Sunday, 26 April 2009

An apology

Further to discussion recently about appropriate apologies etc, some might be interested in this example of a public apology. Tsuyoshi Kusanagi is a member of the long-running Japanese boy-band SMAP and was arrested on suspicion of public indecency after being found drunk and naked in a public park in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Some cultures do apologies and remorse better than others. It is probably worth pointing out that this was as near to a "victimless crime" as it is possible to get, really, the incident in question being a solo naked romp in a deserted park at 3am in the morning.

"As an adult, my actions were embarrassing. I deeply regret what I did," 34-year-old Kusanagi, a member of popular male pop group SMAP, told a packed press meeting in Tokyo's Minato Ward on Friday night. Kusanagi, who was arrested on suspicion of public indecency after being found drunk and naked in a park in the ward in the predawn hours of Thursday, was released on Friday afternoon. He will be forced to cancel his entertainment activities for the time being.

"I caused a lot of concern and trouble to my fans, concerned parties, and my fellow members of SMAP. I'm really sorry," the somber Kusanagi said as he bowed before the 300-strong media corps gathered at a major recording company's conference room shortly after 9 p.m. "I drank too much, to the extent that I was out of control. I regret my actions very much," said Kusanagi, clad in a blackish suit and tie. "I deeply apologize."

"I had never become naked in public before. I once stripped myself down to my underwear while drinking at home," Kusanagi continued. "I sometimes drink to the extent I lose myself." He even revealed that his fellow SMAP members once warned him over his drinking habit: "Maybe they were worried about me going like this today. I wasn't conscious enough of my actions."

When asked why he drank to the point of becoming unconscious, Kusanagi said, "Although I'm aware that I have the support of many people, it was my weakness that I drank (too much)." Kusanagi, however, flatly denied that he was suffering from any stress or pressure. "I want to return to SMAP as soon as possible. But I need to reflect on my actions. It's something that cannot be decided by my feelings alone," he said. At the end of the 30-minute-long press conference, Kusanagi bowed again and said, "I'm terribly sorry."

There has also been reaction from the government due to Kusanagi's role as official promoter of Japan's move to digital TV broadcasting, as a result of which households will need to invest in new tellys.

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kunio Hatoyama vented anger when asked to comment. ''The act is shameful for a person who is asking the public to shoulder a financial burden'' of buying new televisions to prepare for the shift. The minister said he plans to remove all the posters promoting digital broadcasting that feature Kusanagi, while the singer's arrest immediately triggered the cancellation of commercials featuring him airing in Japan, including one by Toyota Motor Corp.

What do you think? An appropriate response? Too harsh? How do you think this incident would have played out in New Zealand?


Anonymous said...

Personally I don't see what he was apologising for. I don't think public nudity and drunkeness are problematic if somebody unless somebody hurt/offended by them, and clearly in this case nobody was, since he was alone (until the cops showed up)

It's a minor point, but I wonder why they felt the need to mention what he was wearing?

That being said, if we can overlook the (major!) fact that he didn't do anything that requires apologising for, this is a very good apology. I particularly liked the bit where he thanked people for their support while still acknowledging his own responsibility.

Alison said...

How would it have been dealt with in NZ? Pardon my cynicism, but based on how comparable drunken behaviour has been dealt with amongst our sportspeople, I suspect the manager of the celebrity would come out with a statement; (I paraphrase) "we don't like this and we've warned him. Boys will be boys, but he should be a better class of boy because he's a celebrity. Now we're going to shield him from having to actually make a public statement of his own, so take our word for it that he's sorry". Repeat ad nauseum until the media finds something else to focus on.

Anna said...

That's interesting - I guess the extent of the backlash is in relation to the cultural values the person has offended against. Drunken shenanigans are taken far more seriously in some cultures than others.

It's tricky to say what a celebrity 'owes' the public. Some people argue that what they do in their own lives is their own business (within reason), and they don't have a responsibility to set an example. I'm inclined to think that if a celebrity has the power to influence other people's behaviour or thinking, they do have a moral responsibility to the society around them - particularly when they've gained the benefits of celebrity status from that society. Which is just one reason why Tony Veitch's non-apology grated on me.

Anna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

That's much better than any public apology (or remorse) that Veitch has expressed.

