Transcript: What Do We Lose If We Forget? | Nov 11, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, lilac shirt, purple tie, and a red poppy pin.

A caption on screen reads "What we lose by forgetting. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says OUR COLLECTIVE MEMORY OF WAR, AND THE SOLDIERS WHO SERVE THEIR COUNTRY IN THOSE TERRIBLE CONFLICTS, IS NOT STATIC. IT EVOLVES OVER TIME. BUT AS VETERANS AGE, HOW LONG CAN WE REMEMBER? WHAT DO WE STAND TO LOSE LEST WE FORGET? AND HOW IMPORTANT IS THE MEMORY OF SACRIFICE TO A HEALTHY SOCIETY? LET US CONSIDER THAT WITH: IN LONDON, ONTARIO: JONATHAN VANCE, THE J.B. SMALLMAN CHAIR IN THE DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY AT WESTERN UNIVERSITY...

Jonathan is in his seventies, clean-shaven and bald. He's wearing a blue shirt, black tie, and a red poppy pin.

Steve continues IN NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, ONTARIO: CECILIA MORGAN, PROFESSOR IN THE DEPARTMENT OF CURRICULUM, TEACHING AND LEARNING, AT OISE: THE ONTARIO INSTITUTE FOR STUDIES IN EDUCATION. SHE'S ALSO AN ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AT THE U OF T...

Cecilia is in her fifties, with long wavy auburn hair. She's wearing glasses, a black blazer over a blue blouse and a red poppy pin.

Steve continues AND IN THE TRINITY-BELLWOODS NEIGHBOURHOOD OF THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL: ARNE KISLENKO, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AT RYERSON UNIVERSITY AND AN ADJUNCT PROFESSOR IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AT U OF T.

Arne is in his fifties, clean-shaven and bald. He's wearing a blue shirt and a red poppy pin.

Steve continues JONATHAN AND ARNE, WE'RE DELIGHTED TO HAVE YOU BACK. CECILIA, NICE TO HAVE YOU HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME. LONG OVERDUE AND WE'RE GLAD WE COULD GET YOU ON TONIGHT. I WANT TO START BY SETTING UP THIS CONVERSATION BY READING SOMETHING FROM TIM COOK, OF COURSE ONE OF OUR BEST MILITARY HISTORIANS. THIS IS FROM HIS LATEST, "THE FIGHT FOR HISTORY: 75 YEARS OF FORGETTING, REMEMBERING, AND REMAKING CANADA'S SECOND WORLD WAR." HERE WE GO...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Forgetting, remembering, and remaking the past." The quote reads "Over time, a particular form of social memory emerged surrounding Canada's war effort. Social memory is the constellation of thoughts, ideas, and key events that people create and embrace to make sense of their society. Often this involves forging an agreed-upon version of the past that resonates in the present. The past may not change, but how we view it does."
Quoted from Tim Cook, "The fight for history." 2020.

Steve says A FASCINATING OBSERVATION. SO LET'S GET IN ON THAT. JONATHAN, WHY DON'T YOU START US OFF? TO WHAT EXTENT IS OUR COLLECTIVE MEMORY OF WAR NEVER FULLY SETTLED AND CONSTANTLY CHANGING?

The caption changes to "Jonathan Vance. Western University."

Jonathan says OUR COLLECTIVE MEMORY OF EVERYTHING IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING, WAR, PEACE, YOU NAME IT. THIS CONVERSATION. WHEN YOU REMEMBER IT TOMORROW IT WILL BE DIFFERENT THAN WHEN YOU REMEMBER IT A WEEK FROM NOW. SO IT'S CONSTANTLY IN FLUX RELATING TO ISSUES AROUND IT.

Steve says CECILIA, DO YOU AGREE?

The caption changes to "Cecilia Morgan. University of Toronto."

Cecilia says YES. YES, I DO. I WOULD SAY THAT ONE OF THE ASPECTS OF THAT QUOTE THAT I THINK WOULD BE INTERESTING TO FULL APART A BIT IS THE FACT THAT PEOPLE DO COME TOGETHER TO REMEMBER THINGS, BUT THE REASONS THAT THEY COME TOGETHER MAY BE DIFFERENT, AND SOMETIMES THE ACT OF REMEMBERING ALSO CAN EXPOSE DIVISIONS WITHIN SOCIETY AS WELL.

Steve says ARNE, WHY DON'T YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF THAT? FOR EXAMPLE, SOMETHING THAT MAY HAVE HAPPENED DURING WORLD WAR II THAT DURING THE COURSE OF OUR LIFETIME WE THINK ABOUT OR REGARD DIFFERENTLY TODAY THAN WE MAY HAVE 25 YEARS AGO, 50 YEARS AGO, 75 YEARS AGO, ET CETERA?

The caption changes to "Arne Kislenko. Ryerson University."
Then, it changes again to "The past is always changing."

