Flashermac Posted April 2, 2013 Report Share Posted April 2, 2013 IN March 2012 I met Torbjorn Loden, the Swedish professor of Chinese language and culture, in Hong Kong. He told me that while briefly teaching at Hong Kongâ€™s City University he asked the 40 students from China in his class what they knew about the June 4 Incident, the pro-democracy movement that ended in bloodshed in 1989, and if they were familiar with the names Liu Binyan and Fang Lizhi, two prominent democracy advocates of that era. All the students from China looked around at one another, mute and puzzled. That reminded me of something another teacher told me. She had asked her students from China if they had heard about the death by starvation of 30 to 40 million people during the so-called â€œthree years of natural disastersâ€ in the early 1960s. Her students responded with stunned silence, as if she, a teacher in Hong Kong, was brazenly fabricating history to attack their mother country. After we exchanged these stories, Professor Loden and I sat sullenly in a quiet Vietnamese cafÃ©, speechless. Ever since, thoughts about the loss of memory in China on a national scale, a phenomenon that people have long been discussing but only in private, remain lodged in my heart like thorns. From time to time, guilt â€” along with painful memories of the past and thoughts about losing the memories â€” torment me and refuse to leave me alone. Have todayâ€™s 20- and 30-year-olds become the amnesic generation? Who has made them forget? By what means were they made to forget? Are we members of the older generation who still remember the past responsible for the younger generationâ€™s amnesia? The amnesia Iâ€™m talking about is the act of deleting memories rather than merely a natural process of forgetting. Forgetting can result from the passage of time. The act of deleting memories, however, is about actively winnowing out peopleâ€™s memories of the present and the past. In China, memory deletion is turning the younger generation into selective-memory automatons. Memories of history and the present, yesterday and today are all going through this uniform process of deletion and are being lost without trace. I used to assume history and memory would always triumph over temporary aberrations and return to their rightful place. It now appears the opposite is true. In todayâ€™s China, amnesia trumps memory. Lies are surpassing the truth. Fabrications have become the logical link to fill historical gaps. Even memories of events that have only just taken place are being discarded at a dazzling pace, with barely intelligible fragments all that remain for people to hold on to. Revolution completely engulfed China after 1949. The revolution created the regime, created history, and it created our present reality. Peopleâ€™s memories and administered memories, peopleâ€™s forgetfulness and administered forgetfulness are all determined by the state, transformed by a revolutionary tactic that has been systematically implemented. Historical details are selectively excised from the records and from textbooks. Details of events that still reside in the living memory of older Chinese â€” the Warlord era of the late 1910s and 1920s, names of soldiers and civilians who shed their blood on the front lines during the war of resisting Japanâ€™s invasion that began in the 1930s â€” all these things have been carefully winnowed. After the civil war ended in 1949, one manâ€™s passion drove an entire nation to a frenzied pace of construction, with one political movement after another maintaining the fanatical atmosphere of a permanent war footing. But the tragic experiences associated with these movements have been deleted from peopleâ€™s collective memory, put aside and permanently concealed. The Great Leap Forward, the obligatory nation-wide construction of backyard steel furnaces and the consequent death by starvation of 30 to 40 million people in the famine that was later blamed on â€œthree years of natural disasters,â€ and the catastrophic 10 years of the Cultural Revolution â€” these momentous events are too absurd, too cruel and too unpleasant for people to recount. Therefore many people are reluctant to pass their painful memories on to the younger generation. ... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/02/opinion/on-chinas-state-sponsored-amnesia.html?ref=global-home&_r=1& Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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