Journalism, Memory & Forgetting

This is ‘a version’ of a paper I gave at the 2014 Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD) Centre conference, Media, War and Memory.  The talk/paper was/is titled
The Past is Not a Foreign Country: Why Journalists Should Write a Better ‘Second Draft of History’ and looks at how we allocate (or mis-allocate) memory around our colonial history, particularly with respect to contemporary reporting on Treaty of Waitangi issues. Excuse the philosophical style type etc. rambling at the top. If you want the journalism/empirical stuff, just go down to the section headed “Journalism and History”.

In this paper I’m going to look at memory and collective memory first from a philosophical perspective – this is to make the case that the business of personal and collective memory lie at the heart of our existence both as individuals, and as citizens who, in theory, want to have an identity, a place where we belong. Put another way, memory and remembering are viscerally existential matters.

Next, I look at how journalists help or hinder in forming that collective memory – in this particular case, I do that by investigating a year’s worth of reporting on Treaty settlement issues.

(The black and white photos throughout of various commemorative/battle sides in Aotearoa New Zealand are from architect Geordie Shaw’s amazing and beautiful M Arch thesis, titled The Lost, Erased, Unseen, and Forgotten: Translating into Architecture the New Zealand Wars, which you can read online right here, and you should.)


Tapuaharuru RedoubtWhat is memory? The answer to that question depends on who is asking it: The neuro-scientist. The teacher. The historian. The gerontologist. For the philosopher – in particular the phenomenologist – consciousness and memory are effectively one and the same thing. Without remembering, without memories – that is, consciousness over time – I don’t know who or what I am because I don’t know where I came from, what I’ve done, where I’ve been, what I’ve thought, whom I’ve loved and loathed.

Because of the way consciousness and time and memory overlap, one can actually make the much stronger claim: it’s not just that without memory (consciousness of time) that I don’t know who or what I am, I may not even know that I am – I may not even “be”.

In a phenomenological sense — indeed in an existential sense — an “I” or “me” that only exists for an instant is no “I” at all.

Perhaps the first in the Western tradition to seriously investigate memory was St. Augustine — the 4th century theologian and philosopher – which he did in his book Confessions:

In the vast hall of my memory…sky land and sea are available to me together with all the sensations I have been able to experience in them, except for those which I have forgotten.

There also I meet myself and recall what I am, what I have done, and when and where and how I was affected when I did it.

But it’s not just that my past introduces me to my present self. it is also the source of my future self. Here’s Augustine again:

Out of the same abundance in store, I combine with past events images of various things, whether experienced directly, or believed on the basis of what I have experienced; and on this basis I reason about future actions and events and hopes.

Te PorereSo here I am – me, and my continuous past, my memories. There’s obviously still something missing, and that is the world I emerge into. It was the phenomenologists, among others, who really began to challenge the possibility of an isolated individual consciousness – a la Descartes’ res cogitans (thinking thing) – or at least the possibility that such an individual could make any sense to us as beings-in-the world.

A key player in this shift, and which lay at the core of the phenomenological school of thought, was Heidegger and his re-conception of the person as Da-sein, literally being-there, but it’s usually left un-translated because it is philosophically untranslatable. (Anyone writing anything about Heidegger must acknowledge his links to Naziism. The question of how his philosophy should be considered in that light is important, and I certainly don’t have an answer. There’s a good recent piece about this in the Oct. 9, 2014 issue of The New York Review of Books by Peter E. Gordon.)

One useful bumper sticker definition: “the subject of philosophy is not a worldless ‘I,’ but rather Dasein, which is essentially worldly.” (From: David G. Stern. “Heidegger and Wittgenstein on the Subject of Kantian Philosophy”)

And this is how the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur explains this notion – in his 2000 book: Memory, History, Forgetting,

One does not simply remember oneself seeing, experiencing, learning; rather one recalls the situations in the world in which one has seen, experienced, learned. These situations imply one’s own body and the bodies of others, lived space, and, finally, the horizon of the world and worlds, within which something has occurred.

The philosopher Edmund Husserl, whose account of time strongly influenced Heidegger’s own, has a lovely spatial analogy (from his Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness), in which he argues that just as objects in space essentially make no sense without a foreground and a background; so temporal objects (objects in time, like us) make no sense without a temporal foreground and background:

For the spatial thing, the ordering into the surrounding space and the spatial world on the one side, and on the other, the spatial thing itself with its foreground and background. For the temporal thing, we have the ordering into the temporal form and the temporal world on one side, and on the other the temporal thing itself and its changing orientation with regard to the living now.

