How far do you agree with her observations, relating your arguments to your own experience and that of your society?
The author presents her ideas about what constitutes successful and less successful apologies.
The author vividly exposes how an apology is associated with a wide range of socio-cultural issues such as gender, media and post-colonialism. I largely agree with her observations and find her ideas illuminating given the context of Singapore.
Sometimes an apology is not required, and statistically, women are more likely to over-apologise than men. Over-apologising may “damage the perception others have of you, and you reduce your chances of promotion at work” (paragraph 3). I agree with this statement given the context of Singapore. As compared to other countries in the region, Singapore has done relatively well in closing the gender pay gap. In Singtel, the local telecom giant, female employees make up one-third of the senior management positions, including the group chief executive, and investment, technology and operating heads. Still, on average, women are paid 6% less as compared to men who do similar jobs in Singapore. Despite the meritocratic rhetoric, gender discrimination still exists in Singapore’s workplace, and over-apologising possibly puts women at a disadvantage. The modern island state is still influenced by traditional, patriarchal beliefs in Asia. Men, in general, feel more comfortable showcasing what they can while ambitious, unapologetic women tend to be ostracised and deemed unapproachable or bossy.
Sincerity is a key criterion for a successful apology, but in the real world, sincerity is often complicated by motives such as publicity or commercial interests. When public figures or celebrities apologise, the author suspects that their apology is “all about taking back control” with “all sincerity stripped away” (paragraph 8). I do share the author’s suspicion. In Singapore, given the popularity of social media and the increasing juxtaposition of public discourse and entertainment, there is no such thing as bad publicity, not even a public apology. In 2020, Singapore podcast Okletsgo sparked an uproar with sexist comments in their show. Hours after President HalimahYacob criticised the show on Facebook, the producers of Okletsgo apologised for their misogynist comments and for “taking so long to realise the extent of hurt that they have caused” (Straits Times, 2020). They added that they came from an industry that habitually objectifies women for laughter, and they were not meant to be taken seriously. Many question the sincerity of their apology; nevertheless, after President’s online comments, the show became the No.1 podcast on audio streaming service Spotify’s Singapore charts. I do hope for more sincere apologies in society, but it has been increasingly difficult to discern authenticity in Singapore.
The author offers a post-colonial analysis too. She claims that apologies from former colonial powers, done sincerely and discreetly, can be “reinforced with further measures aimed at reconciliation”. While Singapore was not a colonial power, it was the colony of the United Kingdom during the 19th to the 20th century. Singapore, too, needs to reconcile with its colonial past. It has been a tricky issue for Singapore, as the colonial history gave the island state tremendous economic opportunities while people suffered from injustice. Making up for the colonial past has always been a delicate matter in Singapore. During the 2019 Singapore Bicentennial, a series of cultural events commemorated the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. While some criticised the government for honouring colonial history, the cultural events focused on the national narrative of Singaporeans always being open, diligent and multicultural. Today, the sculpture of Raffles, as a symbol of international trade and national spirit, still oversees the Central Business District. To me, Singapore occasionally understates its colonial past in order to position itself as a regional trading hub. While it is not expected for today’s Singapore to officially demand the UK for an apology for the colonial past, more measures, dialogues and cultural events are needed to help Singaporeans reach reconciliation and forgiveness.
To sum up, an apology is such a common phenomenon that Singaporeans often take for granted. The journalist article comes as a timely reminder of issues surrounding apology.