APOLOGIES are in the news. With the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade, Tony Blair is being urged to say sorry for Britain's involvement in the business.
Appalling though the slave trade was, I just don't see the point.
Isn't an apology for something you didn't personally do and had no control over, meaningless? Every civilised person is sorry that the slave trade ever happened and probably even more sorry that in certain parts of the world it's still going on.
In any case, my 19th Century ancestors never rose any higher than the dizzying social heights of peasant. They were more likely to have been treated like slaves than acted like slave masters.
I don't suppose that sitting in their Devon hovel they gave much thought to current events.
"I say, Agnes, what do you think about Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations?"
"I think, Ezekiel, its attack on the doctrines of mercantilism are commendable although I have doubts about the total efficacy of free trade and libertarianism."
I don't think so.
In any case, what is the time scale for apologies? At what date are they no longer relevant? Should the world be saying sorry for Homo Erectus displacing Neanderthal Man? Should those pesky Mongols be filled with guilt for Genghis Khan overrunning Europe? Why aren't the Scandinavians apologising to us for Viking rape and pillage? Or Catholics saying sorry for the Inquisition?
Far better to direct our efforts at putting right the wrongs that exist in the world today.
Anti-Slavery International estimates there are 12 million slaves in the world today.
For that I'm truly sorry.
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