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Memory and the brain
How Memory Works

Help Collective Amnesia: Vietnam war The Dramas of Haymarket The Haymarket Massacre Archive
La commune de Paris Histoire et oubli : les événements du 17 octobre 1961 Collective amnesia in Israel
Patricio Henriquez,réalisateur


There are some collective memories that people decide to forget because they are so sad; natural disasters that cause many deaths might be one example. But there are others, such as civil wars, that people forget because it is the only way they can hope to live in peace with their neighbours once again. Such acts of forgetting are a choice made by the people directly concerned, even if they often make it unconsciously.

But there is another form of collective forgetting that is not the people’s own choice. It is the kind where ideologically driven regimes decide to “cleanse” people’s memories of events that cast their rulers in a bad light. In such cases, we are dealing with falsification of the facts, pure and simple, the “Orwellian” manipulation of collective memory.

By wrapping entire episodes of a country’s history in a veil of silence, the ruling class hopes to make succeeding generations forget that the privileges that it enjoys today were often conquered with fear and blood. Also, by erasing official memories of any facts that belie the nation’s status as a democracy, the ruling class also probably hopes to make people forget acts of repression that took place within this nation, or sad wars of conquest from which they emerged the losers.

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