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Elsewhere of the Day: “Milan Kundera Warned Us About Historical Amnesia. Now It’s Happening Again”

As Kundera said:

The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster.

…. For a brief period, the consensus was that the communist experiment had failed. Never again, said the postmodernists and historians. Never again, said the economists and political parties. Never again said the people of former communist countries. Never again.

In the 90s we believed we were living in a “post-mortem” era in which all the hidden graves of the 20th century would be exposed, the atrocities analyzed, the lessons learned. Lest we forget. We also thought we’d entered a time in which the Silicon Valley dream of digitizing all knowledge from the entire history of the printed and spoken word would lead us towards the infinite free library, the glass house of truth and the global village of free information flow. The future would be a time of endless remembrance and of great learning.

How wrong we were. The metaphor of the glass house has turned into that of the mirrored cube. The global village has collapsed into tribal info-warfare and the infinite library is now a war zone of battling conspiracy theories. The internet has become a tool of forgetting, not remembrance and the greatest area of amnesia is the subject that Milan Kundera spent his entire life trying to preserve, namely the horrors of communism.

Fast forward 20 years and never again has been forgotten. The Wall Street Journal in 2016 asked: “Is Communism Cool? Ask a Millennial.” Last year MIT Press published Communism for Kids and Teen Vogue ran an excited apologia for Communism. Tablet announced, with some concern, a “Cool Kid Communist Comeback.” On Twitter, there is new trend of people giving themselves communist-themed names: “Gothicommunist,” “Trans-Communist,” “Commie-Bitch,” “Eco-Communist.” The hammer and sickle flag has been re-appearing on campuses, at protests and on social media.

How could we have forgotten?….

Only one memorial to the Great Chinese Famine (UNDER MAO 30 TO 70 MILLION CHINESE WERE KILLED) is one made by hand out of bricks and tiles, located in the middle of a Chinese farmer’s privately-owned field.

RTWT: Milan Kundera Warned Us About Historical Amnesia. Now It’s Happening Again – Quillette

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rob De Witt March 31, 2019, 10:49 AM

    Remember Orwell’s image of the ubiquitous telescreens on every wall, beaming Big Brother 24/7?

    Do you own a television set?

  • jwm March 31, 2019, 11:25 AM

    @ Rob De Wit.
    Smartphone. More sinister than either Orwell, or Huxley imagined.


  • John the River March 31, 2019, 11:48 AM

    “Those that forget history are doomed to repeat it”
    But those that are denied history and certain to repeat it. Because of the motivation of the deniers.

  • Casey Klahn March 31, 2019, 1:25 PM

    It strikes me that Marx did, indeed, write the most important political theory of our era, although it contains a very dark, mistaken and violent doctrine.

    Good angle in this post: why hasn’t it been eclipsed? Capitalism has proven itself the winning doctrine in so many ways it’s hard to imagine such a queer and wretched competitor surviving these hundred plus years.

    As with religious war, the enemy is a belligerent. Communism must be revolutionary and it must be international. People with money – middle class people – are the focus of their hate.

    Orwell? His dystopia could bear any political stripe. Democratiks fit nicely into the mold.

    We need to come up with sharp, cutting and profane rhetoric that cuts the politician out of the Commie herd. At the city council, at the party convention or caucus, rape their sensibilities with truth. They imagine a weird meta-narrative about “nationalism,” but go about their own Marxism as if it has no history. Boy, do we need Trump! We need Trump on steroids, and a helluva lot fewer Republicans correcting him.

  • David March 31, 2019, 1:26 PM

    I think that’s about right. There are people (powerful, influential people) that want to deny the past, because at root they want a collectivist economy and politics, to control the majority, and reduce freedom.
    There are numerous examples of the systematic denial of personal freedoms all over America in recent years. This is not an accident. And it goes hand-in-hand with communism denial.
    There has not been a greater treason to the Constitutional Republic of this nation than the intellectuals and academics who give support for ugly collectivism. And they have taught legions of students to believe and think the same way.

  • ghostsniper March 31, 2019, 2:55 PM

    It’s not that the real results of communism have been forgotten, but that they are no longer taught.
    Pay attention. Teaching = learning. And there is self learning, but communism as shown in the original books is so boring and such a downer. Far more fun to have manipulators give you the smiley face version. You know, where the evil people that have stolen everything are knocked down to the same level as everyone else and everyone else is elevated to levels they’d never achieve on their own. No mention ever that almost everybody is slaved and or killed and your smartphone? Fuggetabout it. Unless it’s chained around your neck with the days chores programmed into it. Wirelessly of course. Or else. Yes, it will have that high voltage app installed too. You know what for.

    Sameness, equality, and the oft wrongly used, fairness.
    There is no such thing, of course, but soft heads keep searching and shysters keep pandering.

    When I was in school several centuries ago there was a 1 semester course that was required of all students that expected to graduate. The course was taught by a very old dood that intentionally made it uninteresting and fell asleep at the desk most of the time, so I failed that class. Twice. B-o-r-i-n-g. The text book was written in such a way that it was impossible to learn on your own, it required a teacher. On the 3rd try I was lucky. shwew

    The name of that textbook and class was: “Americanism vs Communism”.
    I’d bet all my gold that that class hasn’t been taught in more than 20 years. Probably more like 40.

  • Rob De Witt March 31, 2019, 4:45 PM

    jwm –

    I don’t disagree about the smartphone toxicity, but I still maintain that television is the Devil Himself, the perfect propaganda vehicle. It’s only an accident of history that Philo Farnsworth beat Goebbels to the punch.

