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At that moment, in if it was , Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia, and although the official line said that it had always been like that, Winston knew that it had been only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia.
His personal memory, which was not satisfactorily under control, reminded him that History had been different, putting him at odds with the official line, that the change of partners, of allies and enemies had never happened. Winston knew that because he remembered, it was a knowledge that existed only in his own consciousness, but if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed if all records told the same tale then the lie passed into history and became truth.
One of the questions raised here, for historians, is how to accommodate personal experiences and personal memories in the narrative. What to do when the personal testimony of someone who suffered, or caused, some kind of violence, be it at war, concentration camps, dislocation, displacement, expulsion, 73 colonialism, torture, or any other personal experience, is not recorded or registered in any place or goes against what is taught in history books or, for that matter, at schools?
In Spain, nowadays, there are many conflicting memories, not only at a personal but also collective level, to use Maurice Halbwachs expression. Many individuals, who were at one side or the other of the Civil War conflict, or their descendants, have different feelings and memories derived precisely from their personal experiences, and at a collective level one can find conflicting perspectives on History.
On one side we have those who talk about, and share, a Spanish historical memory, and on the other side we have those who talk about and defend a Basque, Catalan or Galician collective memory, different from the Spanish one and, sometimes, in opposition to it. And a powerful and effective mean to inculcate official history is through the educational system.
The past, for Winston, had not merely been altered, it had been actually destroyed. For how could you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory? Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their [the Party] philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right.
For, after all, how do we know that [ If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable what then? For OBrien, Winston suffers from a defective memory. You are unable to remember real events, and you persuade yourself that you remember other events which never happened Orwell, p.
Memory, as Psychology shows us, can be elusive. We all remember fragments of the past, sometimes with great detail, but we do not always remember with accuracy. There are many occasions when we think that we were in a certain place or did something specific, but that was not the case, or the other way around; or that we did something or someone did something to us but we decided to forget it.
We think that memories are like carvings in stone; once done, they do not change. But the fact is that memory is not only selective but also malleable. We edit our memories over the years partly out of a natural human instinct to make our own roles more attractive or important, and because times and attitudes change over the years Macmillan, pp. Talking to Julia, Winston asks her if she realises that the past, starting from yesterday, has been actually abolished?
If it survives anywhere, its in a few solid objects with no words attached to them, like that lump of glass there. Already we know almost literally nothing about the Revolution and the years before the Revolution. Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute.
History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the party is always right. I know, of course, that the past is falsified, but it would never be possible for me to prove it, even when I did the falsification myself.
After the thing is done, no evidence ever remains.
The only evidence is inside my own mind, and I dont know with any certainty that any other human being shares my memories Orwell, p. Another important aspect of personal memory has to do with the value that we attach, or choose to attach, to personal experiences. When Winston Smith is in a bar trying to obtain information from an old man, who with a few others like him were the last links that now existed with the vanished world of capitalism, Smith gets disappointed. What he wants to know is different from what the old man has to tell and the importance that each one gives to the past is divergent, because for Winston Smith, like a historian choosing what is considered useful for a research, the few scattered survivors from the ancient world were incapable of comparing one age with another.
For real examples of how the educational system uses and misuses history see Macmillan, pp. They remembered a million useless things, a quarrel with a workmate, a hunt for a lost bicycle pump, the expression on a long-dead sisters face, the swirls of dust on a windy morning seventy years ago; but all the relevant facts were outside the range of their vision Orwell, pp.
Who defines what is worthless, useless, or not? Based on what criteria do historians consider some facts as relevant? And how sensitive, and sensible, should historians be when dealing with painful memories? Something that is a scientific inquiry may provoke the recalling of very deep and profound personal experiences and memories on others.
Even if a personal memory is not real, and we have seen that it is very difficult to establish the veracity or not of something so personal, the one who is experiencing it feels it like being true and, if it feels true, is it true? When OBrien is interrogating Winston, he says You believed that three men, three one-time Party members named Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford men who were executed for treachery and sabotage after making the fullest possible confession were not guilty of the crimes they were charged with.
You believed that you had seen unmistakable documentary evidence proving that their confessions were false. There was a certain photograph about which you had a hallucination. You believed that you had actually held it in your hands. It was a photograph something like this. Then OBrien shows to Winston an oblong slip of newspaper with another copy of the photograph of Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford at the Party function in New York, which Winston had chanced upon eleven years before and destroyed.
