Much of public life in Australia seems consumed with the demand for apologies. This is particularly the case with the speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop, whose over-indulgence in expenses was seen to require some contrition on her part. After weathering the storm for several days, Bishop eventually made a statement that acknowledged an error of judgement. The popular media did not accept this, claiming it was too little, too late.
Her situation now seems untenable. Finally, she tendered her resignation. Is there anything that she could have done to appease public opinion?
Traditional societies often require the perpetrator, or family thereof, or offer a precious object as an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the charge. The Iroquois tribes used elaborate wampum belts for this purpose. So is there anything that Bishop could have offered?
What could Bishop offer? Given her standards of dress, a compromise with her normally opulent appearance may have gone some way to showing that she has taken criticism to heart. I could have handed in her pearls as the ultimate sacrifice. Pearls are not only objects if adornment, but their use in Anglo sumptuary laws ties them to the operations of power.
But it’s too late now.