In search of a past that has never been.

StrasserfotoToday’s title is a line I once read from Derrida. And it might have been another motto for this blog. It expresses my conviction that not only the future is open, as we may change it through our thoughts, our attitude and our actions. The past is just as well. Believing that the past is a fixed body, like a carved stone, is a mistake. I have discussed here the ideological aspects of history. Writing history is sculpting a future. It is important how we do it.

I am not proposing that we treat history as those officials in George Orwell’s novel 1984 did, changing it, erasing events and people that could endanger the powers that be. What is important about that story is that it made us aware that we can do that. That history is vulnerable over against the manipulations of power politics. Once we are aware of that fact, we are freed from the idea that history as we learned it is absolute truth. It is an instrument of humans to change their future. If the existing powers can do that, those who suffer from them should bring counterforces to the scene.

Trying to write history that is as critical and conscientious as possible is a counterforce. But what is conscientious in this case? When someone says ‘conscientious to the facts’ he/she is still liable to delusion. For facts can be just the vehicles for ideological moves. I therefore want to plead for another kind of conscientiousness – one that is open to personal experiences – even though they are hard to grasp. As police investigations show, it is very hard for people to remember facts, like faces, times, actions. With experiences it is not very different. More so, they are open to continuous re-interpretation, as our lives moves further, and we see our experiences from an ever changing perspective.

There is something about experiences though, that makes them different to facts – they express vulnerabilities – they disclose, even when we do not want them to, what has made us hurt, what made us joyful, what made us feel alive. The feeling aspect of every narrated experience makes us see the world as it is from another light: the light of valuing. Values inspire what we stand for, positively or negatively. And by bringing them to the center of our histories, we can make those histories critical in another, more meaningful sense – for only when we are willing to not disguise our vulnerabilites, and the values which they give birth to, we open a public space for critically discussing those values. Do they bring good or bad, and to whom, and do we want that. We are under an obligation to discuss that.

I write this post to memorize the anniversary of my blog, which I have been writing now for a year. It has been my aim to write about philosophers and philosophical problems not from a detached, ‘neutral’ point of view, but as intertwined with my experiences. Not because my experiences are so important, but because there is no other way to begin to create that space where we might discuss how we want our history to be, in the light of our future. It is meant as an invitation to who sees the importance of building that common space too. I want to thank all my readers of the past year for visiting and engaging. Especially those who have commented and created discussions, here or on other platforms. And especially those who have added their experiences, in search of a past that has never been, that has the power to change things, or us.

What rests now is to disclose the meaning of that picture – it is an image of a past that has never been: the man is the phenomenological philosopher Stephan Strasser, who featured in an earlier post, my ‘uncle’, who shows me (the little girl) the miracle of a box of slides, which I had never seen before. In a later past, when I found myself to have become a philosopher, the scene of the photo turned into another past – representing miraculously the young philosopher at the feet, so to speak, of the older one. I post his picture in respect for the elders, the ancestors, who are a key to our search for a history that will change the future to one more inclusive, just and fair.

The thoughts in this post are inspired by philosophers like Nietszsche, Derrida, Levinas, Strasser and Scheler. And writers like George Orwell, Victor Klemperer, Golo Mann, and Ken Wiwa.

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