Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In Praise of Amnesia

I woke up this morning and a beautiful rant was ranting in my head. It was as melodious as a Schuyler piece and as dainty as any of Smag’s posts...

But now I can’t remember it..... so don’t expect any stream of consciousness à la James Joyce here....

It was about amnesia, if I remember right and if it’s not too PC to remember what happened a couple of hours ago?

Oh yes, remembering is now PC:

Support our troops, yes! Remember our veterans, forget it!

Concerned about soldiers injuries? Anyone with a bit of will power can overcome losing a limb or two. As for PTSD, why, the whole notion is so ridiculously PC! Just forget it, I mean get over PTSD by forgetting since it’s a disease of remembering, right?

I vaguely remember (I must do something about that nasty habit, perhaps there’s an amnesia pill I could take?) that previously PTSD used to be called “shell shock” and before they had shells, it used to be called “a soldier’s heart” and, like we do now, they did use the terms to explain other traumas. So, gasp! even Medieval Europeans indulged in PCness!

And then of course there’s the PTSD of the civilians at the receiving end of bombs, land mines, bayonets, swords, fire, salt spread on their fields etc etc etc. But it’s even more PC to remember that....

My rant might have been triggered by the righteous notion that studying sociology is now PC. Yeah, get all the social sciences and particularly history out of higher ed! (I can’t remember why it’s called “higher education” anyway, so I must be making progress on the road to amnesia)

Or it might have been triggered last Sunday while watching 60minutes. I was filled with admiration upon hearing that Messy’s favorite person had forgotten (never known?) not only two world wars (such ancient history, who needs it!) but even the Korean war. Of course our ground breaking “you bet ya” amnesiac could have asked somebody of the generation immediately preceding hers about it, for instance a veteran of the Korean war? Or she could have read a book or two, but luckily she’s above such vulgar PCness, and so were whatever college and high school that gave her degrees. (The one thing someone should have told her is to not pick on the hired help. My stepfather was the scion of a long lined noble Belgian family and he explained to me the true meaning of “noblesse oblige”. It means you treat the hired help courteously otherwise they might spit, or even pee, in your soup. These days gasp! they might even write a book and give interviews). But maybe Wailin' Palin didn’t remember who was who and what was what during the campaign. Good for her for showing us the way to righteous amnesia...

There was more to the rant. I’m one of those people who sometimes wakes up in the morning and bemoans the burning of the library in Alexandria –was it in the fourth century? And what about the two weeks long burning of books by Whaling Palin’s Christian ancestors missionaries in Meso-America (yes these Heathens also put their Satan inspired writings in book form and it took the rest of us centuries to realize that these people did have writing and to decipher the handful of books that had been hidden away or were secretly written after the Spanish invasion –but, what am I saying? Just forget it!). Some PC people bemoan all that loss of human knowledge, but we know better! Down with PC, up with Amnesia!

Oops, I better stop while I’m behind. There’s no telling what I will advocate forgetting next if I keep this up.

However, here’s a poem I wrote about remembering. Like all poems it echoes other poems, this one is conversing with/ inspired by Dylan Thomas’ “And Death Shall Have no Dominion”. Unlike mine, there’s a lot of green and hope (not to mention genius!) in that Dylan Thomas poem which is probably readily available on line (reading a whole book is soooo pc, don't ya think!):

Death’s Dominion (poem)

But now death’s dominion is green
darkly through the blind television screen
a glaucus city spins
gripping ground and sky
its minarets wailing
prayer strings of human voices
against the rockets’s screeching din

The green night city
spins down the black hole
of my heart’s memory
it remembers the hungry flames
hiding beneath that green smoke
it remembers brother and sister
clinging eyes shut for dear life
but nonetheless seeing
the exploding fountain of blood
where once a second long ago
stood a reassuring smile


But now death’s dominion is white
oh so blinding grinding white
sands and skies and one scream
the world pulverized
into shards of white
a silent breach spilling out
from the man the boy’s body
leaving his crimson mark
on the desert of his exile

The white desert
spins down the black hole
of my heart’s memory
it remembers
his mother waiting on another continent
dread suddenly stabbing at her fear
of the cannibal flags’ hunger
their striped drapes slurping up
plane loads delivered
in the dawn’s early light


Oh death’s dominion is singular
for we can only die
one by one

(Poem copyright 2004 by Catherine Tihanyi)


  1. Kati, this is too wonderfully-written for me to comment on, so I'm just going to make a comment so that you know that I was here, read and appreciate the piece mightily. You are a wonderful writer.

  2. Oh Smagie, and I just learned to be snarky! I picked it up from some of the greatest snark experts on this site and I was hoping for some snark in return...

    Perhaps I should post a snarky reply to myself? There are some valid things to be said against PC... Some PC is soooo annoying, irritating, absurd etc etc I was really objecting to its broadening to include any and all social concerns...

    Also, I have been wondering if in some ways forgetting might make you happier (speaking as someone getting more and more senior moments --so I decided to stop worrying about them and to try to find the positive aspects of amnesia--ha ha) :-)

  3. Well, to be sure, I was specifically talking about the poem. I've had good friends die in the sand and your poem moves me deeply. As for your praise of amnesia, if we could make it selective, I'd advocate it in a heartbeat. :-)

  4. ...and I'm so very sorry about your friends....

  5. Kati, I read this a few days ago, and since then have struggled to find the right words to convey how touched I was by your poem. I think our friend Smag has said it best ~ it's too wonderfully written to comment on (adequately), and rather than risk my silence conveying disinterest, I'm posting to let you know that ~ I came, I read, and I was deeply moved.

    I suppose we're all struck by different things ~ Smag and his friends lost to the sands ~ and me by the image of a mother (of a 21-year old contemplating enlisting) waiting in fearful dread on another continent...

    ...beautiful work, Kati. Thank you. :)

  6. Oh Mermaid, you're too kind... thanks