July 22, 2012.
"People who remember court madness through pain, the pain of the perpetually recurring death of their innocence; people who forget court another kind of madness, the madness of the denial of pain and the hatred of innocence." - James Baldwin
Learning to Forget
America has become amnesiac—a country in which forms of historical, political, and moral forgetting are not only willfully practiced but celebrated. The United States has degenerated into a social order that is awash in public stupidity and views critical thought as both a liability and a threat. Not only is this obvious in the presence of a celebrity culture that embraces the banal and idiotic, but also in the prevailing discourses and policies of a range of politicians and anti-public intellectuals who believe that the legacy of the Enlightenment needs to be reversed. Politicians such as Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich along with talking heads such as Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and Anne Coulter are not the problem, they are symptomatic of a much more disturbing assault on critical thought, if not rationale thinking itself. Under a neoliberal regime, the language of authority, power and command is divorced from ethics, social responsibility, critical analysis and social costs.Read the rest here.
These anti-public intellectuals are part of a disimagination machine that solidifies the power of the rich and the structures of the military-industrial-surveillance-academic complex by presenting the ideologies, institutions and relations of the powerful as commonsense. For instance, the historical legacies of resistance to racism, militarism, privatization and panoptical surveillance have long been forgotten and made invisible in the current assumption that Americans now live in a democratic, post-racial society. The cheerleaders for neoliberalism work hard to normalize dominant institutions and relations of power through a vocabulary and public pedagogy that create market-driven subjects, modes of consciousness, and ways of understanding the world that promote accommodation, quietism and passivity. Social solidarities are torn apart, furthering the retreat into orbits of the private that undermine those spaces that nurture non-commodified knowledge, values, critical exchange and civic literacy. The pedagogy of authoritarianism is alive and well in the United States, and its repression of public memory takes place not only through the screen culture and institutional apparatuses of conformity, but is also reproduced through a culture of fear and a carceral state that imprisons more people than any other country in the world. What many commentators have missed in the ongoing attack on Edward Snowden is not that he uncovered information that made clear how corrupt and intrusive the American government has become - how willing it is to engage in vast crimes against the American public. His real “crime” is that he demonstrated how knowledge can be used to empower people, to get them to think as critically engaged citizens rather than assume that knowledge and education are merely about the learning of skills - a reductive concept that substitutes training for education and reinforces the flight from reason and the goose-stepping reflexes of an authoritarian mindset.
Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department. His most recent books include: Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (Peter Lang, 2011); Henry Giroux on Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011); Education and the Crisis of Public Values (Peter Lang 2012); Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm Publishers, 2012); Disposable Youth (Routledge 2012); Youth in Revolt (Paradigm, 2013); The Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and America's Disimagination Machine in the Dead Zone of Capitalism (City Lights) and Higher Eduction After Neoliberalism (Haymarket will be published in 2013-2014). Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. His web site is www.henryagiroux.com
*****Comment: This is a compelling and thoroughly engaging read. Professor Giroux has an amazing ability to deconstruct in the tradition of Critical and Cultural Studies.
The conceptual notion of organized forgetting in particular draws me into thinking about the manner in which nations are inorganic places created in large part through violence and subsequently manufactured to forget.
In the end - and there is an end - some of us know very little about who we are and where we come from outside of a very short period of general projection.
I used to tell my students in my classes on race and racism that I could be standing in an elevator listening to people speaking the language of my ancestors and not have a clue what it was.
In fact, my displacement would more likely make me wonder if they could speak English - all of this being a metaphor for having lost more than I can know.
I don't think Giroux is taking his redux of the current moment in the US in this direction but I think it would be important to consider the implications.
At the very least, Americans may not want to remember the brutality that created the US from a stolen piece of land the aboriginal people called Turtle Island.
Remembering that violence and its weight everyday would conjure more than just bad memories.
In this vein maybe organized forgetting is a symptom of a larger trauma - the kind of trauma where a murderer has to look into the mirror each day and find a way to look past what s/he sees.