The Ukrainian crisis, ISIS, Israel / Palestine conflict, race relations, sexual orientation relations, etc. is all you hear about in the news. I listen to NPR or the BBC, or watch the PBS News Hour, and the news is filled with violence and hatred and all around bad and evil things of this world. We, as humans, are drawn to the bad news and gossip of this world. I am not sure exactly why but I am not immune; let me make that point perfectly clear.
With this being the Lenten season I have been reflecting on anger, specifically my own, and the causes and ways to reduce anger but today as I was driving I heard a piece on the BBC radio about social memory and it really sparked my interest. During a discussion of Kazuo Ishiguro’s newest book the interesting fact of social memory came up and when it is best to remember or best to forget.** During this discussion Kazuo Ishiguro talks about his book and how the main characters are elderly and trying to remember events in the past but are worried what it will do if they did remember. He mentions how at times social memory is invoked and used as a weapon for political purposes. He mentions examples where in places like Yugoslavia and Rwanda where relative peace had been observed then sudden violence broke out. He pointed out that weaponized social memory was a major cause of this new violence.
Unfortunately, this happens all too often. All too often past offenses by groups are intentionally remembered to rouse up and stir hate and discontent. The fact is that every nation and social group has its dark moments. Americans have slavery and the atomic bomb, Germans have the holocaust and WWII, and the British have the wars and land conquests of Scotland and Ireland, and the list goes on ad nauseum.
Kazuo Ishiguro mentions the question of when is it best to remember and when is it best to forget; I think the question is more complex however. It isn’t the act of remembering, or by extension forgetting, that is the issue it is the anger that is felt and what we as people choose to do with it. It is not wrong to remember, I would argue that it is good to remember and honor those victims and events to prevent them from occurring again, however if you allow anger to well up inside it is dangerous. It is good to remember the holocaust, 9/11, etc. and honor those that died but to have hatred and anger toward the Germans or Muslims because of this is perpetuating violence and hatred and continuing the cycle. Not every German is a Nazi and not every Muslim is a terrorist; in fact most aren’t.
It is sad that all too often the actions of a few are generalized on the populous. It is up to us as individuals to keep our own anger in check and to reject any propaganda. How do we do this? That is the real question. I feel that the answer is different for every person. For me quiet time, prayer, and putting myself in another’s shoes helps but I am by no means mastered anything. I’m just thankful for the forgiveness and mercy shown to us by God and pray I am going the right direction.
** http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/newshour (Podcast for 3/4/15 @ 15:00 minutes in)