Dealing with Pastness of the Present

We are facing erasure of the past and the present in our country. Often the great figures of past are put in oppositional relation with other leaders of that time. This is because of the politics of today wants to control the pastness of the present of our society. Somehow the pastness of the present has a hold over us and we respond to it in several ways. We rely on the pastness of the present to legitimate the present. Thus, for instance, with the change in the treasury benches of our country in the present days, we have suddenly seen the emergence of Nathuram Godse or Vinayak Damodar Savarkar as freedom fighters and they seem to have erased other heroes of our struggle for freedom. This erasure of the past attacks our public memory, which in many ways actually audits our writing, mediating and debating of our past and history.

Memory is a form of resistance. When we remember we guard the erasure of our past or even its use for vested interest. Unfortunately, ritual of commemorations of the past are used to attack public memory which is than shaped to serve political ends. There is a clear line of distinction between memory, remembrance and commemoration. Goa is not free from these erasures of the past. The fact that we have a spate of installation of statues, we can see how rituals of commemoration our used to police our memory and shape it to serve the political agenda of the right wing. This is why we have the challenge to remember to resist the erasure of our public memory. Perhaps, with the coming of accelerated change in our society, history, faith and culture seem to have become surrogate architecture that gives us sense of continuity and rootedness. This is why right wing politics seem to succeed in a world marked by neoliberal economics.

The speed and the pace of life under neo-liberal economic policies unsettles our securities and past becomes a mode of holding on to uncertainties of our changing world . Thus, memory becomes a crucial site that provides us identity under this present predicament. We are constantly challenged to place ourselves in relation to a past. Contemporary publicness constantly incites our memory and forces us to belong to a particular kind of past and define our relation to the other. This is we have the challenge to remember to resist is fixation of our lives into the Platonic caves of the past. This means we have an imperative to reclaim the lessons of the past as a field of meaning and direction that will then open us to the present and the future.

Since, memory also becomes the bases for rituals of commemoration, it becomes a technology that provides grounds of recognition. Hence, it is difficult to resist these ritual commemorations which put on a mask of innocence but always choose to be on the side of the powers that be. Moreover, these rituals become sites that give impetus to what we may call retroactive justice whereby the past that is viewed as lost is sort to be restored. Thus, monuments, statues , and other rituals of commemoration becomes complex cites where past and the present cross each other and becomes platforms for recognition and retroactive justice. Unfortunately this demand of retroactive justice in made on the innocent people who themselves were the victims of the past. This does not concern its perpetrators as the entire process is used to harvest political benefits for the right wing. The past victimization and suffering are, thus, spectacularized. But the same injustice when repeated on innocent escape-goats of the present remain unrecognized and undiscerned. This is why, we tolerate heinous violence in our times and even see as a condition of our self-realization (Hindu nation in our country) and social emancipation.

Memory being a complex public way of representing our past needs to be constantly critically and ethically reviewed. We in fact have the challenge to bravely and prophetically remember the past that is on the side of those who are the true victims of the past. This is why we have the challenge to critically analyze the kinds of technologies or modes that mediates remembering and forgetting in our society. We have to be on our alert when the past of the victims is turned against the victims themselves by political opportunists.

It may take the media of films, television, theatre, museums , fictions, memorial parks, statues, and other rituals of commemoration and appear harmless and innocent. But we cant remain passively silent. We have the challenge to ethically choose what to remember and what to forget. This choice is really necessary at time when memories are actively policed, edited and constructed. Only this ethical and prophetic remembering will enable us to resist organized memoralizing that is used to produce political capital by the vested interest. We, therefore, have the challenge to maintain vigilance over the social inventories, archives and institutions likes the state and the universities that produce and guard our memory. We need this active vigilance , especially at a time when we see a profuse distortion of the past. Today this vigilance and resistance is indeed, the urgent need of the hour as we are facing several memory formations that are producing an imperial memory regime that is forced on our society. This memory regime is not only erasing the past but also our present. If we submit to these erasures, we will live a great delusion in our country cut away from our integral past and the present. We have the Imperative to remember and discover resistance to manipulation of our memories.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao