THE APOLOGIES PROJECT
Forwarded from Floyd Rudmin:
I belong to several of these peace activist listserves, and part of my activity
everyday is to forward items from one to another. But I wonder how much
this is just a small set of like-minded people keeping themselves busy reminding
themselves that they are like-minded. Maybe something more active is
My own entry into peace activism and peace research came mostly after having
children. I worry about their future. I was motivated originally by
fear of nuclear war, and now by terrorism and violent state reactions to
terrorism. So, in that way, I am very like US and Israeli militant
hardliners. And like Palestinians trying to defend their communities from
Israeli tanks. And like refugees everywhere doing things legal and illegal
to get their families into safe societies. Everyone on all sides of these
conflicts have similar human motives. Everyone has been struck by the similarity
rhetoric of Bush and bin Laden.
Like most people on this listserve, I am convinced that the War on Terror is
about the worst way to reduce terrorism. I would guess that it will increase
terrorism because it entails an acceleration of violence, injustice and
arrogance, and thus an acceleration in revenge and retribution. The US is
planning to do to the whole world what Israel has done in the occupied
territories. Morality and costs aside, it does not seem to work well, and
its counter-productivity is predictable.
So, in thinking what might be effective things to do other than just keep
forwarding essays to people who like them because they already agree with them?
What about this idea?
THE APOLOGIES PROJECT
The idea would be for citizens groups, and levels of government below the
national government (towns, counties, cities, states, provinces, etc.), and
maybe if successful, even national governments, to identify transgressions that
their nation or group (example, a religion) has done to another people, to
document the transgression, and then in various ways apologize and offer amends.
For example, Japanese peace activists to apologize to the Chinese for the
Nanjing Massacre (1937-38, Japanese soldiers killed about 300,000 Chinese in the
most brutal ways AFTER the city had surrendered).
For example, India and Pakistan to apologize to the Kashmiri people for making
their once idyllic communities into places of fear and hatred, amidst rubble and
For example, Americans to apologize to Iran for destroying their democracy in
1953, or to Chile for destroying their democracy.
For example, for the Brits to apologize to Irish Catholics for "Bloody
The list of transgressions is immense and without end, and probably no nation or
people is without a reason to apologize. Which means that various groups
of like-minded people, here and there in their various societies, can proceed to
document to themselves and their compatriots what was the transgression, and
then to use creative ways
of communicating, of making gestures of apology, of making amends, and of
lobbying their local and national governments.
The apology projects might be co-ordinated, support one another, and share
successes and failures.
An apology seems to be a powerful thing. Often victims want an apology
more than compensation, more than punishment of the perpetrators. But it
is such an ordinary thing in everyday life, that it would be very hard to oppose
an apology. And if a government or nationalistic group were to oppose an
apology, then they would have to say out loud why, and thus reveal themselves,
their motives and emotions.
An apology seems like a win-win situation. Those who apologize come to
understand the reality of their national history that is often sanitized from
history books. An apology is verbal and thus does not require huge
resources. Individual activists and small groups can successfully
apologize. If an apology is strongly opposed, then the opponents must
enter into a debate about history, and must reveal motives, both past motives
and current motives. An apology is a human bond, since it entails sympathy
with someone else, who before the apology was treated as non-existent, with
Finally, "The Apologies Project" as a name has a nice ring,
reminiscent of "The Apollo Project" to go to the Moon. It is a
big project, taking on impossible tasks, but actually in steps so small that
small groups can succeed in doing them. (see also the Theory of Small
Wins, applied to peace education by Floyd Rudmin at http://www.peace.ca/theoryofsmallwins.htm
The name's ring also has a very
American quality, and could be wrapped in the American flag just as easily, in
fact more easily, than the War on Terror. Certainly, apologies for
past transgressions the US has done to other peoples will probably be more
effective in preventing more terrorism against the USA than will dropping bombs
on villages, or arresting people without due processes, or sending assassins
here and there in the world.
To begin, we would probably need a coalition of a few peace groups in several
different countries, plus some people who are skilled at organizing and skilled
at websites. It would probably be less threatening to powerful nations if
some small nations first made some apologies. In "The Apologies
Project", smallness has some advantages.
A response received:
This is a profound and brilliant idea.
I'm considering what I can do with it.
Joanna Santa Barbara
Floyd Rudmin can be contacted at email@example.com