It exists! No, said OBrien. OBrien then destroys that fragment of history, of the past, in a memory hole, an orifice in the wall for the disposal of waste paper, and says: Ashes. Not even identifiable ashes. It does not exist. It never existed. But it did exist! It does exist!
It exists in memory. I remember it. You remember it. I do not remember it, says OBrien Orwell, pp. Conclusion In , Michael Gazzaniga, a Professor of Psychology, wrote that the left side of the brain weaves its story in order to convince itself and you that it is in full control.
The interpreter influences other mental capacities, such as our ability to accurately recall past events. We are poor at doing that, and it is the interpreters fault.
We know this because of neuropsychologists research on the problem. The memorys accuracy is influenced by which hemisphere is used. Only the left brain has an interpreter, so the left hemisphere has a predilection to interpret events that affect the accuracy of memory.
The interpreterless right hemisphere does not. This finding is consistent with the idea of a left-hemisphere interpreter that constructs theories to assimilate perceived information into a comprehensible whole.
In so doing, however, the elaboration processing has a deleterious effect on the accuracy of reconstructing the past.
What is so adaptive about having what amounts to a spin doctor in the left brain? Isnt telling the truth always best? Still, the interpreter is working on a different level. It is really trying to keep our personal story together.
To do that, we have to learn to lie to ourselves.
In order to convince someone else of the truth of our story we have to convince ourselves. We need something that expands the actual facts of our experience into an ongoing narrative, the self-image we have been building in our mind for years. The spin doctoring that goes on keeps us believing we are good people, that we are in control and mean to do good Gazzaniga, pp. In , Paul Veyne shocked French historians, particularly from the Annales School, by saying that history was a narrative in which the historian constructed a plot around certain facts chosen by him.
In , as we have seen, Edward Hallett Carr, had already said that historians selected from a wide variety, not to say infinity, of facts those that they considered as historical. History has stopped. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. When Winston Smith is in a bar trying to obtain information from an old man.
There are many occasions when we think that we were in a certain place or did something specific. For how could you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory? Another important aspect of personal memory has to do with the value that we attach.
We think that memories are like carvings in stone. On one side we have those who talk about. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise. Every record has been destroyed or falsified. Winston asks her if she realises that the past. In Spain. If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind. But the fact is that memory is not only selective but also malleable.
Already we know almost literally nothing about the Revolution and the years before the Revolution. We edit our memories over the years partly out of a natural human instinct to make our own roles more attractive or important. If it survives anywhere. I know. Talking to Julia. Smith gets disappointed. The only evidence is inside my own mind. Many individuals. We need something that expands the actual facts of our experience into an ongoing narrative.
With those facts they construct a narrative which they consider as having an internal coherence and logic.
The spin doctoring that goes on keeps us believing we are good people. It does exist! It exists in memory. In order to convince someone else of the truth of our story we have to convince ourselves. It was a photograph something like this. In so doing. You believed that you had actually held it in your hands. The interpreterless right hemisphere does not. Based on what criteria do historians consider some facts as relevant?
And how sensitive. Aaronson and Rutherford at the Party function in New York. It does not exist. It is a curious attitude. Only the left brain has an interpreter. Not even identifiable ashes. Paul Veyne shocked French historians. Michael Gazzaniga. You remember it. We are poor at doing that. Conclusion In Who defines what is worthless. To do that. Even if a personal memory is not real. In It is really trying to keep our personal story together. What is so adaptive about having what amounts to a spin doctor in the left brain?
You believed that you had seen unmistakable documentary evidence proving that their confessions were false. I remember it. It never existed. There was a certain photograph about which you had a hallucination. Edward Hallett Carr. This finding is consistent with the idea of a left-hemisphere interpreter that constructs theories to assimilate perceived information into a comprehensible whole.
The interpreter influences other mental capacities. New York: Nineteen Eighty-Four. Will people only remember. English translation The Use and Abuse of History: George Orwell. Profile Books. English translation — Writing History: That is why new facts are integrated in a way that they make sense with what we already know.
Is the historian really looking for something new or for something that will reinforce what we already know. May we consider. Manchester University Press. In order to convince someone else of the accuracy. University of California Press. References  E. Payot Brace and Company.
The uses and abuses of history. By Carimo Mohomed. Flag for inappropriate content. Related titles. Erich Fromm - Afterword to George Orwell's Jump to Page. Search inside document.
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