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Memory, history and forgetting are necessary experiences which neither blend nor complement one another. Nowadays we find ourselves far removed from both the notion of history as a faithful record of the past and the reduction of memory to a kind of selective reconstruction of the past. Therefore, the fundamental step that must be taken is to understand that there is nothing natural in the reconstruction of the past. At any given time there is always an ongoing and significant political struggle associated with the creation and preservation of archives relating to periods of domination and violence in which human rights were abused.

Throughout the 20 th century, the major demand of the victims of totalitarian and repressive governments found expression in movements to reclaim memory. Archives, artefacts and accounts of the past have been used as proof of a past that was deliberately forgotten in official versions of history, in an attempt to summon up everything that had been left in the limbo of history. Memory is therefore associated with those who wield power, since they decide which narratives should be remembered, preserved and disseminated. In various countries legislation was introduced to provide for amnesties and pardons, enabling former opponents of the regime to be reintegrated, but at the same time preventing the trial of those who had been responsible for torture and other barbaric crimes.

It is only in recent years that the pacts for pardon and forgetting have begun to be reviewed.

Memory and Traumatic Brain Injury | Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC)

In , for the first time in Brazil, victims of kidnapping and torture under the military regime, whose lives had been brutally maimed, questioned the Amnesty Law that had been passed in The power contained in memories is so strong and complex that even the opposition, when it comes into power, cannot always encourage remembrances of the past that have been repressed. In the midst of the hatred and resentment that accumulated over many generations, what can be remembered? As tools of power, memory and forgetting have been used by various governments, both totalitarian and democratic, in order to secure political control over opposing forces.

Forgetting has therefore also served as a political strategy used by democratic governments at particular moments. The previous examples are important because they show us that the associations between memory, autonomy and liberty, on the one hand, and forgetting and authoritarianism on the other hand, cannot be generalised.

The autobiography of Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense at the time, , makes it clear that the many mistakes that were made have still not been properly judged. Those who supported the decisions to carry out a devastating massacre of Vietnamese civilians using napalm, toxic gases and bombing on a massive scale are still close to power.

The moral blindness that still prevails today over Vietnam may be associated, on the one hand, with the continuity of the power of the United States in international affairs and, on the other hand, the inability of American society to distance itself from the crimes that have been committed. Archives and evidence are therefore undeniably important to the various opposing forces, and their political implications are significant in political disputes. The latest historiographical approaches have made the search for the past more complex than just the interplay of present-day interests.

Authors such as Hayden White, in abolishing the search for an original, non-linguistic presence, reduce all approaches to attempts at interpretation that are restricted to the domain of language. One of the characteristics of contemporary historiography is the systematic revision of political conflicts in the modern era. In France, in addition to revising major events associated with the French Revolution, the legacy of the Vichy government is constantly being reinterpreted.

In this case, the inability of the victims to respond has been observed.

Incapable of understanding the experiences they have lived through or of ascribing meaning to them, they become unable to use their memories selectively. Memory therefore cannot be reduced to a political tool; it extends beyond attempts to control it. In the words of Georges Bataille, revealing the effects of the Hiroshima bombing became the opposite of revealing the facts Bataille, That is to say, human representation of this catastrophe is not capable of accurately conveying the dimensions of the event and, instead, has the perverse effect of making banal something that is not so.

In his view, as there are no words to describe the horror, the feeling of horror cannot be the starting point for attempts to describe this horror ibidem. In providing an explanation of what has happened, the history that is recounted serves to justify unjustifiable violence and banish it from the collective imagination. We may understand that there are no words to describe horror and that those who try to explain it end up by eliminating any possibility of facing or repairing the tragedy.

Individuals find refuge in action, but do not always resolve problems related to violence and suffering, which are basic components of human life. Researchers in various academic areas have been involved in studying the possibilities of reconstructing and explaining trauma. For Freud, trauma is a consequence either of the devastating nature of an event or the psychic apparatus of the individual, which may not be prepared to respond to certain stimuli Freud, When a particularly powerful stimulus acts on us, we may not be capable of responding to it.

It breaks down our protective barriers to become part of our actual being and we are not able to defend ourselves against it. Our self-awareness fails. This explains the nightmares that repeatedly return, leaving individuals drained and unable to defend themselves.


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Past aggression returns in flashbacks, nightmares and other similar phenomena; it is the cause of certain symptoms, namely repetitive actions that aim to reduce the stress caused by the initial aggression. Memory and forgetting also involve ethical and moral issues. Scheler, in his study on resentment, indicates how profound experiences related to suffering and humiliation can lead to a highly contagious feeling of vengeance and rancour Scheler and Frings, In relating a traumatic experience to the identity of its subject, we may see that his attitude towards the past does not revolve solely around the knowledge of what he has left behind.

