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- Overcoming Social Amnesia: The Role for a Social Perspective in Psychiatric Research and Practice Carl I. T he extrusion of the social realm from psychiatric dis-course has been most apparent in discussions about the definition, future, and accomplishments of psy-chiatry. In an editorial in the Ameri-can Journal of Psychiatryentitled.
- Transient global amnesia is identified by its main symptom, which is the inability to form new memories and to recall the recent past. Once that symptom is confirmed, ruling out other possible causes of amnesia is important. These signs and symptoms must be present to diagnose transient global amnesia.
Social amnesia is a loss of the past. Amnesia is a loss of memory: it reduces a man to a mindless state because he remembers nothing and does not know who he is. This is what is happening to mankind today, especially to Western man. Social Amnesia: A Critique of Conformist Psychology from Adler to Laing - Russell Jacoby - Google Books Rhyming text and illustrations follow a mischievous old black fly through the alphabet as he.
“A number of contemporary historians and ethno-historians work diligently toward the re-examination of American history with less ethno-centric bias. In the same vein as Richard White, Dan Littlefield, James Brooks, and others, vehoae masterfully sets about the task of getting history right.
“This book, based on what must have included heroic efforts of research, illustrates the longstanding damage on American history caused by the ‘social amnesia’ of dominant Euro-American culture. The convenient erasure of American Indian perspective and influence on America’s past is central to the discussion. Linking primary sources from archival records with a strong understanding of actual Native American history, vehoae strikes a well-deserved blow against authors of revisionist history.
“Scholars familiar with Native American issues will find this volume useful in building a better understanding and knowledge base. Those unfamiliar will find it eye-opening, to say the least.”
Greg Rodgers, Choctaw Storyteller; author of The Ghost of Mingo Creek and other Spooky Oklahoma Legends; contributing author to the anthology, Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection; One Dark Night in Oklahoma; Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale (2015 Oklahoma Book Award, children’s category).
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“In this well-researched text, vehoae adeptly illuminates the attitudes of high-handed arrogance and condescension typical of Anglo-Europeans’ dealings with The Nations from the early history of the United States to the twentieth century. I have the highest confidence in the author’s scholarship, having, as a librarian, witnessed firsthand the thoroughness of her research and her persistence in following leads back to primary source material Indeed, the author leaves no stone unturned in her search for the truth, no matter how repugnant and embarrassing.
“I was particularly struck by her thorough and disturbing account of the use of “religion” and “education” to attempt to mold indigenous people into a form more palatable to the dominant white culture. This book will stand as a strong witness to the un-sanitized reality of where we have been. Truth-tellers like vehoae teach us that in confronting the truth of our past, we can hope to avoid repeating our past mistakes. vehoae’s careful documentation and meticulous endnotes blaze a trail for future scholars to continue her research.”
Karen Bays, County Coordinator, Pioneer Library system; Branch Manager, Shawnee Public Library, Oklahoma.
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“Conscience: Breaching Social Amnesia is a well researched reminder that history has two sides. Our failure to see both perspectives leaves us diminished in our understanding of events and issues that shape us as a people and a nation. European influences and attitudes toward indigenous people continued to warp our sensibilities, and in a burgeoning North America, we relegated the Native Americans to the role of a conquered people.
“vehoae draws from primary source documents to record an alarming history of ‘to the victor belongs the spoils,’ and the resultant reprehensible treatment afforded the conquered. In a State that believes it necessary to make English our official language, social amnesia is alive and thriving. Thanks, vehoae, for reminding us there is more to history than the conquerors’ perspective.”
Kitty Pittman, Administrator, OITS, OK Department of Libraries; NewsOK Media “Oakie Reads” Book Reviews.
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“Balzac is credited with saying “Behind every great fortune there is a great crime.” As a corollary to this statement, it might be said, “The prosperity of every great nation is founded on a series of great crimes.” This corollary doubtless applies to the prosperity of the United States. An impartial judge inquiring into these crimes would find a reasonable summary of the facts in an upcoming book, Conscience: Breaching Social Amnesia, by Shirl Yancey who writes under the name, vehoae.
“In this scholarly, well-reasoned and amply documented work, vehoae assembles and presents a devastating barrage of damning documents. Beginning with the insatiable greed of the European colonial powers and continuing through the shameful duplicity of the US federal government, vehoae calls on primary sources to illustrate the callous beliefs and actions that prompted and attempted to justify the enormous crimes perpetrated against the Native Americans who she refers to as “The Nations.”