Arne says THERE'S SO MANY EXAMPLES, STEVE, TO BE HONEST WITH YOU. I THINK THE ENTIRE NARRATIVE OF WORLD WARS IS SUBJECT TO THAT KIND OF CHANGE IN INTERPRETATION. THE WAY THAT I WAS TAUGHT, YOU KNOW, CERTAINLY EVENTS IN WORLD WAR II IS VASTLY DIFFERENT THAN I TEACH IT NOW. IT'S FAR MORE INTERNATIONAL NOW. WE HAVE FAR MORE ARCHIVAL INFORMATION, THE LEGACY OF VETERANS TALKING ABOUT IT, AND DECADES WORTH OF REINTERPRETATION. SO FOR ME, YOU KNOW, I COULD TAKE ENDLESS THINGS, STALINGRAD, THE RAID AT DIEPPE. THERE'S A WHOLE BUFFET OF THINGS THAT ARE NOW DIFFERENT. WHAT IT MAKES A JOB IS VERY DIFFICULT. YOU KNOW, SOMETIMES HISTORIANS, YOU KNOW, WE DON'T I THINK... PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND HOW DIFFICULT THE JOB IS BECAUSE THAT PRESENTS A WHOLE MINEFIELD OF ISSUES AND IDEAS, INTERPRETATIONS, THAT MAKES ONE NARRATIVE PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT.

Steve says SURE. JONATHAN, LET'S GO BACK EVEN FURTHER. LET'S TRY WORLD WAR I WHICH OF COURSE TWO YEARS AGO WAS THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE END OF THE WAR, SO THERE WAS A GREAT DEAL OF RE-THINKING, REINTERPRETATION OF THINGS. COULD YOU GIVE US ONE EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING RELATED TO THAT CONFLICT WHICH NOW WE REGARD VERY DIFFERENTLY THAN WE MIGHT HAVE HALF A CENTURY AGO?

Jonathan says SURE. I MEAN, THE OBVIOUS ONE IS THE BATTLE OF VIMY RIDGE, WHICH HAS SORT OF BEEN A CENTRE PIECE OF CANADIAN NATIONAL FEELING FOR DECADES, AND SHORTLY AFTER THE FIRST WORLD WAR, YOU WOULDN'T DREAM OF QUESTIONING THAT VIMY REPRESENTED THE BIRTH OF THE CANADIAN NATION ON THE BATTLEFIELD IN FRANCE. BUT NOW I THINK MOST PEOPLE WOULD AGREE THAT VIMY WAS A RELATIVELY UNIMPORTANT VICTORY AND THAT ITS MAIN IMPACT ON THE COUNTRY WAS EMOTIONAL RATHER THAN PRACTICAL. HISTORIANS HAVE WRITTEN OF THE CULT OF VIMYISM. SO VIMY HAS ALWAYS BEEN ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT, BUT IT'S BEEN IMPORTANT FOR DIFFERENT REASONS OVER THE YEARS.

Steve says CECILIA, HOW ABOUT FOR YOU? IS THERE FROM ONE OF THE GREAT WARS AN EVENT THAT YOU WOULD POINT TO THAT WOULD HAVE YOU SAY WE THINK ABOUT THAT DIFFERENTLY TODAY THAN WE WOULD HAVE A QUARTER OR HALF A CENTURY AGO?

Cecilia says I WOULD LIKE ACTUALLY AS A HISTORIAN MOSTLY THE 19TH CENTURY TO POINT TO ANOTHER WAR, AND THAT'S THE WAR OF 1812 THAT I'VE SPENT A LOT OF TIME THINKING ABOUT AND WRITING ABOUT, AND MY STUDENTS INCREASINGLY ARE INTERESTED IN. YOU KNOW, 1812 IS ONE OF THOSE WARS THAT WAS SEEN LATER IN ITS COMMEMORATION, IN THE LATE 19TH AND EARLY 20TH CENTURY, AS AN AFFIRMATION OF CANADA'S LOYALTY TO BRITAIN. HISTORIANS SUBSEQUENTLY HAVE QUESTIONED THAT NARRATIVE. BUT I WOULD SAY THAT THAT NARRATIVE ACTUALLY DOES EXIST IN THE POPULAR MEMORY. I LIVE AT NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE AND THERE'S A VERY DIFFERENT TAKE ON 1812 THAN YOU WILL FIND IN MY ACADEMIC WORK.

Steve says THAT IS SO TRUE, YOU KNOW? I GET TO NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE EVERY YEAR, AND, BOY, IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN THE WAR OF 1812, THAT IS A FASCINATING TOWN TO WALK AROUND IN. BUT I THINK ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING TAKES... RE-TAKES I GUESS ON THAT WAR I READ WAS A FEW YEARS AGO, A BOOK BY AN AMERICAN PROFESSOR WHO DESCRIBED IT MORE AS A CIVIL WAR BETWEEN LOYALISTS TO BRITAIN AND THOSE WHO HAD REVOLTED FROM BRITAIN AND THAT WAS A WHOLE DIFFERENT TAKE FROM THE ONE I LEARNED IN HIGH SCHOOL. HOW MUCH OF THAT GOES ON IN HISTORY ON A TYPICAL BASIS?

Cecilia says OH, THAT RE-THINKING, THAT RE-WORKING?

Steve says YEAH.