Theorists of various schools and disciplines took this conception of being as being-in-the-world in myriad directions.

And this move away from the isolated Cartesian “I” also helped broaden the discussion of memory, particularly in looking not just at individual or personal memory but also collective memory.

 Collective Memory

Pa Over WaikatoI don’t aim to offer a hard-and-fast definition of “collective memory”, since your intuition of its meaning is probably more than good enough. It might be helpful to consider that it is often also referred to, at least in the literature, as “shared memory”, “cultural memory” or “social memory”.

Collective and personal memory are certainly not entirely analogous – for example, personal memory as a mental activity is “housed” in the brain, and dies with the individual, while collective memory is “located” everywhere and nowhere, and it outlives individuals.

But despite their differences, they have a lot in common and I am locating my discussion in that space – that is, where the analogy holds.

And I would ask you to keep in mind its importance to – for want of a better phrases – one’s national or collective identity – how people as groups ARE in the world – JUST as personal memory is so crucial in forming one’s personal identity, or how one sees oneself.

Again, I want to emphasise the existential importance of collective memory. That we aren’t talking just about theory, but about people’s very existence as groups/cultures/societies as well as individuals.

In one obvious sense – given what I’ve just been talking about – we don’t need to DO anything to make the past present – it is already here. As these temporal beings-in-the-world, we represent the past – we are the sum of the pasts living in the present: The present – me, here, now – and you there now – represents the past.

But we also get to actively and intentionally make the past present. So, how does that happen?

This is the question that brings us face-to-face with journalism (as well as, again, other disciplines, like history, political science and so on.)

Here’s a starter list, one that is relevant to the kinds of things journalists write about:

 •anniversaries and commemorations •holidays •monuments •obituaries •commemorative stamps and coins •memorial park benches •street names •city/town names •speeches •building names •the bestowing of honours •museums •archives •books •flags •educational curricula •images •films •scholarships … and now the yet poorly understand digital or virtual world of memes, hashtags, blogs, Wikimedia, Facebook Status updates and so on.

NZ Post has a 5-year programme to commemorate World War I, and these "For King & Empire" stamps are part of it. So far as I can tell, Te Riri Pakeha (NZ Wars) weren't commemorated at all in stamp or coin form.

NZ Post has a 5-year programme to commemorate World War I, and these “For King & Empire” stamps are part of it. So far as I can tell, Te Riri Pakeha (NZ Wars) weren’t commemorated at all in stamp or coin form.

One scholar, writing in the first half of the 20th century, who focused specifically on Collective Memory was Maurice Halbwachs. And in the Preface to his book of the same title – On Collective Memory – he tells the story – perhaps apocryphal he admits – of a person who was found in the woods near a town in the northeast of France and who had no childhood recollections.

What will this //person// be able to retain if he is abruptly separated from his family, transported to a country where his language is not spoken, where neither the appearance of people and places, nor their customs, resemble in any way that which was familiar to him up to this moment? The //person// has left one society in order to pass into another.

Think about this case applied to a people, to a culture? A people transported to a country where their language is not spoken, where neither the appearance of other people and places nor customs resemble in any way that which was familiar to them. What’s more, their past – at least as manifest in the dominant culture – disappeared.

Something like this – at a minimum – was imposed upon Māori with colonisation. And I would argue something like it continues to be imposed today, with journalism playing a big part.

Journalism and history

Which brings me to the second more empirical part of my paper.

I’d like to start this with some background. The specific question I investigate here arose out of research I did earlier this year for an article that was published online at titled “Lest We Remember”. 

Lest_We_RememberThat article looked at how in 2014, in a year that saw the 150th anniversaries of key battles in what are variously called the Land Wars or New Zealand Wars or our Civil War or Te Riri Pakeha (the White Man’s Anger) – how, in that very year, incomparably more attention and money was and still is being lavished, instead, on the anniversary of the start of World War I.

But it wasn’t just that the sesquicentennaries of battles like Rangiriri, Orakau, Gate Pa and Te Ranga were passing by with relatively little notice. It was also that, at least where I live in Tauranga Moana, Treaty settlements that had their roots in those very battles were – at this very moment – being signed.

