It has been a while since the Tiger Woods story tormented me. I already wrote about it in my blog entitled A Society of Voyeurs and I thought, back then, that this was enough to appease my feelings towards a judgmental society. [tweetmeme source=”mirellamcc” only_single=false]
Yesterday, on February 19th, came the public apology of Mr. Woods to revive my feelings. So I decided to read more about the phenomena of public apologies and the punishment of adultery.
Sins and punishment: the case of adultery
I am not an expert in American law but I read some place on the web that adultery is, by law, an offense harmful to public moral, therefore, legislators attempt to discourage adultery by making it punishable as a crime. I couldn’t find more information in my quick electronic search, but I am open to all the information you readers can provide to enlighten me about the American law regarding adultery.
When I studied law in the French system, adultery was not considered a crime and was not punished by the Penal Code anymore. In 1975, the law punishing adultery was abolished, and adulterers stopped going to jail.
Even though adulterers stopped being prosecuted, adultery remained a strong basis on which to build a divorce case. French considered adultery as a breach of agreement between spouses – a civil act that should be ruled by the civil code. The change was supported by the women’s rights movement, which saw that punishment was applied most of the time to women adulterers, and not to men who cheated on their wives. In addition, France, as a secular state, wanted to put an end to laws mostly inspired by religion beliefs.
If you ever took a law course at school or college, you already know that most legislation was inspired by religion, mainly by the monotheist religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
So according to universal moral values, adultery should be punished. But how and by whom? So if you are a hypocrite who broke the civil act also known as a marriage agreement by not being faithful, does society have the right to consider you harmful and dangerous? And should you be punished and go to prison, like a sex offender?
In Woods’ case, if the law stipulates that adultery is punishable by imprisonment, Tiger Woods should go to jail.
Yesterday, during his press conference, or press release, Woods seemed to be presenting a defense speech/mea culpa, awaiting for the jury deliberation, which is, in this case, the American society.
It was similar to an open public court, where a weakened Tiger Woods presented an apology, without benefiting from the presence of an eloquent lawyer to defend his case.
Which made me think about the effectivness of public apologies and their impact on public opinion.
Apology as an act of redemption?
Looking up the word apology, I found a link that led me to Plato the apology of Socrates:
“It is Plato’s account of Socrates’ defense at his trial in 399 BC (the word “apology” comes from the Greek word for “defense-speech. It is clear, however, that Plato dressed up Socrates’ speech to turn it into a justification for Socrates’ life and his death. In it, Plato outlines some of Socrates’ most famous philosophical ideas: the necessity of doing what one thinks is right even in the face of universal opposition, and the need to pursue knowledge even when opposed.”
The web search also led me to many companies advertising their “apology” services. Did you know that some companies specialize in writing apologies for people who need to address issues in front of the public? This kind of business seems to be flourishing with the many scandals, followed by apologies, that we witnessed lately among political figures.
Anyway, my conclusion is that public apologies lead nowhere. Judgments have already been rendered, reputations and careers ruined, and the offenders never really redeem themselves.
Public apologies should not exist in the first place. Woods and guilty politicians should apologize to their spouses for breaking their promises, and that is it. They should not go all the way and extend the apology to anonymous viewers watching TV (and probably too much TMZ).
Besides, how much do public apologies help improve someone’s image?
Does any one remember Bill Clinton’s apology? No. People do still remember him lying about Monica Lewinsky’s case, and they still make jokes about his famous line: “I did not have sex with that woman.”
Hillary Clinton, who suffered the most at the time, is still paying the price for her husband’s behavior and, according to some, lost the 2008 presidential election because of her husband’s reputation. The judgmental society, who should have stood by Hillary Clinton’s side all the way, didn’t care during the election, if bringing up Bill Clinton’s behavior will have a negative consequences on his wife’s campaign.
No one really care about the collateral damages of adultery, people are too busy throwing stones.
What did we learn from public apologies? They don’t work.
If Woods have not said anything, or withdrew from his career, and kept playing, even without his sponsors, what would have happened? Nothing. If Wood ever goes back to playing, his sponsors are going to come back like flies.
It is funny, but I remembered the cases of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Their name were linked to sex videos and this is how they became famous. I know you are going to say: “but they are different, they are not Tiger Woods.” Well, they do represent a new image of the young generation, and they are icons to their followers. Kim Kardashian has more than 3 million followers on Twitter. Which mean that more than 3 million people are interested in knowing what Kim Kardashian does every minute of the day.
In conclusion, Tiger Woods is an excellent golf player, and we all need to see him recover (from whatever his disease is) and play golf again. We need more constructive efforts and less judgmental attitude. Believe me, it is not the good versus the bad. It doesn’t work that way.
Stop the Woods circus and get real.