Cecilia says A LOT. A LOT, STEVE. JONATHAN AND ARNE HAVE MENTIONED THAT WE FIND NEW SOURCES ALL THE TIME AND THE CONTEXT IN WHICH WE EVALUATE THOSE SOURCES ALSO CHANGES. FOR EXAMPLE, AT ONE POINT SOME OF THE... YOU KNOW, THE HISTORICAL WORK PRODUCED BY ACADEMICS SAID VERY LITTLE ABOUT WOMEN IN WAR. WOMEN'S ROLE BOTH, SAY, AS NURSES, INCREASINGLY NOW OF COURSE AS COMBATANTS, AND ALSO AS CIVILIANS. BUT THERE HAS BEEN A WHOLE RE-THINKING OF THEIR SIGNIFICANCE IN WAR AND THAT HAS BEEN SHAPED BY THE CONTEXT OF SECOND WAVE FEMINISM TO NO SMALL EXTENT.

Steve says JONATHAN, MY ASSUMPTION WOULD BE THAT THE NARRATIVE, THE SO-CALLED HISTORICAL NARRATIVE OF A GREAT CONFLICT, LET'S TAKE WORLD WAR II FOR ARGUMENT'S SAKE, WOULD BEGIN, YOU KNOW, AUGUST 1945. BOMBS DROP ON JAPAN. WAR IS OVER. AND YOU'D THINK THE NARRATIVE STARTS TO GET BAKED IN RIGHT AWAY. DID THAT IN FACT HAPPEN?

Jonathan says IT DIDN'T HAPPEN IN THIS COUNTRY. I THINK AFTER THE FIRST WORLD WAR, THE NARRATIVE BECAME SO IMPORTANT RIGHT AFTER THE WAR BECAUSE THE PEACETIME YEARS WERE SO DESPERATELY BAD. PEOPLE WERE EXPECTING TO RETURN TO A GREATER COUNTRY AND CANADA IN THE 1920s AND '30s WAS DISMAL AND POOR AND SMALL AND MEASLY. AND SO THEY TURNED INTO THE NARRATIVE OF THE WAR AS A WAY TO GIVE THEM SOME COMPENSATION FOR WHAT THEY HAD BEEN THROUGH. AFTER 1945, I THINK YOU CAN ARGUE THAT CANADA TURNS OUT TO BE GENERALLY A PRETTY GOOD PLACE. PROSPERITY WORKED FOR ALL. SOCIAL POLICY. ALL SORTS OF GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS. MOST PEOPLE ARE SATISFIED WITH WHAT THEY FOUGHT FOR. SO THEY DON'T REALLY NEED TO EVOKE A MEMORY OR A MYTH OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR BECAUSE THEY'RE LIVING A GREAT FUTURE. THEY DON'T NEED THE PAST AT THAT PARTICULAR POINT IN TIME.

Steve says ARNE, DON'T TAKE THIS AS INTENDED TO BE AN AGGRESSIVE OR CHIPPY QUESTION, BUT I GUESS I WANT TO KNOW WHETHER IT'S YOU FOLKS WHO DECIDE WHAT THE NARRATIVE IS AND HOW WE DECADES LATER REGARD IT?

Arne says IN SOME REGARDS, I'M CERTAINLY OPENLY ARROGANT ENOUGH TO SAY THAT IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY AS PROFESSIONAL HISTORIANS, EMPHASIS ON THE WORD "PROFESSIONAL," TO HAVE THE RIGOUR, THE ACADEMIC RIGOUR, THE CRITICAL THINKING AND ANALYTICAL SKILLS TO ENTERTAIN MULTIPLE NARRATIVES OVER TIME AS OPPOSED TO CHERRY-PICK HISTORY. I USE THAT PHRASE ALL THE TIME. A LOT OF PEOPLE CHERRY-PICK, SOME PROFESSIONAL HISTORIANS TOO, I GUESS. BUT IT'S EASY TO CONSTRUCT HISTORICAL NARRATIVES IF YOU REACH INTO A GRAB BAG, PICK THE ONES YOU LIKE, AND THEN THROW AWAY THE OTHER BITS. SO I DO IMAGINE OUR JOB, PROBABLY NAIVELY, TO BE KIND OF, YOU KNOW, PROTECTORS OF THAT PROCESS, NOT OF A PARTICULAR TRUTH, BUT TO URGE PEOPLE TO ENGAGE IN THESE DISCUSSIONS CRITICALLY AND CONSTANTLY. THAT'S THE ISSUE. IT'S NOT JUST THE CRITICAL PART. WE CONSTANTLY HAVE TO REVISIT. AS CECILIA MENTIONED, NARRATIVES CHANGE CONSTANTLY. WE PUT IN NEW ANGLES, NEW ISSUES... THERE ARE NEW DOCUMENTS THAT ARE REVEALED. IT'S NOT ON SMALL THINGS, RIGHT? IT'S ON BIG THINGS. THE WAY I WAS TAUGHT THE OUTBREAK OF WORLD WAR I IS QUITE DIFFERENT THAN I NOW TEACH IT. IN WORLD WAR II... AND I WENT TO WESTERN, SO HERE'S A PLUG FOR THEM, UWO, I WAS TAUGHT BY BRILLIANT HISTORIANS, BUT THE WAY THAT THEY TAUGHT SOVIET SACRIFICE, THE SOVIET UNION'S WAR IN WORLD WAR II, VERY PATRIOTIC WAR, VERY DIFFERENT THAN I NOW TEACH IT. THAT'S NOT BECAUSE I'M SMARTER. THAT'S BECAUSE WE HAVE NEW NARRATIVES, NEW INTERPRETATIONS. SO, YEAH, I THINK HISTORIANS SHOULD IMAGINE THEMSELVES AND ASPIRE TO BE THE RING LEADERS IN THAT PROCESS. NOT THE ONLY DETERMINANTS OF HISTORICAL NARRATIVES BUT CERTAINLY THE ORGANIZERS OF IT, I SUPPOSE.

