It has been an interesting month. The revelations about privacy breaches have severely dented trust in Facebook. Yet CEO Mark Zuckerberg waited five days before making any public utterance and then said he was ‘sorry that it happened”. Remind me again who is the boss of Facebook?
In Victoria 21 government MPs illegally used taxpayer’s funds during the previous election campaign. The moneys have been repaid. The Premier was “sorry that it happened”. Remind me again who was the leader of the party?
But this paled into insignificance against the revelations of ball tampering by the Australian cricket team. Initially the captain, Steve Smith was sorry and noted it was not “his proudest moment”. This was a gross understatement. That they got the least experienced player in the side to do the dirty work makes it even worse.
Ultimately all three cricketers fell on their swords and accepted the penalty handed down which was variably a nine or 12-month suspension. The bigger cost to the two senior players will be loss of sponsorships and loss of playing in other tournaments, which will run into millions.
All three gave genuine apologies after arriving home. There is now a sense of everyone needing to move on.
It is interesting that sports people are held to a higher standard than political leaders or CEO’s. Neither the Premier of Victoria or Zuckerberg have suffered a penalty even remotely as severe as the three cricketers. None have lost their jobs and neither have suffered any financial penalty. It could be argued that there was a drop in the price of Facebook shares and that this is a penalty. To be honest, I would not see it that way. The day to day price of the stock does not affect him even if it drops a few billion.
There is a theme in the modern apology and it is detachment from personal responsibility. The individual expresses regret for an event which they seem almost incredulous about how it came to pass. Yet it was they who did it!
Perhaps in these legalistic days it is not surprising that people watch their words and do not want to give lawyers any grounds for cation on the basis of admission. Maybe it is because so many people are permanently outraged by nothing that apologies no longer have any meaning.
The internet allows everyone to voice an opinion. This is a good thing but it also creates echo chambers. Safe spaces and political correctness means you can avoid hearing a view or opinion you don’t like. The University of Sydney debating team has a counsellor for those who find debating stressful. Maybe don’t do debating if you can’t cope with an opposing argument! When ideas are not challenged we can develop hubris. The three cases above demonstrate this. I suspect, but we will wait and see, that the Australian Cricket team will emerge with a different culture following to loss of the captain, vice-captain and coach. There is still a cultural review to be conducted and whether the CEO survives remains to be seen.
The rest of us can be very quick to judge usually without all the facts. We all make mistakes and we cannot know the pressure that others may be under. This is not to excuse bad behaviour but to put it in some context.
Personal responsibility needs to make a comeback together with proportionate responses.
Maybe it was a coincidence but all this happened around Easter. Those of us who specialise in armchair criticism might care to recall that a famous prophet exalted he who was without sin to cast the first stone.
Dr Joe Kosterich is a Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, who wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications and is also a regular on radio and television. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases and is an advisor to Reed Medical Conferences.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma and sits on the board of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association.