"THE HISTORICAL MEMORY OF A NATION IS NOT MERELY A REPOSITORY. OUR VISION OF THE PAST CHANNELS OUR VISION OF THE FUTURE BY CONSTRAINING OPTIONS, BUT ALSO IT PLAYS A PROACTIVE ROLE. THIS MEMORY IS ACTUALLY A VERY IMPORTANT FACTOR IN STRUGGLE.... IF ONE CONTROLS PEOPLES' MEMORY, ONE CONTROLS THEIR DYNAMISM.... IT IS VITAL TO HAVE POSSESSION OF THIS MEMORY, TO CONTROL IT, TO ADMINISTER IT, TELL IT WHAT IT MUST CONTAIN.' COLLECTIVE MEMORY IS THE TOOLSHED, TOMORROW'S IDEOLOGICAL ARSENAL, FROM WHICH POLITICAL CONCEPTS AND SYMBOLS ARE SELECTED, REINTERPRETED, AND MANIPULATED BOTH BY ESTABLISHED GOVERNMENTS AND OPPOSITION GROUPS. IT MAY WAIT FOR DECADES, PATIENTLY DORMANT, ONLY TO BE REACTIVATED SUDDENLY AS AN EXPLOSIVE CONTAGIOUS FORCE." DR. CHRISTINE M. HELMS IN MCNAIR PAPER # 10 "ARABISM AND ISLAM: STATELESS NATIONS AND NATIONLESS STATES." SEPTEMBER, 1990.
Dr. Helms is an old friend. Years ago I read this quotation from her work and was as impressed with it then as I am now. All too often we Americans seem to think that the past has little relevance except as a matter of antiquarian concern. As I have written before it is only in this country that the statement "That's history" is dismissive.
A belief in the malleability of human consciousness and the irrelevance of the past underlay our ridiculous over confidence in Iraq.
Have we learned anything from the experience? Do we now grasp the notion that collective memory will not be expunged by public relations campaigns or lying "information operations?"