27 September, 2007

1984, 23 Years Late

Boston Globe sub-headline last Sunday: "The advantages of amnesia... What society needs now are new ways to forget."

Tremendously 'deep' and filled with quotes from prominent academics and thinkers (e.g., Borges) tilting Luddite-like at new technologies like Google, iPod and the Internet in general.

Only one problem: the left has already done a bang-up job, starting in the 1960s of forgetting and deriding the importance of history and accumulated societal wisdom in general. As Thomas Sowell has pointed out, forgetting (or rather continuously 're-inventing') is pretty much their self-appointed job description.

What's disturbing is that the writer shows no sign whatsoever of recognizing how close the philosophy she espouses comes to (take your pick): Pol Pot and his chillingly evil 'Year Zero' campaign, Mao and his grandly murderous schemes of Cultural Revolution, or George Orwell's fictional but frighteningly prescient treatment of Stalinism in '1984'. The final paragraph of that classic reads: "the longhoped-for bullet was entering his brain... He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother" In other words, he had, under pressure, forgotten what he'd once held to be critically important.

Willfull amnesia: we should be repulsed by the very idea. Don't buy it? Try this only slightly ironic little exercise: try 'Googling' the phrase "never forget" and see what comes up. Despite the above references, I had not really spent much time thinking--until I wrote this post--about how something as simple and obviously virtuous as remembering (especially history) could be a partisan issue. Apparently, it is. Amazing.