Friday, March 26, 2010
In class lately, we have been discussing the notion of the "collective memory" of a community. We have acknowledged that this exists in reference to memorials, but I recently read an article which discusses how a collective memory can affect major public policy decisions. I don't know if anyone is aware, but Greece and the eurozone are mired in a sovereign debt crisis. The Germans don't want to help the Greeks out by loaning them money to cover their maturing debts. German citizens cite the fact that they have been responsible and should not have to pay taxes in order to bail out the irresponsible Greek government. I was reading a story about this debt crisis written by Gavin Hewitt of the BBC. He quotes a professor stating that Germans will not loosen their policies on bailing out the Greeks because "it is part of the collective memory. Germans are for stability and austerity and not for deficit spending." Of course this professor is referring to the incredible inflation experienced by the deutsche mark in the interwar period, which can be linked to the rise of Nazi fascism in Germany. I thought this was a particularly interesting use of the phrase "collective memory," because it displays how a collective memory can be performative and can influence public opinion and public policy.