As I wrote in that article: “It’s a striking convergence of past and present, as if things were somehow coming full circle, and in ways so much more germane to our national identity and future than Messines, Cassino or even Gallipoli.”

Gate Pa/Pukehinahina Battle Flag.

Gate Pa/Pukehinahina Battle Flag.

Not that you’d know this by reading most of the mainstream media coverage of these settlements. Dollar figures and land transfers loom large – and of course if there is any conflict or dispute over the settlements, that must take precedence.

But just what these settlements are intended to BEGIN to rectify – the history they come from – is almost entirely absent. 

In the introduction to a new collection on Journalism and Memory, the editors (Zelizer and Tenenboim-Weinblatt) describe journalism as “a primary repository of collective memory”. Journalists are also variously described as “collective memory agents” and “primary carriers of national memory”, with journalism our “most public, widely distributed, easily accessible and thinly stretched membrane of social memory”

In other words, journalism plays a key role in the formation of our collective memory, in writing – as it does – the “second draft of history” – or at least doing the rewrites,

Journalism has an impact not just on what we remember, but on whether we remember at all. Which is just to say, it also helps decide what we forget.

Here’s a comment from scholar Jill Edy, who I think coined the phrase about journalists writing a second draft of history:

It may be that journalists’ work impacts whether we remember our past at all. The stories told by reporters may affect whether we see ourselves as one community or many groups, whether we think critically about the past or just accept it as ‘the way it was’, and whether and how we see the past as relevant to the present and the future.

Now, a lot could be said about how what is called “commemorative or anniversary journalism” – that is, reporting on commemorations, anniversaries, birthdays and so on – is practised in Aotearoa New Zealand, and particularly so during the current centenary of World War I.

The research I did showed that around $25 million in public money was being spent over a period of about two years on memorialising and commemorating foreign wars, compared with $240,000 over roughly the same period for the New Zealand Wars – remember again, that period includes the 150th anniversaries of most of the battles of those wars.

Funding for two years, including 2014, for commemoration of NZ Wars vs. wars fought overseas. (For more details visit Werewolf article linked to above.)

Funding for two years, including 2014, for commemoration of NZ Wars vs. wars fought overseas. (For more details visit Werewolf article linked to above.)

Here’s another interesting visual representation of what we choose to remember. The first slide, from shows memorials in the North Island to the World Wars, in red, plus South African or Boer war, in purple.


The second shows memorials to the so-called New Zealand Wars.


As I’ve suggested, commemorative journalism is certainly one of the key ways journalism acts as an agent of collective memory – that is, transmits the past into the collective present. And we’ve got an unseemly amount of it ahead of us. What the Australian historian Henry Reynolds has called a “carnival of commemoration”.

Reynolds books, titled Forgotten War, looks as how the frontier wars or wars of colonisation in Australia have – as you might gather from the title – been forgotten in Australia’s collective memory. His account applies equally to New Zealand. He writes:

This is the forgotten war of conquest that saw the expropriation of the most productive land over vast continental distances, and the transfer of sovereignty from the Aborigines to the British government and its successor colonial administrations. This is the war that made the nation, not the fateful invasion of Turkey at the direction of the imperial government. If we assess tangible, measurable developments of lasting significance, how can the two be compared?

Reynolds spends time looking at the Australian National War Memorial, and its refusal to list those killed in Australia’s frontier wars, even though, as he points out “the dispatch to China of a few colonial soldiers and sailors during the Boxer Rebellion is worthy of the memorial’s attention”.

Right now, our National War Memorial is undergoing a $120 million rebuild in Wellington. The previous memorial contained no references to the New Zealand Wars. But, according to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the new one will.

How will it do that? I’ve asked twice so far this year for some details. Most recently in July for this paper. The reply I finally received came in the second week of September 2014:

The design and position of the New Zealand Wars memorial within the National War Memorial Park (Pukeahu) has yet to be decided.

I toured the construction site in March, and it was adorned with posters about World War I, including these three:




It’s curious that there’s no final design for any New Zealand Wars monument even though … this poster depicting at least one of the other monuments going up there was on the fence as early as March.

In light of Reynolds’ comments, here’s a bit of what this poster says:

It is significant that the first new memorial in the park will be Australia’s, a nation that we share an extensive heritage with. … The Australian Memorial will embody the Australian character while responding to the urban and heritage qualities of the site. … The memorial features 15 columns made from rugged red sandstone, symbolic of Australia’s ‘Red Centre’, surrounding by eucalypt trees representing Australian landscape.

Here, as in Australia, the vast amounts of money being spent on World War I will inevitably translate into a significant presence in daily media coverage. Journalists will follow-the-money.

The list of World War I projects funded by the around $19 million in Lotteries Board grants is as long and as it is strange at times…

• around a quarter of a million dollars to the Rugby Museum of NZ for a “Balls, Bullets and Boots’ exhibition exploring the stories of 15 rugby players during WWI.

• Even the town council in the Belgian village of Messines got $72,000 for a website and App so you can follow the footsteps of a New Zealand soldier…

There are scores more. Meanwhile, iwi in Tauranga couldn’t scare up a solitary cent from central government for the site or the event marking where at around 100 Maori warriors fought, died and still lie buried in the Battle of Te Ranga 150 years ago this past June…In February of this year, that site looked like this:




And I went back on 15 September…the grass and hedge have been clipped. Iwi /told me the regional council paid for that as part of its landscaping budget – the wreaths laid at the dawn ceremony in June are already being swallowed up…


I admit, that was a bit of a detour into commemorative or anniversary journalism, when in fact my intended focus is elsewhere.

Commemorative journalism is only one of the ways journalism makes the past present. The other two main uses are (Schudson, Edy, 1999) • as historical analogies (e.g. where the past is used to render an event more newsworthy – showing how rare a something is; how unprecedented) and, • finally, its use as providing historical context.

Te Tarata MemorialThe research I did focuses on the latter, that is where journalists use the past (or at least, should use it) to help make sense of contemporary newsworthy events.

And the events I chose to focus on are Treaty of Waitangi settlements. I wanted to look at the extent to which coverage of these settlements referred to relevant colonial/indigenous history, to provide context for what was being reported.

For example, the “New Zealand Wars” and subsequent raupatu or land confiscations as they relate to present-day Treaty of Waitangi claims, negotiations and settlements.


The content analysis was based on a ProQuest search of Australian and New Zealand newspapers for all articles in calendar year 2013 containing the words “treaty”, “Waitangi” and “settlement”. That search returned 382 articles, all of which were assessed as to whether or not a Treaty of Waitangi settlement was a crucial part of the story. This resulted in 82 articles, which were in turn analysed according to the following scale – and I appreciate this analysis is highly subjective:

0=no historical reference = 38 percent

1= passing historical reference (at least one) = 26 percent

2= historical reference with detail (some context) = 19 percent

3=historical reference with substantial detail (well contextualised) = 17 percent

Here’s the visual representation:

Content Analysis Results

Adding 2 and 3 together results in, again on my own assessment, around 36 percent or just over a third of the articles providing some at least minimally useful historical references.

Just to give you a flavour of what I mean, let me talk about a couple of exemplars:

[0] 221. Iwi close to deals in Treaty talks. Waikato Times, 18 May 2013. P. 3.

This 536-word story is a summary of various Waikato treaty claims, focusing on the total dollar amount, and used pretty negative language: The first two paras read:

Treaty claims are being fast-tracked to settlement and Waikato-Tainui are set to profit as iwi around the region line up for their share of the pie.

Current Waikato claims in the settlement process are expected to exceed $250 million and include ownership of everything from mountains to hospitals, schools and police stations.

It goes on to detail settlement amounts and various parcels of land being transferred.

The only passing historical reference was: “Tuwharetoa denied Tongariro National Park was gifted to the nation and included it in its claim”.

This is one of the more powerful examples of a negatively cast story that offers essentially no historical context.

[2] 264. Bay iwi given money and land. Bay of Plenty Times, 8 April. P. 1

This 402-word story covers the signing of a Treaty settlement with Western Bay iwi Ngati Pukenga in Tauranga. Though the historical context offered is, I think, far too brief, (17 words out of a 402 word story) it is a good example of the kind of content that is at least useful and could very easily be included stories about treaty settlement issues: This is the sentence: “The Crown initiated military conflict in 1864 and subsequent actions, including confiscation, left Ngati Pukenga virtually landless.”