Steve says ARNE, LET ME DO A FOLLOW-UP WITH YOU. FROM WHERE I SIT, THAT MEANS YOU HAVE A QUITE AWESOME RESPONSIBILITY. DO YOU FEEL THAT?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Arne says EVERY SINGLE DAY, STEVE. MAYBE I'M CORNY. BUT EVERY DAY. AND I ADMIT IT. SOMETIMES I FEEL HAUNTED, IS THE WORD THAT I USE, BECAUSE I HAVE TO GO INTO A CLASSROOM... NOW IT'S A WHITE DOT ON MY COMPUTER RECORDED FOR MY STUDENTS, WHICH I'M NOT A BIG FAN OF, BUT WE HAVE TO GO INTO THE CLASSROOM AND CONVEY THESE MASSIVELY IMPORTANT EVENTS AND ISSUES AND IDEAS IN 50 MINUTES, RIGHT? AND THAT'S AN AWESOME TASK. IT'S THE GREATEST JOB IN THE WORLD AND I'M AN UNABASHED FAN OF BEING A UNIVERSITY PROF, YOU SHOULD NEVER COMPLAIN ABOUT IT, BUT IT'S A BURDEN GIVEN HOW MANY LAND MINES THERE ARE OUT THERE ABOUT HISTORY, INTERPRETATIONS THAT REALLY AREN'T HISTORICAL BUT QUITE PERSONAL. PEOPLE BRING IN THAT STUFF EVERY DAY. SO IF YOU CAN LEAVE CLASS RELATIVELY UNSCATHED IN TERMS OF THAT DEBATE, AND LET'S BE HONEST, THERE'S ALSO STAGGERING IGNORANCE. A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE PROFOUNDLY AHISTORICAL. THEY REALLY DON'T CARE ABOUT THE PROCESS. THEY WANT TO BELIEVE WHAT THEY WANT TO BELIEVE. OR THEY DON'T CARE AT ALL. SO THAT MAKES THE JOB REALLY, REALLY DIFFICULT. AND NOT JUST STUDENTS. SOMETIMES POLITICIANS AND OTHERS TOO.

Steve says WELL, ON THE ISSUE OF POLITICIANS... SORRY, JONATHAN, YOU WANTED IN ON THAT?

Jonathan says I WAS JUST GOING TO SAY THE OTHER THING WE'RE ALL AWARE OF IS THAT PEOPLE HAVE SO MANY MORE DIFFERENT SOURCES FOR LEARNING ABOUT HISTORY NOWADAYS, AND MANY OF THEM AREN'T VERY GOOD. SO THE NUMBER OF STUDENTS WHO COME IN AND CONSIDER THEMSELVES EXPERTS ON THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY BECAUSE THEY'VE SEEN THE MATT DAMON FILM OR THEY KNOW ALL ABOUT NORMANDY BECAUSE THEY SAW "SAVING PRIVATE RYAN." SO THIS IS THE WOE IS ME HISTORIAN THING. WE HAVE A LOT OF MISCONCEPTIONS TO CORRECT BECAUSE THERE'S SO MUCH HISTORY FLYING AROUND IN POPULAR CULTURE, SO MANY PEOPLE GET SO MANY WRONG IMPRESSIONS ABOUT THE PAST. YOU FEEL A RESPONSIBILITY TO CORRECT MISINFORMATION THAT SURROUNDS HISTORICAL EVENTS.

Steve says ON THE OTHER HAND, JONATHAN, YOU KNOW, IF YOU GET SOMETHING LIKE DAN CARLIN'S HARD CORE HISTORY, FOUR OR FIVE HOUR LONG PODCASTS TALKING ABOUT HISTORY, THAT'S AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN ABOUT HISTORY IN A WAY YOU NEVER WOULD HAVE HAD 20 YEARS AGO. YOU GOTTA LIKE THAT.

Jonathan says SURE. I HAVE STUDENTS WHO DECIDED TO MAJOR IN HISTORY BECAUSE THEY LOVED PLAYING BATTLEFIELD 1942. I MEAN, THERE ARE PEOPLE FOR WHOM THAT SORT OF POP CULTURE ENGAGEMENT, IT TURNS ON A LIGHT, AND THEY WANT TO LEARN SO MUCH MORE AND IT SETS THEM ON A PATH. SO, YEAH, GOOD TO FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE STORIES.

