Ex-Communist Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski once said “we learn history not in order to know how to behave or how to succeed, but to know who we are”. This idea of a cultural memory is something any society is aware of, it defines where we came from and guides where we will go. Authoritarians however, seek to control the narrative of a cultural memory Leszek argues.
Leszek Kolakowski is know best for his anti-Marxist views, being published in the 1976 Main Currents of Marxism.
In the popular novel Live Not By Lies (an homage to Solzhenitsyn’s original 1974 work by the same name) author Rod Dreher writes on Leszek’s view that “The great ambition of totalitarianism – the total possession and control of human memory.”
“We know from the history of communist totalitarianism how this can be achieved through a total state monopoly on information, including ideological control of education and media.”
Resisting Control Of Human Memory
So then how does one resist the demand from authoritarians to control the narrative of a cultural memory in order to reshape human society to their whims? The answer is by refusing to play the game, and men and women have done this with great success throughout history.
Take Franz Jägerstätter, Nazi Germany’s most famous Conscientious Objector. Franz’s decision to stand for his faith rather than give in to the Nazis as other Catholics in his village did rings familiar to the actions of the Green Grocer in the powerful anti-Communist essay by Vaclav Havel.
Those who are complicit in the games created by a totalitarian regime serve as the broken system’s goal keepers, checking resistance with their obedience. They are as the chicken in the story of Stalin plucking a live chicken as a metaphor for those will be ruled despite being made to suffer as a result.
Not playing the “game” means living in the truth. Infamous Russian poet Solzhenitsyn knew it, so did Czechoslovakia’s first President after the fall of communism Vaclav Havel.
Leszek Kolakowski was skeptical of those who would attempt to reshape human society to certain specifications through creating a monopoly on their cultural memory.
Rod Dreher writes about the stories of dissidents living in the truth and refusing to capitulate to the madness during Soviet-era communism in Live Not By Lies. Check the price on Amazon here.
By Verhoeff, Bert / Anefo –  Dutch National Archives, The Hague, Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANeFo), 1945-1989, Nummer toegang 2.24.01.05 Bestanddeelnummer 924-3417, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27289361
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Leszek Kolakowski: “Totalitarian Regimes Seek Control Of Human Memory” was first posted on April 15, 2021 at 1:42 pm.