Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Longstanding but Vague

The Pizzistance of Memory. Uncredited via.

Well, so, Brooks has a title, "The Year of Unearthed Memories", which reminds me of the Discworld calendar (the Year of the Lenient Vegetable, the Year of the Reciprocating Llama), if not exactly, and a metaphor for bad memories as "porous capsules", which, Dr. Google tells me, are a sustainable method of crop irrigation, the ancient practice of burying unglazed longnecked clay pots down where the roots of your melons and cucumbers are going to be, leaving the opening exposed so you can fill it periodically with water; similarly, in Brooksian psychological theory, when you have a bad experience, its memory is stored in liquid form in a memory capsule down in the reptilian brain where you can't access it but it can access you, seeping through the pores to where it can poison your normal cognitive processing, unlike happy memories, which I suppose are tilled into the surface soil around the individual plants like fertilizer?
Childhood fears and adult traumas are stored differently in the brain than happy memories. They are buried like porous capsules deep in the primitive regions, below awareness and beyond easy reach of conscious thinking and talking. They are buried so deep that they are separated from the normal flow of life, and so time cannot work its natural healing powers.
You thought I was making it up, right?
Some people experience a longstanding but vague sense of unease about the crucial matters of life, a tangled, inchoate sense of depression in the heart that is hard to pinpoint and articulate.
You'll find it easier to pinpoint if you get back to the brain; according to the latest research the heart doesn't actually store emotions. On the articulating side, I'm afraid I can't help you.

Yes, as you see, he's writing about himself again, but doesn't know it; his porous capsule is talking through him, but he's not listening. That's why it's "adult traumas" and "year of unearthing memories", it's been a difficult year for him as we all know, following the explosion of his planned life with two ladies into a life with no ladies at all, and the toxic memories that assault him from their porous containers are presumably those of how people persistently made him sad by failing to appreciate how pure and good his fundamental intentions have been throughout all this.

How should he prevent himself from thinking about it? Let's talk about politics instead!

Because isn't society after all just a human being writ large, absorbing its lead poisoning over the long term from the ollae of memory dotting its fields? No, it isn't, but never mind that;
much of the national conversation this year has concerned how to think about past racism and oppression, and the power of that past to shape present realities: the Confederate flag, Woodrow Wilson, the unmarked sights of the lynching grounds. 
Do you think it's an accident that he names only phenomena associated with the (Southern) Democratic party? I'm sure it's an accident that he gives us "sights" for "sites", but it's no accident that the editor is asleep (last updated, as is the current Brooksian pattern, at 3:21 AM).
Fortunately, many people have found the courage to tell the ugly truths about slavery, Jim Crow and current racism that were repressed by the wider culture.
Oh wait, there are the Republicans after all, aka the wider culture, in that retroactionary reference to current racism, where we unearth our remote, repressed memories of the present.

Then there are other peoples' memories, which can be a bit of a bother:
Many of the protests on campus and other places have been about unearthing memory or asserting a narrative, or, at their worst, coercing other narratives into silence. 
I think that last must about the horror of somebody deciding not to give Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary doctorate, thus reburying or transhuming her memories at such a depth that they no longer exist anywhere in the universe. Or possibly how you really hurt my feelings that time when you insisted I never helped with the housework. But it can have international ramifications as well:
In the Middle East, Sunnis and Shiites are battling bloodily over competing pasts. In its sick way, ISIS is driven by historical humiliation.
Why can't we come up with some healthy ways of being driven by historical humiliation?

It's nice that Brooks has finally learned a little about what was going on in the civil war in Iraq sparked by US invasion in 2003, but I have to stress that at the moment, when the most effective fighters against Sunni ISIS are the Sunni Kurds and Sunni Nusra Front (the al-Qa'eda reflex), the history of the Sunni-Shi'a divide has very little to do with it, though the Da'esh leadership is certainly animated in a general way by a kind of historical false memory syndrome of the age when the Ummah was united and forcing the whole world into the adoption of the Five Pillars (which is explicitly forbidden in the Qur'an, and took place historically far less than forced conversion to Christianity, but is certainly practiced by the self-denominated Caliphate).

At last a listicle, of protocols for the "therapy of memory" (Doctor, I have a pain in my memory!). Drifty will probably find found some fun in this. I only like the way we're urged to lay off blaming this year's surfeit of Norwegian immigrants for all our problems:
If you emigrated from Norway to the United States last year, you’re not to blame for the history of racism, but as a new American, you probably have a responsibility to address it.
Just ease up, Lars, you'll be OK. In fact we'll all be OK,
Even after a tough year, we are born into a story that has a happy ending. Wrongs can be recognized, memories unearthed, old hurts recognized and put into context.
What was I even complaining about? Damn if I can remember.

Via DesignWeNeed.

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