Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day for a Society with no Memory

I've always been weirded out by Memorial Day, it's a day on which Americans are supposed to memorialize the Heroic Dead, but ours is a society in which memory is not at a premium. This year, as we approach a stateside civilian death toll of one hundred thousand, our lack of memory is taking on a particularly macabre significance. Seeing the photos of people congregating in public across the country, I was struck by a lack of awareness of the seriousness of this pandemic, and a callousness towards service workers and medical personnel. We're supposed to be the descendants of the people who sacrificed to beat fascism in the mid 20th century, but we can't even forgo a weekend of drinking shitty beer in crowded swimming pools. My mom grew up during WW2, and while I don't think she'd say she grew up in conditions of privation, but she certainly grew up in conditions of austerity, and she impressed upon myself and my siblings the need for frugality and social responsibility that seem quaint in this profligate age. I am also astounded by the sudden resurgence of once-forgotten information about the century old influenza outbreak, and our responses to it... and our failure to learn from such mistakes.

I wouldn't say that I am in any way depressed, but I do seem to be feeling a low-grade anger much of the time. I remember telling a coworker that it will be a miracle if I don't put someone through a wall before this national crisis is over, and I have to confess that I was only half joking.


Anathema Device said...

Not only can people apparently not remember the past, but there are evil forces dedicated to the constant bastardisation of our memories. Obama golfed while Daniel Pearl was beheaded. The Mueller report exonerated Trump. Conservatives are good at managing the economy (untrue in at least three countries I can think of immediately.) Nazis were just economically anxious.

God, people can't even remember why Americans have been asked to wear masks. Like the facts of the coronavirus are written in chalk on the pavement, and it's been raining. Trump is one of the reasons. He creates so much outrage and horror that we have trouble remember what we were angry and worried about yesterday, let alone last week. His shit overwhelms the media and our psyches - yes, even all the way across the Pacific. What he doesn't drown, our local Trumplites dump in the well.

We don't remember the really awful events, the truly heroic people, the trlu evil ones. We forget the contributors and valorise the conmen. There is too much happening, and too many devoted to making sure we don't think too hard about any of it before the next train of misery arrives.

And we cut funds to history departments and other arts, because we consider them useless. (And by 'we' I mean the conservative governments 'we' keep electing.)

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Orwell was totally on the money when he described the Memory Hole.

Driftglass describes memory as 'the liberal superpower'.

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