John Le Carré (David Cornwell) was speaking about a new documentary directed by Errol Morris, The Pigeon Tunnel. He talked about his life and his life’s journey as a spy and as a writer. He talked about treason, about truth, and about deception. And at a particular moment, when he referred to his work as a spy in Germany during the Cold War, he mentioned the phrase, «the power of enforced forgetting was extraordinary.» This phrase made me think a lot this week.
This idea of «enforced forgetting» not only forms part of our particular history, but it also forms part of the world-wide narrative. This organized loss of memory, these pacts of forgetting that are allowed or enforced around the world have consequences so dramatic, so complex, that we are not able to understand how they affect us as a society.
Helicopters have returned to my neighborhood in New York City, police officers have returned to every corner, and protests where all fight for their truth have returned as well. This unique truth always turns out to be incompatible with another’s unique truth. And in the virtual world we inhabit in parallel form, all of that multiplies infinitely. Every day we read the statements of our social network contacts, with their opinions about what is happening in the world, especially in the Middle East. Every day we feel the pull of polarization, with all of its consequences, a pull that leads me again to the «power of enforced forgetting» that John Le Carré talked about. Because the dangers that this power carries are perhaps the foundation for this other polarization that doesn’t allow us to say out loud that victims are victims, regardless of the place where they were born.