s a little late for that. If popular culture has not educated you, you are asleep at the wheel, or in this case, on the bench.