    Every generation younger than mine own has lived a life where television is wallpaper; it’s so taken for granted that at this point it’s almost impossible to find somebody who questions its necessity. Personally, I never saw the appeal. Television is for stupid people, and try as I might to be non-judgemental it’s unavoidable. The worst were (I haven’t been around the mainstream for over 20 years) the folks who defended their habit with “It’s got some good stuff on it, like KQED and the history shows.” If you watch television you’re a moron or will be soon enough. It’s possible to avoid smartphones, something else I’ve never gotten the point of, but television is everywhere. Ever get trapped in a public waiting room in the burbs?

    Ever noticed that the great majority of the people you meet salt their “conversation” with catchphrases from the tube? They believe they’re being hip when they quote a fucking sitcom.

  • Rob De Witt March 31, 2019, 4:50 PM


    That’s “I never saw the appeal.” You’d think I learned to spell from television.

  • Howard Nelson March 31, 2019, 5:43 PM

    gs’ first three sentences sum things up nicely.
    Socialism, Communism, Dependism all rely on getting what you want or need, from productive others. It’s a combination of sloth and greed achieved with awful lawful power.
    We’re still struggling with how to pull the poltroons’ power cord in a timely way.
    Meanwhile, jihadists continue to infiltrate local, regional, state and federal governments, our southern border remains breached, no plans for near and medium term food inventory and production losses due to widespread flooding of farmland and multi year shortened growing seasons (grand solar minimum underway), electric power companies delaying defense against EMP attack, promotion of 5G cellphone towers every few 100 feet despite known hazards to flesh-and-blood non-AI pawns, …
    And when the illegals get the vote locally and nationally, then what?
    And when colleges surrender authority to student mobs, who teaches what?
    What are our priorities for our values? I dare not ask what we consider to be our values. Moaning, groaning, bitching, and blathering are in the top 10.

  • jwm March 31, 2019, 6:42 PM

    @Rob De Wit:
    I could not possibly agree with you more. I haven’t had a TV since the 70’s.
    I watched my mother retire, and waste her last years on TV and alcohol. She blew all her savings on cheap junk from QVC. If I hadn’t moved in and taken over the finances she’d have lost the house. But the worst was the zombie addiction to the screen. Every waking moment for years on end. I badgered, begged, and pleaded, and eventually gave up.
    Now we don’t have one in the house. No smartphone either. Desktop is habit enough.


  • jwm March 31, 2019, 6:57 PM

    Another note on the smart phone.
    Last week my wife and I got together with a handful of our friends and went to a local club to see a Doors tribute band. The young guy doing Jim Morrison was pretty damn good, and his back up band was definitely up to the job. We sneaked out for smoke when the band took their break, and came back in with a fine buzz. The band got it on, went into “Love Street”, and the next thing you know all us old farts were up there dancing. ( or giving it a lame-ass try)
    Every other patron in the club (20-‘s 40’s) standing or sitting, was face first in the screen. I watched the lead guy get into his Morrison impression with everything he had while he stood, not three feet away, facing some fat potato of a thirty some year old slug who did not even look up from thumbling away at his text message.
    This is not the first time I’ve seen this kind of thing.
    I felt sorry for the band.


  • ghostsniper March 31, 2019, 7:16 PM

    Right. Desktop is the new TV and the retard phone is the new desktop.
    My brother in FL and I used to email frequently, then his machine blew and he converted to his phone. Then his emails got a shorter and lots of misspellings. Then he stopped replying to my emails and when I asked why he told me he never does email any more just texts. I don’t do texts. Well, maybe 5 a year at most and all of them are replies to texts from others. I don’t even know how to initiate a text on my special olympix phone. Hardly anybody replies to emails any more and if they do it is 3 days later. I thought technology was supposed to make everything easier and faster? Hell, in 3 days I can drive anywhere in the country, almost. I have always answered emails promptly. An estimated 30,000 over the past 30 years. All of my technology life I wanted the monitors I have now, (2) 28 inchers, why would I want to drop down to 4 or 5 inches? Have you looked at Am Dig on a dumb phone? It’s pointless as far as I’m concerned. So is almost everything else. They don’t even work well for, gasp, phone calls. Had to call the insurance company last week to change some stuff on our vehicle’s policy and was on there for about 45 minutes and my ear went to sleep. Never did that before. I thought I was holding a piece of a plywood against the side of my skall, so naturally it wanted to crash and it sacrificed my ear instead. Still ain’t right. I think that shitty too loud music they played subliminally told my ear it was Rip Van Winkle. In summary, with the migration of everybody to the handheld communicators exclusively it appears the unhostile takeover has been successful. All yor brain R belong 2 us.

  • JiminAlaska April 1, 2019, 9:16 AM

    Don’t have a TV or smart phone ’cause they take over your life? They do have off buttons.

    I have a TV, haven’t turned it on for at least a month. Over the past 3 or 4 years it might have been on for maybe an hour or three but no longer than that.

    I do have a smart phone, a Samsung & an AT&T prepaid account costing me around $100 a year. I carry the phone but only turn it on if I need to make a call and, quite frankly, I seldom _need_ to make a call.

    Communism, socialism, state-ism, globalism, progressiveism … our beloved leaders and their ministry of propaganda, the 4th estate, laud and support whatever gives them the most power and control at any given moment.

    The revolution is over, time to fold and put away the chairs. (Chucky B’s line/thought, not mine.)