Steve says OKAY. CECILIA, LET ME BRING YOU BACK IN HERE BECAUSE I DO WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE WAR OF 1812 AGAIN, AND TO THAT END, ABOUT THE INFLUENCE THAT POLITICIANS HAVE IN OUR UNDERSTANDING OF HISTORY. YOU KNOW, THE... WELL, I'M TRYING TO THINK BACK NOW. STEPHEN HARPER THOUGHT IT WAS A VERY BIG DEAL THAT WE LEARN ABOUT THE WAR OF 1812, AND WHEN HE WAS PRIME MINISTER, HE SAW TO IT THAT HERITAGE CANADA GOT SOME MONEY IN ORDER TO MAKE, YOU KNOW, IN ORDER TO MAKE THAT MORE PREVALENT AND PRESENT IN OUR LIVES. I DON'T KNOW HOW SUCCESSFUL IT WAS, BUT HE THOUGHT IT WAS IMPORTANT AND HE DID IT. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF EFFORTS LIKE THAT BY OUR POLITICAL LEADERS?

Cecilia says OH, I THINK... I THINK YOU HAVE TO BE VERY CAREFUL IN EVALUATING THOSE AND ANALYSING THEM. I MEAN, YES, AS A HISTORIAN, AND I WOULD AGREE THAT EVERYTHING THAT ARNE AND JONATHAN HAVE JUST SAID ABOUT OUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS HISTORIANS. IT'S ALWAYS WONDERFUL TO SEE HISTORY IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN, TO SEE IT DEBATED, TO SEE IT DISCUSSED, TO SEE EFFORTS BEING PUT INTO ITS REPRESENTATIONS AND ITS PEDAGOGY BY NATIONAL BODIES. BUT YOU ALSO ALWAYS HAVE TO ASK YOURSELF, AND AS SOMEBODY WHO STUDIES THE HISTORY OF COMMEMORATION, FOR WHAT PURPOSES? FOR WHAT ENDS? AND SO WHAT KINDS OF NARRATIVES THEN EMERGE OUT OF THAT PROCESS? YOU KNOW, HISTORY AND THE SERVICE OF NATION-BUILDING CAN LEAD US DOWN VERY THORNY PATHS, VERY, YOU KNOW, AND WE HAVE LOTS OF EXAMPLES AROUND US IN OUR CONTEMPORARY CONTEXT TO SEE WHAT KINDS OF PROBLEMS THAT MIGHT ARISE. I WILL SAY, THOUGH, IT'S INTERESTING, BECAUSE WHEN I TAUGHT THE WAR OF 1812, AND OF COURSE I TEACH UPPER CANADIAN HISTORY TO MY STUDENTS OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS, IN THE WAKE OF THOSE EFFORTS BY THE HARPER GOVERNMENT. EVEN THOUGH THEY STILL TEND TO SEE IT, IF THEY THINK ABOUT IT AT ALL, OF COURSE, AS A KIND OF DEFINITIVE MOMENT IN THE FORMATION OF CANADIAN IDENTITY, THEY STILL ROLL THEIR EYES A LOT WHEN I TALKED ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT'S EFFORTS TO, YOU KNOW, TO USE THE WAR FOR PARTICULAR STATE AND NATION-BUILDING PURPOSES, WHICH I THINK IS KIND OF SALUTARY, ACTUALLY, THAT THEY WERE SKEPTICAL ABOUT THOSE EFFORTS AND, YOU KNOW, AND ONE OF THE THINGS THEY WOULD ASK ME IS, YOU KNOW, OF COURSE, WHO IS BEING INCLUDED? WHO IS BEING EXCLUDED AND FOR WHAT PURPOSES ARE THESE NARRATIVES BEING PROMULGATED AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS, TOO.

Steve says ONE OF THE THINGS, OF COURSE, BECAUSE WE COULDN'T GATHER IN WAYS THAT WE NORMALLY DO ON THIS DAY OR DID ON THIS DAY. WE COULDN'T TALK TO SOLDIERS TODAY IN THE WAYS WE COULD IN THE PAST. YOU COULDN'T BE AT A REMEMBRANCE DAY CEREMONY AND SPEAK TO MEN IN THEIR 90s, WOMEN IN THEIR 90s, IN SOME CASES SOMEWHAT OLDER. ARNE, ONCE THEY'RE ALL GONE, HOW IS THAT GOING TO HAVE AN IMPACT ON OUR UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HERE TONIGHT?

The caption changes to "How long can we remember?"

Arne says YEAH, IT'S GOING TO BE A VERY DIFFERENT PROCESS OF COMMEMORATION FOR THE OBVIOUS, THAT WE WON'T HAVE THAT SHARED EXPERIENCE, WE WON'T HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE AND TO MEET INDIVIDUALS THAT ENDURED THESE ENORMOUS CRISES AND TO GET TO SEE THEM AS PEOPLE, WHICH I THINK IS REALLY ELEMENTAL IN EDUCATION, RIGHT, AS OPPOSED TO A HISTORY BOOK OR TV DOCUMENTARY, YOU GET TO MEET THEM, HEAR THEIR STORIES, THEIR SENSE OF HUMOUR, THEIR PASSION, THEIR LOSS. THAT'S ALWAYS BEEN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR ME AND I SPENT A LOT OF TIME WITH VETERANS AND LEARNING FROM THEM. THAT'S LOST FOR SURE, AND THAT'S GOING TO BE A SAD DAY FOR US ALL. YOU KNOW, THE ONLY, I SUPPOSE, POSITIVE NOTE IS THAT THERE IS, ESPECIALLY WITH RESPECT TO THE SECOND WORLD WAR, THERE ARE OF COURSE A LOT OF ARCHIVAL DOCUMENTARY SOURCES THAT WE HAVE TO TRY TO KEEP THE LIFE ALIVE. THIS ISN'T LIKE THE WAR OF 1812 WHERE WE'VE LOST, YOU KNOW, BASICALLY THE ONLY REPOSITORY THAT WE HAD. HERE THERE ARE OPPORTUNITIES TO TRY TO KEEP THOSE MEMORIES ALIVE AND THAT'S CERTAINLY WHERE I THINK WE HAVE TO TURN OUR ATTENTIONS NEXT AND HOPEFULLY WE WILL.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Steve says JONATHAN, HOW LONG CAN WE REMEMBER IF THEY'RE NOT AROUND TO HELP US REMEMBER, TO BE THAT LIVING SYMBOL OF WHAT WE NEED TO REMEMBER?

