Apologising for the apologies

What’s this? Not again? Yet another post – already??

Sorry… my fault… many apologies…

Or should I be apologising for the apologies…? 😐

Over-apologising for everything seems a peculiarly English affliction… (Talking with a Polish guy in the post-office the other day, he said that the first three words he learnt when he first came to England were “Please”, “Thank-you” and “Sorry”…) On average I’d guess I say ‘Sorry’ well over a hundred times a day, on the street, in shops, when driving, and perhaps especially at ‘home’ with my increasingly-deaf and increasingly-elderly mother. Yet most other cultures don’t seem to do it; in fact often it seems that most other people don’t do it, even when an apology is definitely required. But in my own case, growing up in this decidedly screwed-up Anglo culture, it was a habit that was hammered into me from earliest childhood: and it’s an often-dysfunctional habit that’s proven very hard to break – even when it doesn’t make sense to apologise. Sorry…

Sure, there are some things for which I definitely do need to apologise. For example, I take on far too much, and then wonder why I don’t get much done at all. I ask for help, and then don’t follow through when help is offered. I perhaps say ‘Thank you’ too much in person, but perhaps nowhere near enough on the net – especially on Twitter, where all the ‘thank-yous’ and #FFs and the like clutters up the space so much, yet probably does matter quite a lot… Oh well. Not good, I know.

And I’ve been ‘the Outsider’ for most of my life – sometimes enforced, sometimes just from an inability to connect, yet so much so that I often do have huge difficulties relating with people in the ‘normal’ way. I’ve never been an employee: I’m not sure I could even cope with it now. Right now I’m back in my all-too-frequent ‘recluse’-mode, so deep into it that my last sort-of ‘social’ event was a meetup with a colleague from Brazil, well over a month ago. I know it’s messed some people around, but I really don’t know how to get out of it now. Seems to be part of who I am. Sorry.

Yet there are also some things I definitely need to stop apologising for.

To use Snowden’s phrase, I’ve definitely become more ‘curmudgeonly’ of late. I’m well aware that the ‘trade’ I’m in – enterprise-architectures and the like – can often be challenging in many different ways: we all have much to learn – myself very much included – so mistakes and flat-footed errors are all fair enough. Yet I’ve become much less tolerant of ‘game-plays’ by people who really should know better: yes, all of us – again, myself included – have perhaps too much ego invested in ‘our’ careers and ideas, but none of us should have to put up with some people’s obsessive ‘need’ to believe that they’re ‘better’ than everyone else, simply by the fact of their existence. I won’t apologise for being ‘curmudgeonly’ about that that: I think we all should, to be honest…

(I haven’t ‘named names’ so far, about some of the more appalling offenders within the EA community and elsewhere, but I must admit I’m getting darned close to that point now. I won’t apologise for doing so, either: most of those people know darn well who they are, so take this as “last and final warning”, perhaps?)

And I certainly won’t tolerate abuse any more, from anyone to anyone. There’s way too much of it, almost everywhere, in every form – see the model and manifesto on this, if it it isn’t already obvious to you. (Yes, I do know that I too fall into it at times – I’m all too human too – but I challenge myself on this a lot harder than I do anyone else, whilst some people seemingly never challenge themselves on it at all. ::sigh:: ) Too many people still seem to believe that they have a ‘right’ to abuse others, which in itself is a societal form of structural abuse: I have no apology and, now, no compunction for calling them on it. None of us can afford to waste the time and energy any more in propping up others’ obsessive self-centredness, or ‘protecting’ those people from the consequences of their wilfully childish refusal to accept their real responsibilities in a complex social world: it’s got to stop. Abusing others is not a ‘right’: I won’t apologise for saying so.

(In fact it’s about darned time that collectively we acknowledged that there are no ‘rights’. The whole idea of ‘rights’ is an arbitrary fiction, built on top of real responsibilities that few people seem willing to acknowledge. To be blunt, most so-called ‘rights’ have become little more than a means to evade responsibilities, by offloading them onto everyone else – in other words, yet another form of structural abuse that could well do without. But that’s another story – though another much-needed story that I won’t apologise for either…)

Perhaps most, though, I really need to stop apologising for who I am.

Yes, I’m cantankerous and curmudgeonly, and write too long with too many confusing complications and complicated words. So what? At least I’m willing to explain things in reasonable depth and precision, and stand up for what I believe in, too. That’s who I am. My reflex is to say “Sorry…” – yet it’s not something I need to be sorry about at all.

Yes, I’m eccentric, with strange ideas that often may not seem to make much sense; and yes, I think a lot about far-future, about the ‘really-big-picture’ and the like. So what? Someone has to do that: and we need something that’s literally ‘offset from the centre’ if we’re to have enough leverage to create needed change. Why should I be sorry that I’m willing to do it when others won’t?

Yes, I skitter around from one field of work to another, sometimes almost minute-by-minute, and sometimes with a (lack of) attention-span to match. But so what? I’ve never claimed to be a specialist: so why should I apologise that I’m not? This work requires an enormous scope: the lack of detail can sometimes be a problem, it’s true, but I wouldn’t be much use as a cross-disciplinary generalist if I didn’t cover as much breadth as I can. Nothing to apologise for there – other than perhaps feel sad at times for our culture’s often excessive faith in the cult of the specialist…

Yes, in many ways I all but live for my work, and perhaps push others too hard at times too. But so what? Again, someone has to do it, and I am doing it: why apologise for that?

Yes, it’s probable I don’t fit well enough with most social ‘norms’: it’s true that I’ve never been an employee, no family of my own, don’t even have a home I could call my own any more. I’m perhaps too much of an Outsider, too: I don’t seem to ‘belong’ – or even able to belong – to anything or anywhere or with anyone, in fact I seem to move between countries and continents as often as other people change houses. And I’ve lived on my own for most of the past quarter-century and more, much of it striving to get away from other people as far as I can: by now I may well be almost constitutionally incapable of ‘normal’ relationships of any kind, and it can be hard not to inflict that kind of inner insecurity on others at times. Oh well.

But so what? That Outsider view is very valuable at times, especially in the type of work that I do; and whilst Thoreau’s bleak phrase “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation” applies to me as much as it does to anyone else, at least I do strive to ensure that “and go to the grave with the song still in them” does not apply. And sure, like anyone else, it’s perhaps hard not to feel sorry for myself at times; but I certainly don’t need to say ‘Sorry’ to anyone else about it – or ask others to feel sorry on my behalf, either. I am who I am: enough said, really.

I’ve been apologising way too much for everything, for everyone. Even apologising for the apologies, which is just plain daft…

Sorry… 😐

Yep, a difficult habit to break. But perhaps what I most need to do now is stop apologising – and just get on with life instead.

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One comment on “Apologising for the apologies
  1. Stephen says:

    Tom, I found this a really nice piece. Have you looked into MBTI, you may be type INTP which is ‘Architect’.

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