Less, We Forget

Today is Holocaust Rembrance Day. Television screens full of elderly men and women, trying to describe the almost indescribable things they experienced when young, while journalists make it as unreal as a film script with 5-second cliches.

We see tears, mute inability to explain, and endless eloquent solemnity from pundits. But we never see anger. It is as though the passionate determination that nothing like the holocaust should ever happen again is being smothered with a uniform liturgical intoning.

Who was it wrote that the purpose of memorials is to enable forgetting? It might have been Baudrillard, or Barthes, but appropriately, I forget. Cirtainly there are subtexts to the speeches made by the politicians standing in Auschwitz:
* The holocaust was incomprehensible, therefore causeless, therefore no one is to blame.
* The Nazis were a bit like terrorists, and America led/leads a just war on both.
* Let's preserve the memory by mumifying it.

Yes, of course we must remember what happened. But that isn't enough to prevent it happening again. We need also to remember why it happened - not as a moment of unique evil, but as a political event that could have been prevented. That's the only way to recognise the signs of a buildup to another genocide.

No comments:

Post a comment