Europe’s Lost Memory and Ongoing Struggle with Identity

Cameron Sen

This week’s readings highlighted recent and ongoing issues occurring within Europe, that have of resulted in the targeting of minorities, notably Muslims, LGBTQ+ individuals, and Migrants within European society. Many of these issues, at least from a personal observation, can be easily correlated back to a collective memory which the far-right in Europe has been able to shape, that showcases an abillty to manipulate the past.

As defined by Dan Stone collective memory refers to “the images and representations of the past that circulate in society and shape a group’s self image.” As Stone points out, countries such as Poland and Hungary and their collective responses to the lessons of the Second World War showcase what happens when collective memory is interpreted in a context that fails to properly acknowledge the past. These misinterpreted narratives have allowed for far-right populists to further a message that aligns with the present societal or geo-political challenges or crisis of the times, which has enabled for ”othering” to happen. Is it really any surprise why both these two respective countries have instilled policy’s which has coincided with the targeting of societal groups such as Immigrants and LQBTQ+ individuals?

This abillty to shape collective memory and manipulate the past equally showcases how much influence America has had on shaping the present-day identity of European countries. This is incredibly apparent through Turkey’s attempt to change the dynamic of race, and what it means to be a “Black” Turk vs being a “White” Turk. Such attempt by the country to redefined what is means to be what, trying to instil a message of societal elite’s vs the common, underrepresented working class, showcase just how much power and how the attempt to re-write a narrative as an anti-colonialist player, can be directly traced back to American influenced narratives. Even the Qanon popularity throughout countries such as German and France, has showcased the abillty for American inspired beliefs to shape the identity of Europe’s overall self.

Ultimately, no matter what the country, regardless of the specific target, the abillty by far-right movements to reinforce a false sense collective memory on European society looks set to further continue societal division. Until this is changed, Europe will seemingly continue to struggle with its overall sense of identity.

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