“In a modern world where daily lip service is paid to the protection and advancement of human rights, Conscience: as the title suggests, issues a clear call against arrogance and hypocrisy.
“The author presents her evidence in a compelling and straightforward fashion leaving the reader to wonder whether it would ever be possible to advance a counterargument. vehoae is never strident or hysterical. She simply presents the evidence and invites the reader to draw his/her own conclusions. It is clear from the subtext, however, that vehoae is passionate about her subject and she clearly has strong emotional connections to “The Nations.”
“Conscience: is an important addition to the body of work shining a light on the powerful and ambiguous mixture of crimes and triumphs that went into the making of the United States of America. This is a valuable resource for anyone interested in putting modern American prosperity in its proper historical context.”
“When one comes face to face with the savagery of the past, there are a number of possible responses: (1) Deny, (2) Excuse, (3) Rationalize, (4) Over-compensate (5) Justify – to list a few. The chief contribution of this book is to challenge the reader to take an unbiased look at the facts and judge for yourself. Some might argue that re-examination of these painful events is pointless as nothing can be done now to undo these past injustices. Even if this is so, books like this are important to remind us of what can happen if human rights become subordinated to ‘public policy.’ Hats off to vehoae for this potent reminder.”
Michael W. Hinkle, award winning author, The Butane Gospel, enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation; contributing author of anthology, Oklahoma: The Fountain of the Heartland.
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“Statesmen are memorialized for their words: “Ask not …” (Jack Kennedy); “I have a dream!” (MLK); “Remember the Alamo!” (Sam Houston?). They are often haunted, too, by less gracious words captured on video or paper.
“In Conscience: Breaching Social Amnesia, vehoae uses quotes from primary sources to compile a record of conquistadores, governors, kings and presidents whose careers spanned the conquest of North America. Using their own words, the author chronicles the process of appropriation of our continent by European elitists and their progeny.
“Most people, American and otherwise, are aware in some vague sense that white people “stole” the land from the red people. Conscience reveals the politicians and very documents who facilitated the process. And to read aloud the words, written by Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, etc. as they came to terms with the “Indian Problem” is to realize that the more we study these statesmen the less we truly understand them. Whatever humanitarian, philosophical, or economic justifications these men use to explain their acts seem to blend seamlessly into the grand sweep of inevitable history; but as real words, they are uncomfortable threats giving voice to that history as it moves through diplomacy to war to subjugation.
“Conscience goes further, though, by revealing some of the ways Native family life was deliberately dismantled as a step toward detribalization as it played out in the words of politicians who had the power to implement sweeping policies that separated children from parents, citing arrogant notions that “government” knew best.
“Ultimately, vehoae’s book seems to stand as a warning against government itself, and it is no great leap to apply the lessons therein to modern American society: that government unchecked grows hungrier; that government tends to think it knows what is best for people.”
Robby McMurtry, award winning author & graphic illustrator; enrolled member of The Comanche Nation of Oklahoma; Gunplay: The True Story of Pistol Pete on the Hootowl Trail; Native Heart: The Life & Times of Ned Christie, Cherokee Patriot & Renegade; The Road to Medicine Lodge: Jesse Chisholm in the Indian Nations; contributing author to anthology, Oklahoma: The Fountain of the Heartland.
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“A helpful and concise compendium using important primary sources, Conscience: Breaching Social Amnesia is a valuable read for anyone interested in the social and political attitudes that comprise the real truth of American history.”
Rilla Askew, award winning author; The Mercy Seat; Fire in Beulah; Harpsong; and many more works.
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“…. vehoae’s informative book … should be read in every American history class. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting more information about treatment of the Indians during ‘settlement’ of the West after the War Between the States (otherwise known as the War of Yankee Aggression).”
Dr. Harry Gilleland, award winning author and poet; Aldric & Anneliese; Poetic Musings of an Old Fat Man; White Lightning Road; Poetry for the Common Man; Bob the Dragon Slayer; and, Gilleland Poetry: Storoems and Poems.