Jonathan says STEVE, WE CAN REMEMBER AS LONG AS PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO PUT IN THE EFFORT TO HELP US REMEMBER. MEMORY DOESN'T GO ON FOREVER UNAIDED, IT NEEDS TO BE FEEDED... OR FED, AND I THINK AS LONG AS THERE ARE GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS WHO WANT TO KEEP THOSE MEMORIES ALIVE, THEN WE'LL CONTINUE TALKING ABOUT THIS. AND I THINK ABOUT THE TIME SORT OF 10, 15 YEARS AGO, WHEN THE LAST OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR VETERANS WERE PASSING AWAY AND WE WERE DOWN TO SIX AND THEN THREE AND THEN TWO. THE BIG QUESTION THEN WAS: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ALL THE FIRST WORLD WAR VETERANS ARE GONE? DO WE STOP REMEMBERING? AND I THINK WHAT WE SAW IS COUNTLESS AMATEUR HISTORIANS, LOCAL HISTORIANS, PEOPLE FOR WHOM IT WAS A HOBBY TOOK THAT SERIOUSLY AND SAID, LOOK, IF THEY'RE ALL GONE NOW, I'M GOING TO TAKE UP THE SUBJECT AND MAKE SURE THESE MEMORIES AREN'T LOST. AND SO WE SAW A FLOWERING OF LOCAL HISTORIES ABOUT COMMUNITIES IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR WHICH WAS I THINK REALLY POSITIVE AND REALLY POWERFUL. SO I CAN SEE THAT HAPPENING AGAIN IN FUTURE AND THAT SORT OF THING CAN GO ON ALMOST ENDLESSLY, I THINK.

Steve says WELL, CECILIA, LET'S FOR ARGUMENT'S SAKE TAKE THE OTHER SIDE: WHAT DO WE STAND TO LOSE IF WE DON'T REMEMBER?

The caption changes to "What do we need to remember?"

Cecilia says ON A VERY BASIC LEVEL, STEVE, WE STAND TO LOSE OUR HUMANITY. REMEMBERING, WHETHER IT'S WAR OR WHETHER IT'S OTHER HISTORICAL PROCESSES, EVENTS, OR PEOPLE, IS PART OF WHAT I THINK MAKES US A SOCIETY. IT ANCHORS US, IT GIVES US A SENSE OF PLACE AND TIME, AND IT ALSO GIVES US I THINK A SENSE OF NOT JUST DIFFERENCE OVER TIME BUT KINDS OF DEEP PERSPECTIVES SO THAT WE DON'T GET OFTEN IN TODAY'S CULTURE. YOU KNOW, IT GIVES US A SENSE OF WHAT PEOPLE HAVE EXPERIENCED IN OTHER TIMES THAT CAN MAKE US PUT OUR OWN IMMEDIATE EXPERIENCES IN A DIFFERENT KIND OF CONTEXT. YOU KNOW, IT GIVES US A FEELING OF BEING ABLE TO THINK MORE BROADLY AND FEEL MORE BROADLY TOO, BECAUSE REMEMBERING IS ALSO ABOUT AFFECT, IT'S ABOUT EMOTION, AS MUCH AS IT IS ABOUT OUR ANALYTICAL TOOLS THAT WE USE AS UNIVERSITY-BASED HISTORIANS.

Steve says ARNE, IS THERE SOMETHING IN YOUR VIEW THAT WE SHOULD BE REMEMBERING THAT YOU FEAR WE ARE EITHER STARTING TO FORGET OR HAVE ALREADY FORGOTTEN?

Arne says LOTS OF THINGS. I MEAN, OBVIOUSLY I WOULD LIKE PEOPLE TO ENTERTAIN PARTICULAR FACTS AS OPPOSED TO JUST SORT OF OPINIONS. THAT'S SOMETHING WE CAUTION UNDERGRADUATES IN PARTICULAR ON EVERY DAY. BUT, YOU KNOW, REALLY, I ECHO MY COLLEAGUES HERE, IT'S FUNDAMENTALLY ABOUT RESPECT. AND I THINK IF WE LOSE INTEREST OR LOSE THE CAPACITY TO REMEMBER... AND, YEAH, YOU KNOW, MAYBE IT'S PERFORMANCE OF REMEMBRANCE, RIGHT, IN THE SENSE THAT WE SHOW UP AND WE GO THROUGH RITUAL, WE GO THROUGH TRADITION. BUT I'VE NEVER, YOU KNOW, IMAGINED IT TO BE LIMITED IN HOW WE REMEMBER. IT'S AN INVITATION TO REMEMBER AS YOU PERSONALLY SEE FIT, WHETHER THAT'S SOLDIERS WHO SACRIFICED IN THE GREAT WAR OR THE SECOND WORLD WAR, YOU COULD CONCEIVABLY REMEMBER ALL PEOPLES WHO SUFFERED IN WAR. SO IT KEEPS COMING BACK TO THE CENTRAL IDEA OF EMPATHY AND RESPECT. I GET VERY UPSET, AS I'M SURE PEOPLE WILL TELL YOU, WHEN PEOPLE SAY THIS IS ABOUT GLORIFYING WAR AND IT'S JUST ABOUT WHITE CANADIAN SOLDIERS IN BATTLES I'VE NEVER HEARD OF AND STUFF. THAT'S NEVER BEEN THE POINT TO ME. IT'S ABOUT RESPECT, IN THE SAME WAY THAT IF YOU GO INTO A CHURCH OR SYNAGOGUE OR TEMPLE YOU SHOW RESPECT. IN THE SAME WAY YOU'RE EXPECTED NOT TO HAVE A DINNER PARTY AT A GRAVEYARD. IT'S ABOUT RESPECT. IF WE LACK THAT AND WE LACK EMPATHY, I JUST DON'T SEE HOW WE FUNCTION VERY WELL AS A SOCIETY IN THE CONTEMPORARY, LET ALONE IDENTITY.

Steve says I REMEMBER BEING NEAR VIMY AND SEEING ENGRAVED IN MARBLE WALLS, SIKH BRIGADES, INDIGENOUS BRIGADES. YES, THE NOTION THAT THIS IS A WHITE MAN'S WAR IS OBVIOUSLY NOT TRUE. JONATHAN, I SHOULD GET YOU TO COMMENT ON WHAT WE STAND TO LOSE BY FORGETTING.

Jonathan says I THINK WE, IN ADDITION TO WHAT ARNE AND CECILIA SAID, I THINK WE LOSE THE PERSPECTIVE OF OUR PLACE IN THE GREAT SCOPE OF HISTORY. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT TEACHING HISTORY DOES FOR ME IS IT MAKES ME ENDLESSLY GRATEFUL TO BE ALIVE TODAY AS OPPOSED TO IN THE 1940s AND 1910s AND I DON'T HAVE TO GO OFF TO WAR AND MY KIDS DON'T HAVE TO GO OFF TO WAR. HISTORY REMINDS US HOW FORTUNATE WE ARE TO BE LIVING IN THE WORLD WE'RE LIVING IN, ALTHOUGH IT'S DIFFICULT TO ACCEPT THAT IN TIMES OF COVID RESTRICTIONS. BUT IT ALSO TEACHES US NOT TO BE COCKY, NOT TO BE SMUG, NOT TO THINK WE'VE GOT IT ALL SORTED OUT BECAUSE WE DON'T, AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I ALWAYS TELL MY STUDENTS IS, THINK ABOUT HOW AN HISTORIAN IN 200 YEARS IS GOING TO LOOK AT US NOW. ARE THEY GOING TO BE IMPRESSED OR ARE THEY GOING TO BE A LITTLE CONCERNED ABOUT THE SOCIETY? SO KEEPING A SENSE OF HISTORY IS A GREAT WAY TO REMAIN HUMBLE, WHICH I THINK IS A QUALITY WE CAN ALL USE A LITTLE MORE OF THESE DAYS.

Steve says CECILIA, LET ME GET YOUR TAKE ON THIS. I'VE GOT A FRIEND NAMED JERRY WHO IS AN AUTHOR AND SPENDS A LOT OF TIME GOING INTO SCHOOLS... WELL, I GUESS NOT GOING INTO TOO MUCH, ZOOM HITS NOW, AND I KNOW HE DID SOME TODAY WITH SCHOOLS BECAUSE HE'S MORTIFIED AT THE FACT THAT THERE IS PROBABLY ONE STUDENT IN TEN WHO KNOWS WHAT THE HOLOCAUST WAS OR TWO STUDENTS IN TEN WHO CAN TELL YOU WHO THE COMBATANTS WERE IN WORLD WAR II. HE'S MORTIFIED BY THIS AND HE WANTS TO GET INTO SCHOOLS AND TELL YOUNG PEOPLE ABOUT THIS. WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THE FACT THAT YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY... WELL, I DON'T WANT TO BLAME THEM, BUT LET'S JUST PUT IT THIS WAY: THEY DON'T SEEM TO KNOW A HECK OF A LOT ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED MORE THAN TEN MINUTES AGO.

