The evil is in the forgetting
There is a certain evil in what happened yesterday, and I am still trying to figure out what it is. This shocks me, as I have never believed in evil, which to me has always smacked of the black and white of organized religion, which has wreaked so much destruction in the world. 'This person is good, that person is bad' always falls short as an explanation. All of us live in the uncomfortable grey, but neither religion nor the totalitarians nor the populists can stand it, and so they invent evil (and heroism). So you can see why I am bothered by the fact that I sensed the callous hand of evil in what happened yesterday.
In the news of a country's departure from what is perhaps the world's greatest peaceful initiative past the confines of nationalism, and in the many lines that have already been written about the potential collapse of the entire initiative, I sensed it. In the cold light of this new day, in between the trenches of "leave" and "remain" in which the hopes and dreams of the young lay broken on the battlefield, and in the emaciated corpse of solidarity, it filled me with dread. Could this truly be evil and, if so, could it be traced to a single person or group of persons? Were they evil?
I thought of the cast of characters that have become all too familiar on our television screens and mobile devices. Even the most objectionable of them didn't live up to the monstrosity of evil. They seemed farcical , ridiculous and small in the aftermath of calamity. I thought of the fifty-two percent, many of whom cannot afford to travel to Europe because of entrenched socio-economic disadvantage. Why not 'leave'? They had never been out of the Midlands or had that opportunity. One could hardly lump them with being evil.
My grandmother once told me that the Holocaust had never happened. I remember clearly the way she said the words: with force, as though slaying the enemy. And who or what was that? It was memory and the truth of history which she knew all too well. The evil was not her or who she was, but the act of willfully, most consciously, forgetting.
In his personal account of the Holocaust entitled "Night", Elie Wiesel makes the point that to forget is in itself to commit the violence again. This severing of the past from ourselves is the evil of yesterday and today. May we sense the wasteland of the day after and hopefully in this remember.
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