Care, care, care

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Quite uncharacteristically, I was trying to think of a point for this post; that is, a realistic one. In a week where I’ve been fighting against the notion of everything having a ‘point’ and everything needing to be ‘productive’, I’ve also been questioning myself and wondering about the point of this blog. It does seem rather useless. Also, unbelievably self-indulgent and self-obsessed at times. And so, before I sat down to write this, I thought: what do you want from people? Yes, what do I want? I admit to constant frustration, sometimes even anger, at the mindless stupidity that so many people are willing to waste their time reading and fawning over. And I know this is unfair. And I know I’m being judgemental and unkind when I think like this. Luckily, I do reign myself in and tell myself to get over myself.

But there are topics that require an unresolved anger; that require more out of people and their attention spans and their minds and their hearts. And sometimes I just despair at the lack of all three. I’ve been trying for a few good months to pitch story ideas about the Holocaust to various media editors. Unsurprisingly, this is not considered a popular topic. It is difficult, and loaded, and doesn’t come with that magic traffic-and-hits formula of being ‘timely’. No, it isn’t timely. At most, we hear about it on memorial and remembrance days, and everyone says ‘how terrible’ and we move on. This is not unique to the Holocaust, we have a short memory and only tend to hear about tragedies, wars, massacres and injustices when they are ‘timely’. As if things are just neatly resolved and we can move on to the next ‘timely’ topic. I don’t blame editors, I really don’t: they have their restrictions on content and limited slots for articles and have to choose carefully what they allow to be published. But I’m not hampered by such constraints here.

What do I want out of people when they read this post? To care. I want them to care. To care. To care. It’s not that hard. I’m not stupid, I know that as soon as you say or write the word ‘Holocaust’, you might as well expect a certain level of silence in response. Because it is too difficult to talk about, and most decent people don’t know what to say. I’m also not stupid enough to believe that this post will be read with any degree of popularity or by many. Despite all this, I just want people to care. Sometimes it feels like the anger is flowing out of my veins and I have no idea what to do about it. And it’s not even my anger, I shouldn’t have any ownership over it. I feel guilty about it.

Here’s the thing I want anyone who reads this to know: we haven’t even reached the bottom of the Holocaust. In Primo Levi’s words:

I must repeat – we, the survivors, are not the true witnesses. This is an uncomfortable notion, of which I have become conscious little by little, reading the memoirs of others and reading mine at a distance of years. We survivors are not only an exiguous but also an anomalous minority: we are those who by their prevarications or abilities or good luck did not touch bottom.

-Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved

So what do we do with those who did touch bottom? Do we relegate them to lost history and stop reaching for ways to talk about them because it’s not timely? Do we only give them one day a year in which to remember them from the safe enclosure of national memorials? Am I being unfair and judgemental again when I ask these questions? After all, there are so many injustices that don’t even get one day. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that the Holocaust is both about the Holocaust and is about so much more. It is beyond ‘timely’, just as so many injustices are beyond ‘timely’. So let me reiterate: I just want people to care.


sheila said...

I care. I just wanted you to know that. I don't think about it just on Remembrance Day. Questions from my kids have come up and we talk. Questions about race, religion, evil, war, questions about history, what it was like when their grandparents were young. Even though we are not Jewish and can't begin to know, I assure you we do our best to teach empathy and I always talk to my children about history and war and the evil that happened in the world that we don't ever want to happen again. We talk about all of it with them because I believe so strongly that they should never forget what happened, so that they can tell their kids and so they will know that we are all affected by evil, by war and we are all affected by kindness and civility and respect. I just want you to know that we care, our family cares. We have watched films and documentaries on the Holocaust, we have read books and will read books because we need to know what happened and how it happened, we need to remember, and we won't turn away or tune it out. We won't. We will remember and teach our kids to remember because we care.

querido diário said...

I care.
Just two days ago i was talking with my best friend about the second world war and the Holocaust and he was a little 'shocked' because he recently discovered that german kids have at lot of hours to to study about this.
He argued that it was not ' right' ,because it's a massacre for the younger generations and i was saying that the real tragedy is forgetting.
memory seems such a vague concept these days.
I care and i think is very important for people everywhere to care about mass murders in wars and everything human beings use as an excuse to cover hate, jealousy and fear.
Thank you for this post.

Danielle P. said...

[...] the Holocaust is both about the Holocaust and is about so much more. It is beyond ‘timely’, just as so many injustices are beyond ‘timely’.

I couldn't agree more, Hila. It's inconceivable to me that some people don't care. There's no reason, no excuse. We MUST care about the Holocaust, remember it, think about it, because it's our duty as human beings, and it reveals us to ourselves as human beings. Dismissing it — saying that it's in the past, or that it doesn't concern us for cultural or geographical reasons — is simply unforgiveable. And let's not even talk about those who deny it ever happened...

Rambling Tart said...

I care. Deeply. I remember by reading their stories. I've been reading their stories since I was a girl yet I still learn more, am still horrified more, am still in awe and wonder at the kindness of people who showed love in the face of abject fear, am still in horror at those who perpetrated such evil when they did not have to. I understand and feel your anger. I think people are afraid to feel, afraid that it might unearth something inside them that they can't handle or are unwilling to face. I think sometimes people don't want to care because they will feel expected to DO, and they don't know what to do. But please keep writing. Even if it's just here. The ones who care will find you - and those are the ones you really want to reach. xo

Hila said...

Sheila: Thank you, there should be more people like you.

querido diário: I've heard of the Holocaust being taken off the school curriculum in the UK in some schools, and I often talk to people here in Australia who have never even heard of it. This kind if individual ignorance and willed collective ignorance drives me nuts. I agree with you: there is value in remembering, because those lives who were lost deserve that at the very, very least. And they deserve more. It's a fundamental human need to be valued as a human being. The people who were so brutally and systematically killed in the Holocaust were murdered with the belief that they were not even human. By remembering them, we are giving them their humanity back. This has nothing to do with being 'timely' and everything to do with our shared humanity.

Danielle: I absolutely agree, and yes, let's not even waste our time with the idiotic Holocaust deniers ...

Krista: I know you do care :) I know it is a lot to ask out of people to consider these topics, and I understand the self-protective measure of not allowing yourself to go there. But I've never been one to advocate an easy approach to the world.

erica lorraine scheidt said...

But there are topics that require an unresolved anger


erica lorraine scheidt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hila said...

Yes, thanks for understanding, Erica.

Mademoiselle Michael said...

You have every right to be angry. It's a righteous anger that is stirring you, not one without a cause, belief, or meaning and (personally) I think that is actually really healthy. You have every right to ask that people care, and we should join you in that effort.

While I don't have specific Jewish roots—I fervently believe the Holocaust is everyone's history. It was and it still is. People stood by and failed a good people and it should really sting us forever. I hope it always makes me sick.

(Just for clarification—I believe it's everyone's history, but I recognize as an Irish-American that it's not going to affect my family as it does yours. Didn't want you to think I couldn't see the difference there.)

Hila said...

Mademoiselle Michael: I really do hope it's a healthy anger - it doesn't always feel healthy. But thanks, I do understand what you're saying, and I appreciate it. And I so agree with you: the Holocaust is everyone's history, and everyone's responsibility.