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“vehoae has uncovered the truth concerning the ‘facts’ most people think they know about the history of our country in relation to the Native Tribes. vehoae presents the truth by going back and citing from original primary sources. The author has a definite point of view but is neither strident nor off-putting while having her say. By providing an abundance of footnotes and an extensive bibliography, the reader can be sure of the real truth, not the revisionist [history].
“The author has a style of writing that holds the reader’s attention with a conversational tone and flow that is seldom found in works of nonfiction.”
Cynthia Guion, librarian, Oklahoma Department of Libraries
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“The great astrophysicist Stephen Hawking warns us that contact with alien life may not be in our best interest. After all, human history shows all too well how indigenous peoples suffer at the hands of a more technologically-advanced society.
“The laws of space and time suggest that such visitations are probably not in our future. Still, if we were to awake one morning to find mother ships overhead, I suspect that a nervous Earth might hear our visitors say something like the following. (Note: just replace ‘Indians’ with ‘Earthlings’):
‘The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed.’ [Section 14, Article 3, Northwest Ordinance of U.S. Congress, July 13, 1787
“This quote introduces Chapter 5—“What’s mine is mine. What’s yours is mine!” of Conscience: Breaching Social Amnesia by vehoae. In the author’s first book, she illustrates, through exhaustive research, how the perspectives and motivations of the European invaders and their progeny influenced the rhetoric, politics, and decision-making of the day regarding the continent’s Indian Nations. Elementor woocommerce.
“Beyond the dishonest diplomacy practiced with the tribes, we are treated to the views and arguments of political and religious leaders as they sought a solution to the Indian problem. Such quotes and primary document details trace the discussions of extermination, assimilation and segregation of the tribes from early European settlement to the days of the Indian Boarding Schools.
“It’s an uncomfortable history, of course. Reading about the worse angels of our nature (if I may twist the resurrected Lincoln quote) should make us feel uncomfortable. Seeing an unflattering side of American statesmen like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson strikes at our patriotic heart.
“We know this truth about our past, but some Americans would just like us to forget about it. But vehoae says, “No, look. This is what we did. Here is the proof.” Her appendix, exhibits, bibliography and end note citations take up a third of the book. (I wasn’t kidding about exhaustive research.)
“While at the University of Oklahoma in the late 70s, I was lucky enough to have a class with Dr. Jerry Steffen, who warned us about condemning past generations. The future will laugh at us, and condemn us, too, he said. He reminded us to always consider past history in light of the times. This did not mean we should not pass judgments on cruelties of the past. It meant that by understanding the period of history, we could understand why such cruelties happened.
“There is no advantage to ignoring our history, but there is much to gain by confronting painful truths. For what better way will we truly find the better angels of our nature?
“Visit vehoae’s website to find out more about the author, her interests and her work.
“Read an interview with the author, where she discusses her book and the writers that inspired her. Plus, she provides a host of research tips for non-fiction writers!
“If I may again quote Dr. Steffen on history: ‘What happened is not important. What people think happened is important.’ ” (Can you tell vehoae’s book took my mind back to Dr. Steffen’s class!) I bring up this second bit of Steffen wisdom because vehoae writes that white Americans began to believe that it was the Indians who were the trespassers. After all, we had God and Manifest Destiny on our side. These heathens are simply in our way. It makes me wonder… what false premises do we live under today that future generations will say influenced our behavior, politics, and ability to live peacefully in the world with each other.”
Bill Young, Public Information Manager, Oklahoma Department of Libraries; NewsOK Media
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“… [vehoae’s] book came from a dedicated life to let others know the truth of the struggles of the American Indians and the trust they gave to untrustworthy men in politics and even government officials. In today’s world, we have to ask, ‘Whom can we trust?’ ”
Vera Long, poet; author of Vera: The Country Poet; contributing author of Oklahoma: The Fountain of the Heartland.”
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“As the Library Director for the Ioway Tribe of Oklahoma, and also as an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, I have recommended vehoae’s book to many people to read. I knew some of the history, but to see the words from original documents and read them on pages catches your breath. I shall continue to recommend this well written book. vehoae has a heart for the Nations.”
Sandy Tharp, Library Director, Ioway Tribe of Oklahoma, enrolled member of Cherokee Nation, poet/author/songwriter; author of Smile, and Indian Teardrops, in the anthology, Oklahoma: The Fountain of the Heartland; author of The Apple Tree.
