Some authors argue that what unites the members of a society is not so much their collective memory of their common past as what they have forgotten about it. According to these authors, each society’s members actually develop their shared memories individually, whereas the facts that have been forgotten are common to all members of this society.
A people’s silences about certain places or dates in its history would thus tell us much more about their community than its official ceremonies of remembrance.
Over the generations, human beings have handed down knowledge and
cultural practices that have shaped the societies we live in today.
memory also includes historic facts, some of which are commemorated
But if we have chosen to remember certain facts, that means we
have also forgotten certain others.
Some events may have left little or
no record behind, simply for lack of witnesses–a little
like a piece of information that we did not manage to transfer
into our long-term memory, because we did
not repeat it or elaborate it enough.
But other particularly sad or dark
episodes in a people’s
history will be erased more actively from its societal memory.
In such cases, a kind of collective psychogenic
amnesia goes to work to suppress memories of this society’s
history that are too painful to recall.
Sometimes such collective amnesia constitutes an unhealthy
act of denial. But at other times, it provides a chance for forgiveness
and a better future.
The motto on Quebec licence plates reads
“Je me souviens” (“I remember”), but just what exactly
are Quebecers remembering?
Source: © Luke Andrews