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Memory cannot be considered only as a reconstructed past. It may make the individual relive an experience and evoke new desires and emotions that may be extremely negative and self-destructive. Returning to the past may include the possibility of understanding, but it equally revives feelings that had previously been repressed. Even if representation is possible, we must enquire whether it is desirable, and if it is possible to integrate the trauma into our lives in a connected rather than pathological manner.

This anthropologist correctly argues that the conquest had already taken place and did not require such violence Taussig, How are we to understand the Holocaust?


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  5. How do we explain the massacre of the Tutsis in Rwanda? What can be said about the attitude of the Serbs in Kosovo? The more historians search for explanations for barbarities that have been committed, the more these excesses seem to remain beyond our logical and rational comprehension. The extermination of the Jews cannot be the object of theoretical discussion; it was a unique event and needs to be recorded as such.

    Since recollection of the traumatic event is, in most cases, extremely faithful and rigorous in its use of detail, it offers direct access to the real. The extreme violence of the Holocaust has enabled historians to reorganise their understanding of the real. What the individual describes is not a construction of an event experienced in the past, but the event itself.

    Representation of the real without mediation is present in the testimony of traumatic situations. The Yad Vashem archives and memorial in Jerusalem contains the largest amount of information on the Holocaust in the world, and nowadays plays an important political role in denouncing and condemning those involved in the Hitler regime.

    Various other archives have a similar role. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims in Copenhagen also houses an important collection of statements and information on human rights violations that have occurred in more recent wars, such as those in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Organisations are founded to fight against the arbitrariness of oblivion by recovering names and restoring the facts that can still be remembered. The role of these archives is not to explain what cannot be explained, but to keep alive the memory of what cannot be repeated. In some cases forgetting may not only be a choice, but also a given fact. Moreover, despite the exceptional nature of traumatic situations, more than a few authors have identified them in contemporary everyday life. Historians working in the field of present-day history, and especially oral history, have been concerned with constructing a space within historical narrative in which subjectivity, feelings and human experience can be valued.

    The new historiography gives a voice to those who do not feature in documentary records, enabling group histories to be recovered on a small scale. Through accounts constructed on the basis of the personal trajectory of each individual, which, though partial, contain depth and moral outlines associated with this subjectivity, they seek out elements that have evaded other forms of analysis Thompson, This rift may appear not only in relations between a dominating state and civil society, but also in relations between an inclusive society and minority groups.

    Forgetting About What Happened

    He shows that both collaboration and the Vichy government were relegated to the margins of the national memory, forgotten and, worse, concealed Rousso, To the Italian government, Civitella was a symbol of resistance to fascism, and the anniversary of the massacre was commemorated with national honours. After a really tiring day, you go back home and look for your keys in either your pocket or your bag and you find nothing.

    How many times does this happen to you in a week? If it rarely happens, then thank God you have a reliable memory. Paying your internet or phone bills more than once becomes a habit; one good thing is that you get to have extra credit and a couple of prepaid months. You look at your wallet and find nothing but thin air. Credit cards are your best friends. It is either you have one password for every account you have, which eventually makes it easy for hackers to hack you smarty pants, or you make a million and forget all of them.

    Of course, you know how to count, add and subtract. Although TBI affects new memories more than old ones, people with TBI may have trouble retrieving the correct information when needed. For example, you may recognize your aunt and know who she is, but have trouble remembering her name. People with TBI may not remember the injury itself.

    In this case, the brain has not stored the injury as a memory or series of memories. People may remain confused and unable to store memories for some time after the injury. The loss of memory from the moment of TBI onward is called post-traumatic amnesia.

    Trace Decay Theory of Forgetting

    It can last from a few minutes to several weeks or months, depending on the severity of brain injury. The best way to learn about the injury is to ask family members, friends, or medical personnel who may have objective information. After a moderate to severe TBI, you may have more trouble remembering things from day to day. One or two medicines may be worth trying ask your doctor. Using compensatory strategies is the best way to tackle memory problems and still get things done. This approach uses memory devices that we all use to make up for limited memory storage in the brain e.

    Some people think that these methods weaken memories. When you write down information or enter it into a phone or computer, you may actually strengthen the memory trace in your brain, and the information will always be available for you if you need it. Having memory problems after TBI may make it harder for you to remember to use some of these strategies. At first, ask a family member or friend to remind you of these strategies. Over time, the strategies will become a habit, and you can use them on your own.

    Memory problems can make it especially difficult for people with moderate to severe TBI to succeed in school, or to perform well in jobs that demand a lot of learning and memory.