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Some people know me as OrangeBlossomer because that's me on Twitter. This blog is a random collection of daily musings about life and stuff I love, such as journalism, dog (sadly my dog died in 2010 so probably no more), women, love and lack of love, boobs (only seldom but it does get me extra online traffic), taichi (I practise) and spirituality (should practise more). I have a day job as a jetsetting publishing foreign rights manager but I am also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and a writer/columnist at heart. Writing is my opium.

Monday, 14 April 2014

'Compulsory amnesia': the (cowardly) art of forgetting our truths

'Compulsory amnesia' is a term I first came across while reading a Martha Medeiros' book. Medeiros is a well-known author and newspaper columnist in Brazil, who writes insightful short essays on daily life topics. 

I have been a Medeiros fan for years and often draw inspiration for my blogs from her writing. Sadly, her books are not available in translation in the UK, so I have posted my own translation here of one of her pieces from A Gra├ža da Coisa (2013, L&PM Editores)
Medeiros got obsessed with the term 'compulsory amnesia' when a friend sent her a link to this You Tube video, where the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano touchingly reads from his book about our right to dream (of an ideal world). Galeano says we live in a time of compulsory amnesia and praises those who commemorate historical moments that ought never to be forgotten. 
Medeiros argues that amensia is at the root of much of the neuroses and unhappiness we experience. Because we so easily forget, we fail to find self-realisation. Here is an excerpt I have translated from the original Portuguese:
"We attempt to forget in order to carry on, but what kind of path do we tread when we do not face the truth?" 
"Forgetting is a survival strategy. We are all chronic forgetters. For starters, we forget a handful of neglects we suffered as children, as we are raised to consider our parents infallible. The hurts we internalise end up being labelled as tantrums, however the tantrums turn into traumas and these traumas end up undermining our trust in life while providing financial sustenance to our psychiatric clinics. Because forgetting is a way of preventing a total understanding of ourselves, and someone needs to help us remember so we can free ourselves. 
"We forget the abuses we had to swallow within a marriage or a relationship because we were taught that love must be strong enough to withstand the challenges of life as a couple, also because of fear of solitude, which gets terrible press. So, in order for us to fit in and feel loved and stoical, we forget the lies, the infidelities, the cruelties, the indifference, and we choose to keep something that just about resembles a relationship on the surface though it has ceased to be one the moment we stuck our heads in the sand. 
[...] "We forget, especially, who we are; our ideals, our wishes, our dreams, our beliefs, all in favour of fitting into our environment, as we are too lazy to undo a done deal and go searching for an alternative. We favour, instead, a cowardice that sticks to the soul and freezes all movement. Forgetting ourselves is like signing a deal with resignation."
Medeiros reminds us that amnesia is actually not obligatory. Thank goodness, we can choose not to choose it. 

We can, if we want, choose to remember that our jobs were making us feel undervalued; that loneliness made you confuse infatuation with real love for the man or woman who now shares your home; that the demands your mother/father/wife/husband has been making of you all their lives are not a sign of love but a desire to control and dominate; that the expensive car, or dress, or shoes, or television you bought with the money you earned failed to fill the void you carry inside once the novelty was over; that you are actually not okay about your dad or mum having walked out on you when you were five.

Most of us, unenlightened creatures of the world, live in elective blindness at least in some areas of our lives. But the process of coming out of that unseeing state of darkness to one of seeing is not an easy one if your default modus operandi is to avoid pain and discomfort at all cost. 

It amuses me to think that posting barefaced photos of oneself on Facebook and Twitter is commonly hailed as 'brave' by so many that a recent no make-up selfie social media campaign for Cancer Research ended up going viral and raising millions of pounds in just a few days

Living barefaced bare-souled on a daily basis requires a kind of courage that goes beyond a few days of fun picture posting. The mask that has hidden our ugly truths from the world for so long cannot be erased in one swipe with a makeup remover. Most likely, it has become part of our features, indistinguishable from the real 'I'. 

The moment we forget to forget what we do not want to know/see/hear, we are reborn into more adult versions of ourselves. I quote the delightful Medeiros again:
"We turn into grown-ups when we stop being afraid of making mistakes. We are not just the sum of our choices but also of the things we surrender. Maturity is [the ability] to make decisions then live in peace with the doubts."
May we all find the maturity and the courage to surrender. 

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