Here in Oz, we're thick in a discussion about saying sorry to Aborigines. I shall confuse things initially by declaring that white people saying sorry to Aborigines is bullshit. Don't wig out yet, just keep reading.
'Sorry' is what you say when you bump into someone. For obvious, simple and accidental events such as this, one word will suffice. The saying of it implicitly acknowledges three things: the presence of the other; that a transgression has occurred; and the nature of the transgression, which in this case was nothing much.
It's the three acknowledgements which are important. The word 'sorry' is merely a polite shorthand to achieve them. In more complex events, a single word like sorry is insufficient. It might cover the first two aspects of the acknowledgement but the third is woefully unaddressed. And the third is the crucial pivot. Really it's the only bit that counts. If it is done correctly the first two are taken as read.
Just saying sorry is a piece of piss. Anyone can do it, even through gritted teeth. A teenager who has conducted a screaming match ruining a social occasion on account of not being allowed to go and hang out at the mall might, without too much difficulty, be able to say 'Sorry'. He or she might even be able to say, 'Sorry I ruined everyone's dinner'. Each of these steps is do-able without puncturing the teenager's delusional view of themself and the world. But imagine the teenager saying the following - 'Sorry I ruined everyone's dinner. I viewed my own petty needs as being more important than the harmony that existed here. I realise that all my life, things have been done for me and really the least I can do in return is to consider others and attempt to be pleasant.' It's an unlikely prospect isn't it? You can see how the word 'sorry' is almost superfluous now.
The reason one never hears such words is because it requires one to examine the nature of their delusion. Delusion defines the self - for everyone, that is, except Buddha (and Bodhisattvas, sure). But forget them - none of us is Buddha and delusion is who we are. A true discussion about a transgression against another is actually a discussion of who one is.
And that must be fought tooth and nail. Sure enough, here we are in Australia and everyone agrees that we should say 'sorry'. But instantly we're bogged down about what we're apologising for exactly. Should we include the phrase 'stolen generation'? What if we replace the word 'stolen' with 'taken'? How about 'mistaken'? How about 'accidentally misplaced'?
God spare us. Why don't we just tell those unappreciative, grog-soaked, bludging, black bastards to get off their arses and work. We made this country great and those fuckers think we owe them a living. And yeah, SORRY. Happy now?
Nobody says - self-impressed white people can go fuck themselves. People tell me I should be a teacher. Ha ha ha. No really. Okay then, cop this history -
In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, the continents of North America, South America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Australia had no concept of private ownership. They didn't travel great distances and steal other people's shit. How would that profit a man, said they. Until we killed them that is. And yes, they were humans and fought their neighbours. But us imagining their savagery was worse than ours is laughable. Never mind Mel Gibson's bullshit Apocalypto slaughter-fest, we made these people look like a bunch of saints. Their philosophies, their social arrangements, their music, art and poetry, and even their science were nothing in the face of our murderous certainty of our own greatness.
So, might a good starting point for us acknowledging our transgression (which, since we're saying sorry, obviously exists) be the fact that Aborigines' lack of a 'deed' showing ownership of this country was not a failure on their part. (Like we'd have paid any attention anyway). And us showing them how it's done was not a testament to our superiority. It was merely one state of mind meeting another. One acquisitive, one not. And acquisitive is not a compliment. In this spirit of acquisitiveness, we would teach the aborigines that: flora is to be cut down; fauna is to be shot; the earth is to be dug up; and the rivers emptied. We would render their way of life impossible. (And ours too soon enough). That they choose not to embrace our societal arrangements does not condemn them.
Me, I view their distaste for impossibly complicated arrangements of ownership, paper money, credit cards, shares, mortgages, bills, ID's and Bundy clocks to be perfectly understandable. What do these things have to do with humans and the astounding world in which they live? I'd happily argue that they're a denial of that. And yes, they have problems with alcohol. 40,000 years without alcohol, forced into a world-view that makes no sense to them and we expect them to just say no, to face this madness sober? Shit. Anglo-Saxons wagging their collective finger at others' misuse of alcohol is the height of hypocrisy. We're the drinking-est people that ever lived.