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Our Selective Archive

Understanding why some events are kept alive in our collective consciousness and others interred

Our Selective Archive
Getty Images (From Outlook, October 17, 2011)
Our Selective Archive
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

As people across the world sniffled at the poignant ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, beamed live from Ground Zero in New York, few would have remembered the significance this date holds for the people of Chile. It was on September 11, 1973, that the democratically elected government of Salvadore Allende was dislodged through a coup, organised, ironically, at the behest of the CIA, an incident more or less effaced from the ‘globalised memory’. Few, too, would have muttered a silent prayer for the thousands who have perished in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, countries turned into veritable killing fields because of the war on terror that the Americans unleashed as retribution for the terror attacks.

Truly, power is about determining what people remember and what they forget. It’s a striking asymmetry.


Sabarmati’s burning coaches at Godhra, Feb 27, ’02
Is the suffering of those who died in the Godhra train fire different from those who were killed in the riots following it?

Those who accuse America of reordering the collective memory should be warned; the phenomenon of selective remembrance and forgetting is as much part of India’s political landscape as America’s. Worse, this malaise of selective remembering determines why perpetrators of certain collective sorrows are punished and those of tragedies similar in nature are not. As the nightmare of 26/11 unfolded, we were all Mumbaikars. Yet we have been relatively indifferent to the plight of people in...

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