Yes, the value of remembering our past is that it then becomes something we can reflect on, and maybe learn from. However, this is only true of memories of experiences that we have actually had ourselves. It doesn’t work with second-hand memories.
Such impersonal memory is, as Eva Hoffman argues in After Such Knowledge: Where Memory of the Holocaust Ends and History Begins, ‘malleable in the extreme, and highly susceptible to deliberate shaping or exploitation – to propaganda and censorship, to tendentious selectivity and wilful emphasis. It is, in other words, an instrument not so much of subjective reflection or understanding as of cultural agendas, or ideological purposes.’
Today, the Holocaust has become such an instrument. It is exploited as a universal symbol of human suffering, shaped and moulded for the purpose of spinning morality tales that are often not only mawkish and tawdry, but also highly politicised. All this risks creating a lot of cynicism towards the facts of the past. (…)
We should seriously consider at this point whether or not to get off the bandwagon of Holocaust remembrance. The politicisation of Holocaust memory in the service of hate-crime reduction, for example – whatever its good intentions – is in fact a direct assault on freedom of speech.
Restricting people’s opportunity to say what they think, to challenge others’ opinions, and to voice potentially divisive ideas will not help foster an open and free society. Instead, it encourages a culture of see-but-don’t-say, a culture of observers and moral bystanders. This is sadly ironic, because if we are ever faced with discrimination in society of the order of the Nuremberg laws, we will need as much freedom of speech as possible, as many fearlessly outspoken and argumentative people as possible.
Canada’s Official Jews’ top priority? Spying on each other! Inspirational, ain’t it.
Every day I thank God I’m not a member of a “community.”