GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – I’m Sorry I Made A Mistake


We all make mistakes. Some are small and of little consequence in the great scheme of things. Regular readers will know, for example, that I have problem with typos and proof reading. Always have, I don’t know why, but I’m better at it these days largely thanks to spell check and a philosophy lecturer who once returned a paper to me with all of my spelling and punctuation mistakes meticulously corrected with red ink. Honestly, every one of the 20 or so pages must have averaged a dozen red circles and strike outs.

I still remember feeling hugely embarrassed at the number of errors I had made, quickly followed by my amazement at reaching the last page to discover he had given me an A+.

How could this be when he had been so savage with my writing ? So I went to see him.

“Well Bryan” he said “ your spelling is atrocious, but your understanding and argument was excellent.”

It was a life lesson – to try to look past the minor flaws people may have and see the good.

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It’s the bigger mistakes I find harder to tolerate, especially when there are dire consequences for those affected by them.

I’ve worked on murder cases that remain unsolved because a mistake was made early in the investigation and instead of owning up to it the police have mothballed the case rather than admit their officers are just like everyone else – that they sometimes make mistakes.

I remember a conversation I once had with a very senior police officer and putting it to him that they should own up to such mistakes. His reply was that they couldn’t do that because people would “lose faith in the integrity of the police “. My view was, and remains, that admitting an investigation error and asking the public for help in reopening a case would give people more confidence the fairness of police ,rather than less.

Another huge mistake to which I wish the Labour Party would admit, was their introduction of neoliberal economics into our country in 1984 . It ushered in the politics of selfishness that the National Party put on steroids and has now caused 35 years of misery for a lot of families.

If Labour did own up to it’s gross error of judgement , it would go a long way to dispelling my cynicism at their talk of well-being being the measure of our economy, because failing to tackle the untaxed wealth creation system is to continue to pander to the rich at the expense of the poor.

At the risk ,once again, of repeating myself – you cannot have the politics of universal well-being funded by the economics of selfishness.

Years ago when the only television you could buy was a big box with a black and white screen, a home appliance company called L V Martin ran regular ads in which the boss ( I think his name was Alan) would stand in front of whatever piece of whiteware or electrical goods he was promoting that week and finish, every time, with his catch phrase :
“If it’s not right, we’ll put it right because it’s the putting right that counts.”

As a young man I used to think it was a terrible motto – surely the bloody thing shouldn’t have gone wrong in the first place!

Today I can see he was right.

Mistakes happen.

We all make them.

It’s the putting right that counts.

It’s one of the measures people use to judge our integrity.

PS. The astute reader will notice I carefully avoided mentioning neither Brexit (oops!) nor Donald Trump once (damn!).

Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. Today I can see he was right.

    “Mistakes happen.

    We all make them.

    It’s the putting right that counts.

    It’s one of the measures people use to judge our integrity.”

    Ain’t that the bloody truth! Except that now days, “best practice” is to bullshit, obfuscate, close ranks, and push it right to the limit until such time as it becomes truly embarrassing and there’s no other option but to fess up.
    What’s the worst that can happen? Probably a restructure and a review of processes with a few people shuffled around so that it start all over again.

  2. “I remember a conversation I once had with a very senior police officer and putting it to him that they should own up to such mistakes. His reply was that they couldn’t do that because people would “lose faith in the integrity of the police “. I think that this cop made another mistake in saying that – it is the politicians
    that frighten her majesty’s constabulary, not worries about the public’s perception of them. A flawed sort of bloke himself if he was unable to appreciate that people appreciate straight talk.

    For Labour to own up to its terrible mistake with neoliberalism they have to accept it was a mistake.

    • Not that I’ve ever had to indulge in it, but isn’t that the first in the 12 steps? If so, it’s kind of depressing that they haven’t even got past the 1st. Maybe they went straight to the 13th – pairing off.
      You (one) has to wonder at times, given a good many in the various ‘estates’ (not the least of which is the 4th) have become so committed to the addiction.
      I suppose there’s a pill somewhere around I could take that’ll fix it all – even if Pharmac won’t fund it and I’ll have take flight to somewhere in the 3rd World for a remedy. OR maybe there’s an instruction manual somewhere – fear not though – if there is I won’t go near it unless I can be assured it has ISO9000 accreditation

  3. Try mentioning the racist, lebensraum-seeking, murderous Han Chinese dictatorshit next time, Bryan? 😉

    • God I luv ya Kaz! Truly revolutionary – a fucking example to us all! Is there somewhere on social media I can contribute to the cause with a like or two? Or maybe even down some dark alley in a Wellington backstreet we could meet over a cup of Cuban coffee to discuss the road ahead

  4. Well said, but unlike your lecturer, I will only give this article an “A”. I have removed the “+” for the error in your P.S.: “…avoided mentioning neither Brexit (oops!) nor Donald Trump once”, should be “…avoided mentioning either Brexit (oops!) or Donald Trump once”.

  5. But genuine mistakes are easy to admit to. Dodgy, deviant, criminal mistakes takes a little more effort to smooth over.
    ” I made a mistake and while my intentions were honourable, I made a mistake. Sorry.” Is different from: ” I deliberately fucked your country by plundering your hard earned resources and amenities and in so doing I turned a large number of people into the impoverished, dysfunctional victims of my greed , but wait there’s more? Those loser-people will, by no fault of their own go on to have yet more children who will be the victims of my devious greed too. Think of it as an evil gift that just keeps giving and we neo liberal criminals gave it to you. Sorry. So, so sorry. Now, just suck it up while I go for a drive in my Aston Martin. ”
    Here’s another thing. Lazy, deviant criminals of generations ago figured out a perfect swindle to grift our primary industry funds into their pockets. They then went on to build myths around their noble achievements then gave themselves knight hoods to further help hide their crimes. That manipulative criminality is the back bone of our country’s financial and political mandates. And that can never, ever be laid bare for all to discuss and to react to accordingly. Otherwise? I think beer might get spilled and arses might get kicked.
    Just think of the scope and span of that swindle? Industrialised cowsploitation is a feeble attempt to keep the money coming in while desperately trying to side step searching questions of how AO/NZ managed to get this far prior to selling milk powder to Chinese nationals because, Auckland? And those Big Shiny Banks down town? Wtf? Right?
    Genuine mistakes are easy to admit to.
    Crooks only admit to their mistakes if they get caught.

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