Just as individuals have mechanisms to forget inconvenient truths or traumatic events from the past, so does the community, nation and globe. Just as the child violently abused might loose recall, so may a society loose the truth of its past. So can institutions.
Social Amnesia Gene
Because I throw the term “social amnesia” around so freely, I want to take a little time to give it a chance to become part of your tool-set for interpreting the world at large. As amnesia is one of the defense mechanisms of man (or woman) so social amnesia is a defense against collective traumas. Perhaps it is most like our reactions to vicarious trauma which is at some distance from the individual. Perhaps its course is like the background violence that (still) surrounds life in many settings too much like the “nasty, brutish and short” Hobbes supposed of earlier times. If you believe Hobbes was looking back from the city on the hill of modern enlightenment, please remember that they still hung convicts in cages and left heads on stakes on London Bridge and other places for the people to see.
A careless Wikipedia read could lead you to think Russell Jacoby coined the term in the mid 1970’s. This professor was still at home or going to his first school when Velikovsky, a doctor trained in psychiatry by Freud’s pupil Wilhelm Stekel, came up with “cultural amnesia.” Alas, the doctor has been a victim of the process. The story goes that his sidelining was because of bad geology (sin of anti-uniformitarianism) and orbital science (the effects of electro-magnetism along gravity, a theory since rehabilitated). Catastrophes just never have happened as he enquired of in Worlds in Collision, they screamed. Myths are myths, not edited history, they whispered. It’s one thing to disregard an old man doubling down on his writings out of his expertise.
It’s another to ignore the reason he was interested and to forget his area of study back in Vienna. It was his expertise that made him view an inability to accept past catastrophes as the source of man’s aggression. He theorizes the greater amnesias take a time to develop. Just as with some persons, all seems to be going well, the wound healed until one day something triggers the full blown response. Hold off the forced ignorance of Freud’s early suppositions, bear with me through a little Barthes and we will end up in current America, recycling the past with new labels and calling it progress. We will even find it easily relatable to penal reforms.
The essays of Roland Barthes are about modern myth making. The Nazi made a mythic history for their race, although Aryans are technically from the far steppes and dark skinned. The Iranians and the average citizen of India are typical “Aryans.” Author Winfried Sebald recounts his Bavarian school experience of being shown holocaust photos which no one could explain or contextualize. He remarks of the amnesia for 600,000 mostly civilian deaths from our carpet bombings.
Amnesias of the United States are seen with histories of who came her and why. It is easy to not ever know that several off the first vessel to live in that Thanksgiving celebrating first colony, were mutineers on board and eventually hung after returning from exile. They don’t teach that at the D.A.R. The south is will rise again (it was never much above swamp level for many and others had clay not productive farmlands). We are going to make America Great (again) even as we have always had to fight to keep the drowning alive (unless they were natives – noble but in our way), even as forecasters on the rooftop tell us we are in a post-industrial world and living wage manual labor is truly retired without pension. Educators are still designing systems to pop out better citizens. Few parents are familiar with the names Steiner and Montessori who already invented the basic design of that wheel.
Two more phrases need to be introduced: “forceful repression of memories” and “willful ignorance.” Pictures of Stalin often had once allies taken out the scene, a history of Pacific Northwest canneries had plates depicting the Chinese reworked into Norwegians. Not only have books been banned in the USA, but one scientist’s books were burned in the early 50’s.
The German war machine kept revising schedules as the allies advanced and even as bombs hit the work camps, delivery date promises were put to the calendar. In its declining years the evil Soviet empire had the joke about the people pretending to work and the government pretending to pay them. As they lost their collection of soviet states, the annual government cookbook, celebrating all the union’s cultures edited the ingredients so they could be made with the limited canned goods of those who stood waiting for the potato trucks, the farm trucks or word of their arrival. These were the free people, not those in an eastern front WWII camp! The cookbook was full color illustrated.
Barthes proposes mythologies as social control and a way to separate society from reality (the actual circumstances of the present) and place it in a dreamlike, timeless state, “once upon a time.” In this state the ills are promised to be leaving us, the goods returning, and all the while we hear no solid plans, we have nothing to critically examine and evaluate. It is like so much ad copy – all sizzle and no steak. It is an attempt to “keep it all together.” Trauma degrades executive function, the intelligence that plans and schedules and follows through. Traumatized individuals also have trouble with recounting their live on a time line, remembering if a year was one of the good, or not. If this sounds like the dissociated identity and sensorium of severely traumatized persons, you are getting the idea.
