Remembering, Forgetting and Forgiving

We all experience an imperative to remember. What does it mean to remember? Memory is a debt that we owe to the dead. It has been said the dead always live until they are forgotten by the living. Often painful memories come to haunt us. They provoke us and seek our responses. The past does not wait to be uncovered. It is an affective past, it calls us to remember. However, the past is given to us or comes to us in our living present. The present becomes inundated with issues, questions, losses and pains of the past. Past, therefore, is a huge socio-collective archive. We are drawn to remember that past that affects and even afflicts us the most. Goa has recently witnessed how our tragic past was being racked up to produce political capital with some supposed intent to bring pain to a section of society. It was almost like a victim of the past who was once again victimized and called to answer the ills of the colonizers.

Martin Heidegger teaches us that the past is never done with us even if we wish to be done with it. Paul Ricœur offers us a way of ethically remembering, forgetting and forgiving the past and thus enables us to deal with the past that refuses to die. This resolution of the past enables us to ignite hope and work to build a new future. Thus, while Ricœur shows us the ways of hoping for a new beginning, Heidegger cautions us that those modes of expressing hope cannot fully capture or recapture the past as a unified vision for the future. This is because we have to ethically choose to remember and forget. The past is never fully dead but is always open to new possibilities of being in the world. It is by being absent in the present that the past obligates us to remember it. It is obligating us as having been to which we have belonging and harbours within it a promised future. This is why we often find ourselves looking back to our past to find new ways of being in the world. There is a special bearing to the other of the remembering self in all forms of remembering. Every remembering of the past opens ways of being with the other. Some of these ways may be conflictual while others may be harmonious. What we are facing in India as well as Goa is a remembering of the past that increases the decimals of conflicts in our society. We have the dharma to remember aspects of our past that will produce harmony and peace. We have the dharma to forget as well as forgive the pasts that rob our peace today.

How we respond to the call of the past will constitute the kind of society that we build. Remembering transforms our understanding of the other and adds a different configuration for communal existence. Remembering, therefore, constructs new forms of sociality and community. Remembering our broken past breaks our society. Therefore, the act of remembering places great responsibility on us. This is why Ricœur talks about our ethical responsibility of forgetting and forgiving our past. Ethics come into play when we are tempted to hold the other responsible for the wrongdoings of the past who may not have direct links with the villains of the past. We cannot become heroes by villainizing innocent. If we choose this path, there is nothing to choose between the villains of the past and the neo-villains of the present. Unfortunately, we seem to be moving in this direction. Our memories are policed and we are facing a politics of public remembering that is dividing our society.

.The growth of social media has unleashed a politics of public remembering. Hence, it is essential to scrutinize how this remembering represents our past and how it is employed to sustain identity politics. This exercise is needed because vested interest often privileges some memories and subordinates or forgets other memories. The politics of pubic remembering is connected to powers that be. It is the power elite that selects the forms of remembering and sets up the political discourse in our society. This is why it is important to understand how a powerful resource like memory is exploited to read history from the privileged location of an elite who often poses as a victim of the crimes of the past. The politics of public remembering often uses memory to image a particular reading of the past to further a vested interest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao