When JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon appeared before a Congressional committee investigating how JP Morgan Chase lost $2 billion in a complex trade, he said he was sorry.
Yeah, that ought to cover it.
"I'm sorry" has become the phrase with the widest variety of uses and purposes in the English language.
"Sorry" means you erred in some fashion and to acknowledge that, you offer the exculpatory apology.
But today, a record number of people are either themselves sorry or demanding that someone else be sorry.
It is a phrase with many purposes.
Sorrow publicly expressed relieves one of any burden or consequence; a public do-over that is accorded to those who apologize for anything from drug use, marital infidelity, criminal behavior or other egregious conduct.
"I'm sorry" is an overused phrase to which significant importance has been attached, a catchall phrase that neutralizes all anger or disharmony simply by its utterance.
Nothing has materially changed, no wrong has thus been righted, and no outcome materially changed or even altered. Whatever happened still happened with all its attendant consequences and repercussions.
"I'm sorry" doesn't change anything in the least. It means nearly nothing, except whatever satisfaction can be gained from hearing it uttered.
And that is where the demand for an apology is used as a weapon. Contrition is no longer voluntary. It is expected on demand.
Any group of spurious sanctity that feels wronged demands an apology. The discovery of any ethnic, religious, racial or moral slight, actual or perceived is announced by the demand for proper restitution, which includes a mandatory apology.
Tweet something mildly offensive? Demand for apology. Make a comment into which someone can read insensitivity, no matter how remote? Apology demanded.
Tell a joke that carries with it hidden or obtuse references that could be construed by some to have vaguely racial/ethnic overtones? Apology.
If someone can infer through the most ludicrous and twisted logic that a slight of such insignificant magnitude as to barely register on the insult scale might indeed have occurred, apology.
What is it about an apology that it is always immediately demanded? It does not withdraw the slight, erase it, modify it, cosmetically alter it or even mitigate it in the least. If indeed it is metaphorically alluding to something in a race, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference or moral position that could be mildly offensive, it remains thus.
"I'm sorry" is not a cosmic eraser or Sherman's Way-back machine that returns us all to the moment before the utterance or act, thus expunging it for all of time.
It is just two words to which an enormous amount of significance is attached.
I have a theory, as I do about a lot of things of no real consequence.
My theory is that the demand is a way to humiliate, a PC poke in the eye, a Gotcha! moment in which little people with no real significance in life revel.
The apology request does not seek to extract vengeance, retribution, or even an honest acknowledgement that perhaps in a perfect world someone could have thought something through a little better before speaking.
It is an attempt at humiliation, at forced groveling; it is an effort to strip away pride and dignity and reduce someone to subservience by putting them in a position to seek forgiveness from you.
It is easy to do, simple to utter and thus make the grievance vanish. "I'm sorry if what I said caused anyone discomfort." There, it's over and having received their fleeting moment of satisfaction, little people retreat to the shadows to await their next opportunity to embarrass and shame someone.
I will find new respect for someone who says, "Yes, I said that. I was quoted accurately and it was not taken out of context. As I think about, I'm meant to say exactly that. I'm glad I said it and I might say it again. If someone read more into it than I intended, that is their problem."
Not likely, but it could happen.