I have PDFs of all the stories, and of my analysis of them if anyone wants to read any more about this, but I’d like to move on to making some overall observations before concluding with some suggestions:


1. Most of the coverage of treaty settlements is being done by regional newspapers:

Clearly this reflected where treaty settlements were happening, but it’s notable that articles about settlements don’t commonly reach the main centres, except when there’s conflict, Pakeha disagreement, or for example when Tuhoe representatives travelled to Parliament for a signing, which was reported by the Wellington-based Dominion Post.

2. A major source for historical context in stories that did contain it were comments made by the Treaty Negotiations Minister, Chris Finlayson, at signing ceremonies where Crown apologies – which are contained in the Deeds of settlement – would be included in his speech and his speech notes.

Another, secondary source was speeches by Maori at signing ceremonies, but this was fairly rare.

In general, reporters appear not to be using Waitangi Tribunal reports at all, or the Deeds of Settlement themselves, for background or historical material, even though these are both authoritative, and easily accessible online…and in the case of the Deeds, very easily digestible documents.

3. Too often where there is some historical reference, it is far too general to be useful. (In fact it’s almost insulting.) For example #303 in a 507-word article in the Taranaki Daily News about a land transfer from a district council to a Water supply company, which Māori feared would put the land out of reach for inclusion in any future Treaty settlements, the only historical reference was a avery general quote from Māori Party MP Tariana Turia: “Taranaki iwi suffered some of the most serious breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi at the hands of the Crown”.

So, no detail, nothing specific to the issue at hand. As I said, almost insulting.

4. There were a few stories whose main focus was pakeha grievance. Though the sample size is small, around 3 articles, historical context was included in all of these articles, which also tended to be picked up and run in papers across the country. For example: #90. in the Marlborough Express on the 15 August, a 500-word story appeared that focused on opposition to the gifting in a Treaty Settlement bill of a memorial site (Pioneer Place) north of Blenheim to Ngati Toa, a North Island iwi.

The complainant quoted in the article, Ratepayers’ Association president Pat O’Sullivan, is paraphrased as saying that “More than 150 years of residents’ history was being ignored”. The articles goes on to give historical context with respect to the Pākehā concerns (“Tuamarina resident Roland Wadsworth and his wife, M’Lis Wadsworth, spoke of their concern about the proposal, saying Mr Wadsworth’s great-grandfather was one of the six men killed in the affray and buried by the river.”) but it gave no information about what the “affray” referred to [“the Wairau affair” see #89], and there was no Māori historical context included.

Looking Ahead

I believe that the news-media’s neglect of history in coverage of Treaty settlement issues is pernicious, and doesn’t just do harm to Māori – and in an existential way – which it clearly does, it also harms the health of our collective memory – our national identity if you will.

Where I live, there is a powerful anti-Māori sentiment that is expressed privately – I’ve overheard it – and publicly in letters to the editor and comment threads, talkback radio and so on. For a while in 2012, I kept track of letters to the editor, which ran probably 3 or 4 to 1 in terms of racist sentiment.

Remember, these are published letters attributed to named individuals, not just the toxic waste dump that we all know comment threads to be:

10 September 2012: “[The likes of the Maori Party] sit around and think: ‘Well, now we have Chris Finlayson wrapped around our little fingers, what else can we swindle out of those Whites? … It is time that the Waitangi Tribunal listened to claims from settlers who not only rescued Maori from total geographic and social exile and a savage way of life which was spiralling toward extinction, but they placed the whole world, with the knowledge and expertise of thousands of years’ experience at their disposal. Where is the gratitude?”

12 September: “In the name of sanity, when is Prime Minister John Key going to grow a pair and slap these greedy Maori agitators down once and for all? … As for ‘Mana’, every nation who have [sic] been conquered had to adjust and get on with it. No more excuses, these part-Maori people have to grow up and face reality.”

14 September: “The sooner we end this Waitangi apartheid tribunal and grievance industry the better off the country will be.”

21 September: “How far does the country go in setting right the ‘grievances of the past’ before it becomes simply a case of ‘hands in the lolly jar?’”

24 September: “If Maori get water and wind rights, will they fix the statues that came down on The Strand a few weeks ago because of high winds?”

25 September: “Is it not true that Maori have had ‘countless’ benefits bestowed upon them that were never mentioned in the treaty? How dare they – Maori – hold the country to ransom with interpretations when it suits them.”

4 October: “’Appeasement’ deservedly became a somewhat dirty word in 1939, and now some 73 years later, it’s the only word I can think of to describe the pathetic, namby pamby efforts of our political leaders, in response to these ridiculous Treaty of Waitangi claims being made by the Iwi elite.”

