Passing bull 7 – Remorse in Japan and here

If you got referred to the headmaster for having a cigarette behind his house, and you said ‘I am deeply remorseful about this, sir’, he would know that he had a serial bullshit-artist on his hands – and a serious candidate for high office in this great nation.

If you feel remorse, you show it by saying that you are sorry.  That might be called an apology, and you might say that you apologise, but saying that you are sorry is what counts.  That is what we – the white people who took this land – said to the people that we took it from.  Adding a veneer of depth or sincerity may only suggest the opposite.

There was therefore something hollow about the apology of Mitsubishi for using captured soldiers as slave labour during the war.  ‘Today we apologise remorsefully for the tragic events in our past.’  It is not for the wrongdoer to anoint themselves with the balm of remorse.  And what was ‘tragic’ about these crimes against humanity committed by one of the most vicious, cruel and racist regimes known to mankind?

The Telegraph gave a context from an account given by a Scots survivor to his son:

‘The conditions were horrendous’, Mr Gibson said. ‘My father told us that inside the mine there would be roof cave-ins, flooding and pockets of poisonous gas.

‘It was also high up in the mountains and freezing cold much of the time, yet the PoWs only had the clothes they had been wearing in the tropical jungle.  They used to make mittens and other clothes out of grass.

‘There were no Red Cross parcels as the Japanese used to keep them for themselves,’ he added. ‘My father told my brother about a man who tried to steal a bit of food from the shipyard but was caught and beaten up.

‘The next day, the Japanese staked him out over a bed of fast-growing bamboo, which grew through his body and eventually killed him.’

After the war, Hichiro Tsuchiya, the mine foreman, was sentenced to 15 years hard labour after being found guilty of nine counts of assaulting prisoners, including with the handle of a pickaxe.

The prisoners were ‘treated as rubbish’ because they had surrendered, as the Japanese had been brought up to believe that committing suicide was preferable to surrender, Mr Gibson said.


The worst think about this apology was the time it took.  One victim said ‘For 70 years we wanted this.’  The victims who survived suffered more from thinking that the criminals were getting off – for seventy years, the length of my life so far.  Did the people at Mitsubishi say that they were sorry for the pain that they had caused by refusing to say that they were sorry?  What was it that finally cracked the hard face of the monolith?

But there will be oodles of remorse at Toshiba because unless the law of Japan is very different to ours, big heads there look to be headed for the slammer.  They have been cooking the books to the tune of billions for years and years – and they have been caught – and that is the only reason that we know of it.

The company released a statement: ‘The company takes the situation that it has caused very seriously and we deeply apologise to our shareholders, investors and other stakeholders.’

The report that led to the group resignations at the top said: ‘Within Toshiba, there was a corporate culture in which one could not go against the wishes of superiors.  Therefore, when top management presented ‘challenges’, division presidents, line managers and employees below them continually carried out inappropriate accounting practices to meet targets in line with the wishes of their superiors.’

The word ‘culture’ is suspect, but it does appear that in each case there was a culture that did not allow for personal conscience – before the crime or after it.  The trouble with maintaining a front that says that you do not have to apologise is that you are living a lie and that what once lay behind that front may just shrivel up and die.

Our Treasurer may not be feeling remorse, but he is remarkably rich and thick-skinned if he is not feeling sorry for himself.  His public standing is at best no higher than if he had not sued, but he will be net out of pocket to the tune of about a quarter to a half a million dollars.  He said: ‘After nearly 20 years in public life, I took this action to stand up to malicious people intent on vilifying Australians who choose to serve in public office to make their country a better place.’

That is vintage bullshit.

The press are grizzling.  They never stop.  It is hard to imagine a better deterrent – the press calls the Treasurer a ‘Treasurer for sale’; he sues on a lay-down misere and wins – but he still comes a gutser in an amount that would bankrupt even those who have a decent job.

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