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Thursday, 7 July 2016

Where to Draw the Line

Religion and Cultural Memory (tr. Rodney Livingstone),
Jan Assmann, Stanford University Press, 2006, page 22-23

Building on his intial thoughts about Holocaust remembrance, Assmann goes on to ask where, on such occasions, the line should be drawn.

If a lne is to be drawn anywhere, it should not be drawn under the memory but under violence, and that can only be achieved through memory. This step will be followed by others. The day will come wgen memorials will be erected by Americans for the Africans who were carried off and enslaved and for the Indians robbed of their land; by Israelis for the Palestinians who were driven out; by the Russians and Chinese for the murdered opponents of the regime; by the Catholic Church for the victims of the Crusades and the Inquisition; by the Turks for the murdered Armenians; by the Japanese for the Chinese and Koreans the invaded; by the Australians for the Aborigins whose land they stole; by the Unitedd States for the Japanese who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki - the list unfortunately could go on forever.

Assman argues that this firm of memory is urgently required, no matter how utopian it may seem.

Such a remembering is a paradoxical intervention in the history of violence, injustice and oppression that reached its horrific cimax in the twentieth century despite all the dreams of progress in the nineteenth century. In such acts of recognition of thesuffering caused to others through no fault of theirs we can discern the outlines of a universal form of bonding memory that is committed to certain fundamental norms of human dignity.

In time, let us hope that more recent actions of genocide, such as Rwanda and Iraq may also find their way on to the list and that a way will be found to bring the suffering to an end.

Posted By Jonathan, 8:00am Comment Comments: