The Importance Of Collective Memory Essay Example


Past events are often a topic of conversation, especially ones that deal with an abundance of people. Throughout history, narratives of past events have often differed from one another. The past tends to be remembered through a collection of narratives due to the group's narratives' different perspectives and the underlying biases that help shape one's perspective. Different priorities, different agendas are all factors in shaping a group narrative versus another. However, these historical myths are necessary due to being state-sponsored, leading to the validity of these events being solidified and non-negotiable.

Collective memory is not necessarily what a group remembers but how they remember it. Groups collective memory tends to differentiate due to varied emphasis on specific pieces of said memory. A prime example of this is demonstrated throughout Race Matters by Cornel West. West states throughout, the way different parties saw Malcolm X was vastly different. White Americans saw Malcolm X as anti-white when in reality, West states that the prime objective for Malcolm X was "black love" so it would motivate rage in black America to affirm themselves as civilized people. However, this was only through a white perspective. However, blacks too varied in the narrative that Malcolm X was portraying. Middle-class Black Americans saw Malcolm X as too violent, but this was due to the double conscious standards the black middle class was living. They are unwilling to entirely throw their comfortable lives away for real social freedoms, never being accepted by either the black lower class or the white race. However, the lower class of black Americans saw Malcolm X as a significant positive factor in the progression towards an equal and less oppressive society. Though the same events were happening in society, collective memory plays a huge part in the way individuals see the world; however, only one of these narratives was state-sponsored. Historical memory is just state-sponsored collective memory that is solidified and non-negotiable. It is accepted by society as lawful and traditional and solidifies only one narrative. This tends to start groups remember the past as more of a collection of myths and narratives, lacking the state sponsorship solidifying it as a part of history.

While looking further into the readings, it is evident that historical myths have been solidified in history due to fear and suppression of the subordinate parties. While reading Domination and Art of Resistance, written by James C Scott, Scott explains that the narrative expressed throughout society is that of the dominant groups. He expressed that the dominant party could “produce the public transcript of society in a conforming way with their narrative but can never fully control due to the subordinates" underling of the subordinate’s narrative. Using slavery as a prime example, groups tended to hide their true feelings out of fear of repercussions and consequences of their rebuttal. Scott states, “The more menacing the thicker the mask" this refers to the subordinates and slave’s false facade of condoning the actions of the unfair treatment towards slaves. Scott also discusses that if the subordinates have reasons to seek refuge behind the mask, the dominant parties have more reason to adopt a mask for the subordinates. With the dominant power having majority control over the public narrative due to the fear of the minority parties, it creates a solidified historical narrative when in actuality, the contrasting narratives exist but fail to be heard throughout history.

The collective memory of groups tends to differentiate in one way for another for almost any group in history. Individuals" perspectives and narratives tend to differ from a minor to a broad spectrum because they see an event due to underlying biases such as living in fear, having an abundance of power, or being state-sponsored. With groups now in a society tending to speak up about the unfair treatment of the minorities, it has helped take the first step of processing society with the end of slavery, the start of women's rights, and more progressive changes. When all fear subsides, society will have no choice but to be progressed possibly causing historical narratives to finally be put into question to be changed further from power and closer to the truth.

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