“As Russell Jacoby says in his book, ‘Social Amnesia’: “Exactly because the past is forgotten, it rues unchallenged. To be transcended it first must be remembered. Social amnesia is society’s repression of remembrance.’
Simply because we choose to forget a traumatic event, simply because we choose not to learn of a traumatic history and a history that may make us feel ashamed, does not mean that that history is not controlling our behavior. Simply because we don’t know our history, and may not have heard of it, does not mean that the history does not control our behavior.
One of the most profound things that we’ve learned in psychology is that the most powerful forces that shape human behavior are those factors that are consciously not remembered by human beings, that are unknown by the person, are those experiences the individual can swear he’s never had. That is one of the paradoxes of human behavior, that the very things that shape us and make us behave the way we do, see the world the way we see it and relate to people the way we relate to them, are those things that occurred in our lives at points we cannot remember or recall.
The personality is in part shaped in the womb itself; shaped by the genes, shaped in part by the birth process itself; shaped in the very first two year of life. Yet very few, if any of us, can remember in detail those first two years of life. Yet it is those very first two years that determine our behavior from ‘8 to 80.’ And so the idea that we don’t know, that we’re not aware of certain early experiences, doe not mean that we have escaped their effects. In fact it puts us more profoundly under the influence of these unknown forces…
Those people and parents who have escaped their own history as a result of trying to escape anxiety, fear, shame and so forth, may pass escapism onto their children as history. That history of escapism then becomes a part of their personality and they become vulnerable to addictions and all other kinds of terrible habits and orientations in the world. Why do we think we were robbed of our history if it was not to serve this purpose?
The individual who has amnesia suffers distortion of and blindness to reality. The individual who cuts himself off from his history is self-alienated. There’s a whole part of himself that’s completely shut off from his use. It’s as if there were two parts. One part is unknown, yet because it is unknown doesn’t mean that it is not effective. We have to devote energy to unknowing. We have to direct perception to unknowing. We have to say: ‘Let me turn my face so I cannot see; let me not think about it.’ So the struggle to not know itself becomes a creator of behavior and personality structure. So the idea that not knowing one’s history somehow permits one to escape it is a lie. In fact, it brings one under the domination of the more pernicious effects of that history and opens the personality up for self-alienation, self-destruction.
A person who is suffering from amnesia lives a life based on negation, not on affirmation, not on growth and development, but lives life in such a way as to deny life and reality and to deny parts of his own personality and himself. Life then becomes a negation and is used to maintain a negation instead of life as it should be lived- as affirmation, as growth, enhancement and development. And people who live their lives as a negation live the lives that we see ourselves living today- going deeper and deeper into hell and going deeper into self destruction as a people.
History is real; it brings real, tangible results. When we wish to negate it and not integrate it, when we wish to negate it and not affirm it, then it negates us in the end. The negation wins out. The Afrikan person who lives in social amnesia brought on by the projection of mythological Eurocentric history, lives a life that is unintegrated and misunderstood.” -From, “The Falsification of Afrikan Consciousness” By: Amos N. Wilson