While Veitch has said he is deeply regrets his actions he seems to undermine his own responsibility for his actions as well (eg. with using phrases like "how I was driven to do it"). He also said he was very surprised to find out he had broken his girlfriends' back, he had thought that he had only caused a few bruises. It's as if he is suggesting that she has a weak back - rather than admitting that he must have kicked her in the back with sufficient force while she was on the ground so as to break her back in 2 places. And the wording he has used in the media interviews after his conviction doesn't show that he owns the responsibility for the assault - he refers to the assault as "the incident" rather than "when I assaulted/kicked my girlfriend".

On the other hand I think he is somewhat remorseful. I think he still wants to see himself as basically a nice guy so he downplays the harm he caused in the "incident". Over time hopefully he will be fully able to acknowledge what he did - without justifying or downplaying it - and the harm that he caused. Eventually I hope he is able to say, "wow, I did seriously assault and injure my girlfriend. I caused her a lot of pain, distress & ongoing harm. I don't know how I made that decision to assault her, and in particular to kick her with so much unrestrained force that I broke her back. I've never done anything close to this serious before, and I am enormously ashamed for my actions. I obviously need help. I will take anger managemnent classes and attend counselling. I express a big apology to my ex-girlfriend over the psychological and psychical harm I have caused her. I apologise to the public for paying a bribe to keep my actions hidden. My actions were a serious criminal offence. There are men rightly in prison for doing less than I did, and my ex-girlfriend has every right to report my assault to the police and the polic have every right to charge me."

Some apology like that would have been nice to hear from Veitch. Instead he has tended to downplay the violence that he inflicted and to portray the relationship as an reasonably good one except for that one impulsive and 'out of character' 'incident'. He doesn't seem to see it as a serious criminal offence, but rather as an unfortunate accident of which he was 'driven to do' by his circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I've decided to never again apologise for my actions.

I'm sick of people who demand an apology as well as their pound of flesh, and who also will not accept that their part of the incident also requires an apology.

katy said...

"It's tricky to say what a celebrity 'owes' the public."

I think that this really goes to the heart of the difference. Public drunkeness is not uncommon or a big deal in itself in Japan, unlike some countries (Italy?) where it is heavily frowned on. I think what the difference here is is that public figures are held to a higher standard and if you break the law, no matter how stoopid the law may seem, you take responsibility for that.

Julie said...

Anon at 3.36pm today seems oddly apologist. Irony much?

Julie said...

Sorry, I meant 3.53pm, I APOLOGISE.

Anna said...

Apology accepted, Julie. I'm sure you've been working hard and you were tired and it's out of character for you. ;-)

Mary Lou said...

Err, in Japanese culture it is very much frowned upon if you bring dishonor onto yourself or your family. The man has probably gone through hell for his stupid behaviour and has done the right thing for his society by apologising.

Good on him.

AWicken said...

Damn, if all the drunken streakers in otago did that, there'd be a queue at the newpapser office every monday morning.

But I love that there was no mention of "peer pressure" the folk he might have been partying with, or bar staff who kept serving alcohol. Depending on circumstance each of these might be followed up seperately, but the apology was "my choice, I screwed up, my bad".

For the anon who vows never to apologise again - an apology is an acknowledgement that behaviour was sub-par. Refusing to acknowledge sub-par behaviour in itself is sub-par. Nothing to do with pounds of flesh or other people taking ownership for whatever sub-par actions they might or might not have done.

It's simply the case that somebody who makes a self-mitigating apology (or none at all) is just committing another dickish act, instead of acknowledging that the act they previously committed was also dickish. They therefore indicate that the dickishness which caused both acts is a long term or permanent condition, rather than a brief lapse.

Anna said...

Agreed, AWicken - there's quite a bit missing from this article. I was a bit concerned about the guy in question describing his actions as 'weakness'. Obviously it might just have been a dumb lapse of judgement or whatever, but it might also be indicative of a problem - and it's difficult for someone to seek treatment for an alcohol problem if admitting the problem is seen as a sign of personal failure.

I also agree that saying 'You started it' instead of 'Sorry' is quite dickish.

Anonymous said...

it's difficult for someone to seek treatment for an alcohol problem if admitting the problem is seen as a sign of personal failure.A good thing the same doesn't apply when it comes to seeking treatment for anger problems or violent behaviour, eh Anna?

Anna said...

Unsure what you're saying, Anon.

I don't know of anybody who was criticised for fronting up to their domestic violence problem - like the guys on the 'It's not OK' ads, who have the integrity to admit that what they did was utterly, totally and 100% inexcusable. None of them said, 'It was wrong, but she provoked me'. They just said, 'It was wrong'. And I think they're incredibly courageous.

I do know of people who've been criticised for making a bunch of weak excuses for domestic violence, though.