Martin Beck Matustik, Unforgiving Memory and Counter Redemdemptive Hope

Victims, survivors, and their descendants transmit the power of moral remainders. This intuition echoes in unison Václav Havel’s 1978 dissident statement from behind the former Iron Curtain and Herebert Marcuse’s appeal to Walter Benjamin’s postsecular faith that the dominance of one-dimensional thinking can be resisted: The moral power of the powerless resides in those without hope and power for whose sake hope is given to us. I wish to meditate on memory and hope as transgenerational moral remainders. Home Page at In a book chapter on “Redemption in an Antiredemptory Age” (Radical Evil and the Scarcity of Hope, 2008), I examined two contrary types of museums, the Nazi project in 1942-45 to convert Prague Central Jewish Museum into a pan-European showpiece for the extermination of the Jewish race and Daniel Libeskind’s counter-monumental museums in Berlin and Copenhagen. The Nazi museum project endeavored to rewrite the past through celebrating the annihilating deed. A memorial dedicated to spiritual genocide would actively block hope across future generations. This intangible dimension of genocide is appropriately described by Saul Friedländer’s notion of “redemptive anti-Semitism.” This brand of racial hatred can be characterized as “redemptive” in the contrarian and theologically perverse sense evoked by designing a museum dedicated to an anti-resurrection (or inverse redemptive beliefs that would serve the annihilation of the future. In this presentation, I will consider two sets of counter-factual yet real life difficulties that illustrate, one, the dynamic of a conscience which forgives itself without shame and, two, the fabrication of historical evidence against future forgiveness. The first set of difficulties arises in “The Conscience Of Nhem En” (Okazaki 2008), the story of a photographer who at 16 recorded faces of prisoners who came through Tuol Sleng Prison during the reign of Khmer Rouge. The second set of difficulties steps out of the frame of the documentary montage, “A Film Unfinished” (2010), called by the Nazis “The Ghetto,” that the propagandist filmmakers shot and cut in 1942 as their testimony about Jewish life in Warsaw. The Nazi Ghetto film and the Prague Jewish museum project (1942-45) represent inverted uses of cultural studies and critical theory that are deployed to manipulate memory and the future. The desire to take the holy out of the holy while retaining shells of the holy mark the most overt strategies of spiritual or “redemptive” hatred. The complaint against critical theory that dominates some 1,500 pages of the recent Norwegian manifesto of Anders Breivik should be addressed to these abuses of memory and culture; indeed, that text’s collage of moral and pious verbiage is underwritten by the rhetoric of hate. In my conclusion, I will pose for a moment of silence at the postmemorials that blush whenever futures forget moral remainders. Un/forgiving memory and counter/redemptive hope practice mindfulness against human temptations to underwrite heavens and last judgments with a theodicy. The Conscience of Nhem En (2008) a A Film Unfinished (2010) will be shown in conjunction with Matuštík’s Monday seminar on Memory and this symposium presentation

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