A journalist from various war zones claimed its time to buy an exit ticket and avoid a national psychotic break when a certain hyper-nationalized music that simultaneously sounds like from anywhere on earth takes over. The first time I heard recording of this phenomena I was astounded. He understood what Barthes was warning about, a confluence of the local and a universality. He was less trusting mythology could contain the repressed or was even intent on doing so. He was not going to fall for the local mythic version of the Spectacle and die.
Barthes only knew French style wrestling when he wrote of the parallels to mediaeval morality plays. He does an excellent, convincing job. I personally find it impossible to forget President Trump’s relation to World Wide Wrestling, and my memories of Iron Sheiks, Capitan Americas German “Huns” and a whole theatric repertoire who played emotions for all the family, like a revival preacher, or a recruiting agent for the good guy’s forces.
Isis is repeating the Old Man of the Mountain (Hassan al Sabbah) while Lord’s Army promises child soldiers sex and drugs while on duty not just after. Books remind us of the short psychic distance from Hassan, whose name gave us the words assassin and hasheesh, to the Muslim Brotherhood (they have not hit the news here since the Egyptian Spring). It’s a span of roughly half a millennium. Yet we ask where Isis came from “all of a sudden.
Gruder’s Law of Political and Social Amnesia says we forget at the same accelerating rate at which our knowledge increases. In his calculations we are down below 10 years for a doubling of forgetting and he is appalled at how much political history some forget in a year
I have a friend, Kathy Day, who attends national conventions or appears before congress in the persona of Dorothea Dix as a reminder of how long (about 175 years) we have retread the same grounds of reforming the treatment of our mentally ill and attempted to remove them from our prisons. She focused on the indigent ones. Today we have the term street people and we recognize the prevalence of mental illness among them. Today the three largest mental institutions are Riker’s Island and the Jails of Cook and Los Angeles Counties. Interventions come and go from favor. So much just gets ignored (“it’s just how the world is”) or repackaged (“new and improved”) and put back under the Christmas tree.
In 1843 Miss Dix addressed the Massachusetts Legislature: “I proceed, Gentlemen, briefly to call your attention to the present state of Insane Persons confined within this Commonwealth, in cages, stalls, pens! Chained, naked, beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience.” Think solitary confinements, the restraint chair and large canisters of riot gasses. Think suppression of symptoms, not healing.
In the book American Penology, Karol Lucken explains social amnesia as “the tendency of American penology to ignore history and precedent when responding to the present or informing the future… discarded ideas are repackaged; meanwhile, the expectations for these practices remain the same.” One might, as I do, not accept his premise that the reasons for all the work was to increase control over the nation rather than provide for life liberty and happiness, it is easy to accept his reading of the history of repackaging. It is easy to accept counter mythologies that take hold in reactionary periods of retributive justice and erase the past as meddling by some opposed polity. Not surprisingly he notes the disparity between promises and deliverables. Programs that never are well funded or quite as personally matched as they should be.
In 1954 the American Prison Association became the American Correctional Association. Offenders were carefully filtered into the just right placements and courses of corrections to rehabilitate them. Soledad was built with fences, not walls. Today of course they have razor wire. Chino was pointed out as an exemplary therapeutic community. It was composed of small, decentralized units, each with a resident therapist. Evaluative research at the time indicated it worked to resocialize its “consumers,” to use the latest term that has come into vogue. Today there is the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Three year recidivism hoovers around two thirds.
Social Amnesia Synonyms
Meanwhile, though the rhetoric remains, rumors of turning the tide are still premature. Were the programs bad? Did the parties fudge their findings? Did the Grinch decide he had to intervene? It all mixes in our Corrections/Rehabilitation system and it is common to hear laughs or potshots over the use of either word. Though it all, for this century, we have understood, and sometimes admitted, that incarceration is criminogenic. We now whisper that it harms the jailer as well as the jailed. We are starting to have the discussion that both are traumatized merely by seeing it from the inside.
Social Amnesia Examples
Willful ignorance and refusal to know what is really going on are not traits of only those regularly abandoned, beaten, used for sex or otherwise betrayed by parents or other full grown people or brutes. Spinning stories to divert distress can happen to societies.