One of the significant sources of creativity and conflict is man’s capacity to believe it is possible to forget or to distort memories at will. It is true that memory is selective and that we tend to modulate it according to our interests. However, the propensity to believe we can choose what to remember, and to act as though things had not happened, eventually weakens us and it’s akin to the idea that money can buy happiness.
Freedom does not originate from the ability to bury the pain, but from living through it to transform it into fuel. Conquered countries, as well as conquered people, tend to invent self-righteous narratives until the snowball becomes so big that the speeches collapse. Reality is stubborn and, although sometimes we just buy time to survive, without the temptation of accumulating money and excuses to infinity the television news would not be so entertaining.
Spain is an ideal case for studying how self-righteous narratives take hold of us and end up producing increasingly absurd situations. Right now, as I write this, I see Pablo Iglesias on television. The leader of Podemos has proposed that the Catalan left, masters of selling hot air, should lead the talks to solve the Catalan problem in the event that Pedro Sanchez forms government. Iglesias is astute and, if I did not believe he seeks the destruction of the late 1970’s Spain transition regime, I would think he is a fool.
When the fall of the Western culture becomes subject of study, it will be apparent that the politically correct language has done as much damage to Europe as the American gold did to the Spanish empire. While the American gold created the figure of the starved nobleman that traveled around as though he were a billionaire, the politically correct discourse has buried the traumas of the European nations under a fabulous layer of whims and subsidized good feelings. Now, as excuses and money are getting exhausted, we are just running on drugs. And, of course, some unhealed wounds are reopened.
I once attended a conference given by a Canadian psychologist of Hungarian origin who specializes in addictions. The psychologist explained how the chemical balance of the brain varies depending on our experiences and on what we can do with them. To illustrate how the brain is sensitive to its environment, he explained that his Jewish mother would always say that the day the Nazis came to Budapest all the children in her neighborhood started to cry.
How could the creatures possibly know who the hell were the Nazis, he wondered. They did not know it, nor did they need to know to be marked forever. The children perceived their mothers’ terror and cried. Besides -he later discovered studying cases of abused children- terror altered their endorphins system and blocked the development of specific neural circuits. From the time we are very young, we begin to draw conclusions from the world around us, and the conclusions we draw affect our unconscious and our identity.
That’s how traumas travel from parents to children. That’s how the attitudes get socialized and spread beyond stories told by books. Sometimes, we say with resignation that history repeats itself. It is not that history repeats itself, it is just that the pain that at a given time we cannot transform into love and intelligence comes back calling after a while. Sometimes we have accumulated so many generations of excuses and lies that we do not understand how it relates to us. Then, it is even worse because we are outraged, as when a banker has to claim the debt of a distant relative.
When our identity leans on unsound foundations, when we do not have the strength or courage to carry our loads, the room for maneuver is small, and the disintegration is almost inevitable.
Translated from Catalan by Fernando Beato