A Bad Memory? By Trevor Plumbly

Selective Memory

Recent newsworthy events in sleepy old NZ have led me to believe that memory isn’t all the poets and songwriters crack it up to be. According to their outpourings, memories are either poignant, pleasant or triumphant; in fairness to them I suppose it’s pretty tough to write stirring words about the mundane, but they do tend to glam things up a bit. At a personal level, memory is quite selective, it allows us to recall and enjoy moments of absolute joy but blocks us from experiencing the actual elation at will. We can quite vividly re-visit the inconvenience of injury or illness but can’t recall the physical pain that accompanied it, yet we’re more than capable of refuelling emotional anger, jealousies and real or imagined slights for years with total accuracy and persistent rancour. Most of us, like me, who simply don’t have the capacity to bury things completely, manage to leave these mental nasties in a sort of internal deep storage that we rarely visit or uplift from.

Memories that Won’t Go Away

Others however, aren’t quite so lucky: either the emotional trauma is too much to minimise or their mental makeup is such that bad memories are kept close to the surface and can be irritated at will. That in itself is not really a problem; problems arise when it affects others in the form of revenge. How many times have we heard “he/she started it!”, “it’s all their fault!” or worse “of course I’m not going to forget it, it’s a matter of principle!” It’s crazy really that these and other self-directed excuses get used to plaster over all manner of pure spiteful actions, ranging from the petty through to the seriously harmful. I can accept that we enter the world with a built-in retaliation reflex, but we are fed a huge amount too: most fictional book and film plots lionise those in pursuit of righteous revenge.

The Need to Move On

Some 40 odd years ago, Arthur Thomas was falsely accused and imprisoned for murder; many years later, after an appeal hearing revealed that evidence had been planted by a police                            officer, he was pardoned and compensated by the government. Just recently that police officer died, and as is customary, his funeral was attended by his colleagues, one of whom described him in somewhat glowing terms to the congregation. This apparently incensed those in the Arthur Thomas camp who publicly voiced their criticism to an avid media. The police officer’s family responded by stating that they were prepared to go to any lengths to clear his name and suddenly, the bitterness that should have been forgotten years ago gained a new life. Neither faction will gain anything of value from continuing this spat; the only winners can be loopy theorists, the prurient public and the media. How sad is it to see people waste so much of their life and emotions on an event that they will never resolve. It will be even sadder if this regrettable saga becomes part of their children’s inheritance. Let’s hope that they, at least, will be blessed with short memories.


4 Comments on “A Bad Memory? By Trevor Plumbly

  1. Nicely put Plum, but Arthur Thomas is the wrong example. We should never be allowed to forget what happened to Mr. Thomas, if only for the lesson it teaches. The lesson being: When it comes to murder, if you can’t find motive or madness (both chillingly absent in the Thomas case) look elsewhere!

    • To Hoffa,

      I can ill afford to argue with a lawyer, financially or intellectually, my point wasn’t to solve the case or fuel further debate, it was simply to illustrate the futility of nurturing and making bequests of decades old ill feeling. T.

  2. I know it’s not really anything to do with your piece but it came to my mind when I read it. I’m a very bad driver so I get a lot of “fingers”, flashing lights and horns beeping. They don’t really bother me; I almost agree with them, but I never actually practise the habit myself because I think I would get myself all worked up for nothing, basically. What good would it do? I ‘m not the only bad driver on the road but guess there must be a lot of “perfect” drivers who go home raging unnecessarily and to what effect. Well, just my opinion for what it’s worth. Was that anything to do with your piece? Probably not. (Sorry Em, won’t happen again).

    • To Marge,

      You keep commenting on what you want whenever you want on this blog lady. Imagine all those other drivers being so wrong. Keep on trucking!

      Love T.

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