10 October: Responding to a letter from a Maori correspondent: “So, [—-] thinks Maori are hard done-by. If you want to live in a Punga [sic] house with wall-to-wall dirt and a stockade around to keep all the wild animals from coming in to eat you then move out of the nice place you live in.”

27 October: After noting that Ngāi Tahu’s chairman Mark Soloman [sic] is really a Pākehā, the writer went on to say “There are people lining up to cash in on the Treaty in which their 5 per cent of Maori [sic] ancestry was diddled by their other 95 per cent of European ancestry. If some ancestors cheated another, then why are they claiming it back from the rest of us, why not just keep it all in the family.”

I believe the news-media’s abdication of responsibility in reporting history is at least partly to blame for this, and – again – it is particularly harmful to Māori…but it is also harmful to all of us.

Patterns in Media Discourse 


That the news media repeats and reinforces negative themes about Maori is not news. This has been particularly well chronicled by the Kupu Taea / Media and Te Tiriti Project, which has also tried to provide resources to journalists to counter some of these themes. Above is the list from the Kupu Taea project, all of which were present in the articles I looked at.

Clearly, then, I have only touched on a very narrow part of a much much bigger issue, and so in looking for ways to improve how journalism is rewriting history – and writing what’s in our collective memory — the first thing to do is to look at all the work that has already been done, and the resources targeted at or available to journalists that are already out there.


 Treaty Resource Centre has lots of good links…and most of you will know about that.

Orakau MemorialBut specifically in terms of the topic of this paper, it has to be pointed out that there is now a wealth of accessible historical and, importantly for journalists, authoritative sources out there, that are packed full of not just facts, but colour!

Waitangi Tribunal Reports available for download at the Tribunal site

Deeds of Settlement available for download at the Office of Treaty Settlements (Surprisingly, I found only one article that included a link to the Office of Treaty Settlements.)

Papers Past has searchable papers from 1839 to 1945.

A to Js online: the Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives and the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, which contain lots of reports from the battle front, primarily from Pākehā, but the rawness of these reports is important.

Te Ara: The online Encyclopedia is a good resource, and the Ministry’s historians pretty accessible if you have questions.

Te Puni Kokiri’s Te Kāhui Māngai/list of iwi and Māori organisations if one is looking for iwi web sites or people to talk to.

Some Suggestions

• It’s not just dry b-matter that is easily accessible, for example, information about amounts of land seized and so on, but testimony from individuals. As I’ve said ad nauseam, journalism likes colour and it likes stories and anecdotes. Maori attending signing ceremonies most certainly have stories to tell, and Treaty of Waitangi reports include a lot of personal and individual testimony, memories and stories.

• I understand the constraints of daily journalism but actually it doesn’t take much to provide even minimal historical context, for example in a 55-word brief that ran in the Manawatu Evening Standard and the DomPost on 24 October 2013 “Bills pass readings”:

“Three Treaty of Waitangi settlement bills have unanimously passed their first readings in Parliament. Minister for Treaty Negotiations Christopher Finlayson said the Te Urewera-Tuhoe Bill would settle historical Ngai Tuhoe claims, create a new legal identity for Te Urewera and address ‘some of the most appalling acts by the Crown in New Zealand’s history’. Ngati Haua would receive $13 million and have culturally significant sites returned.”

I found it rare for brief items to include any historical reference at all, but this one does.

• Ignoring what lies behind treaty settlements pushes our history farther and farther away from us, so it becomes more and more like a past from a foreign country…more foreign to us, weirdly, than the shores of Turkey.

If the question: what lies behind these claims, these grievance, these settlements is asked, there is an absolute wealth of information out there to provide at least part of the answer.

Journalists need to ask this question: If you must put it in terms of “lining up for pie” (and you shouldn’t!), then perhaps you could ask yourself a bit about the history of that pie.

I’d like to close with a quote from Ricoeur, again from Memory, History and Forgetting, on forgetting…obviously the counterpart to remembering:

 I continue to be troubled by the unsettling spectacle offered by an excess of memory here, and an excess of forgetting elsewhere to say nothing of the influence of commemorations and abuses of memory – and of forgetting. The idea of a policy of a just allotment of memory is in this respect one of my avowed civic themes

Clearly, we need to do a much better job of “a just allotment” of our collective memory.


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