Cecilia says IT'S A VERY GOOD QUESTION, STEVE. I WOULD SAY, THOUGH, THAT OUR CONCERN OVER YOUTH AND THEIR LACK OF HISTORICAL KNOWLEDGE IS NOT A NEW ONE. YOU KNOW, YOU CAN HEAR THIS SAME KIND OF CONCERN EARLIER IN THE 20TH CENTURY, YOU KNOW, IN THE 19TH CENTURY. IT'S NOT NEW. AND I THINK... I MEAN, I CERTAINLY ADMIRE THE WORK THAT YOUR FRIEND IS DOING. BUT I WOULD ALSO SAY, WE DON'T ALWAYS ASK OUR STUDENTS SOMETIMES, WHAT DO THEY KNOW? AND I CERTAINLY AGREE. THEY SHOULD CERTAINLY KNOW WHAT THE HOLOCAUST INVOLVED AND WHAT AUSCHWITZ WAS AND THOSE ELEMENTS. AT THE SAME TIME I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW, WHAT IS IT THAT THEY DO KNOW? DO THEY HAVE OTHER HISTORIES THAT THEY BRING INTO THE CLASSROOM, AND DO WE NOT ASK THEM ABOUT THAT? SO, YEAH, THAT WOULD BE MY GENERAL THOUGHTS ON THAT PARTICULAR MATTER.

Steve says ARNE, LET ME GET YOU TO FOLLOW UP ON THAT IN RELATION TO A STORY THAT YOU TOLD OUR PRODUCER ABOUT CONCENTRATION CAMPS AND YOUR EXPERIENCE THERE.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Arne says YES, I TAUGHT IN BERLIN SEVERAL TIMES AS PART OF THE CURRICULUM THERE, I'VE TAKEN STUDENTS OUT AND FAMILY AND FRIENDS TO CONCENTRATION CAMPS MANY, MANY TIMES AND USUALLY IT'S A FAIRLY ROUTINE TOUR, AS ROUTINE AS YOU COULD DESCRIBE A PLACES LIKE THAT. BUT QUITE OFTEN I FIND TOURISTS WHO SHOW UP AND HAVE FOOD ON THEM AND PROCEED TO EAT BAGS OF CHIPS, CANS OF COKE, NOT JUST IN THE CAMP IN GENERAL, WHICH IS HIDEOUS ENOUGH, BUT IN PARTICULAR IN THE LAST BARRACKS WHERE JEWISH PEOPLE WERE INTERRED AND EXECUTED, A WOMAN PROCEEDED TO HAVE A LUNCH ON THE SHOE TRACK, THE INFAMOUS SHOE TRACK WHERE PRISONS WERE HOBBLED BEFORE BEING EXECUTED. AND I TAKE IT UPON MYSELF TO TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS OF THEM TO SHOW MY STUDENTS, YOU KNOW, IN VERY GRAPHIC FASHION, BECAUSE I CAN BE QUITE GRAPHIC, AS A REMINDER OF WHAT JONATHAN SAID, HOW ARROGANT WE CAN BECOME, HOW DETACHED. AND I'M MERCILESS BECAUSE YOU DON'T GO THERE BY ACCIDENT. IT'S NOT, OH, I'M STUMBLING INTO A CONCENTRATION CAMP. YOU MAKE A DECISION TO GO ON A TRAIN, WALK THROUGH THE TOWN AND GO TO THIS PLACE AND STILL YOU HAVE THE PRESENCE OF MIND TO BE SO UTTERLY AND OBSCENELY DETACHED FROM HISTORY AND YOU THINK THIS IS NOW JUST A SORT OF CHECK BOX, OH, I'VE BEEN THERE, DONE THAT. I'VE SEEN THE SAME THING AT A PRISON IN CAMBODIA WHERE AT THE END OF THIS MONSTROUS PLACE WHERE PEOPLE DIED EN MASSE, SOMEBODY GRAFFITIED THEIR NAME, I WAS HERE. AND I CRIED. AND I SHOW IMAGES OF THESE THINGS TO MY STUDENTS BECAUSE TO ME THAT'S THE OBSCENITY. BUT I LIKE WHAT CECILIA SAID. IT'S IMPORTANT TO ENGAGE OUR STUDENTS, ASK THEM WHAT THEY KNOW, WHAT THEY CARE ABOUT. JONATHAN HIT IT ON THE HEAD. I'VE HAD STUDENTS SAY THEY GOT INTO THIS BECAUSE OF A VIDEO GAME OR MY PARENTS. SO IT'S OUR JOB TO FIND OTHER WAYS TO ENGAGE THEM AND HOWEVER YOU GET THEM IN... I'M A BIT SHAMELESS, RIGHT, USED CAR SALESMAN HERE... HOWEVER YOU GET THEM IN AND THEN YOU LEARN 'EM SOMETHING, RIGHT? THAT'S THE WHOLE IDEA BEHIND IT. I'M VERY GRATEFUL THAT A LOT OF STUDENTS ARE VERY INTERESTED IN HISTORY AND WE JUST NEED TO CONNECT AND WE NEED TO SHAKE THEM AND MAKE THEM UNDERSTAND THAT THEY TOO WERE PART OF THESE EVENTS EVEN IF IT'S NOT IMMEDIATE.

Steve says JONATHAN, MAYBE I CAN GET YOU TO FOLLOW UP WITH A MEETING WITH A RETIRED AIR FORCE GUY WHO WAS TALKING ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCES WITH YOUNG PEOPLE?

Jonathan says THIS WAS A FELLOW I MET YEARS AGO, THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE LATE 1980s, HE JOINED THE AIR FORCE, SERVED THROUGH THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND UP UNTIL RETIREMENT IN THE '70s, HIS BROTHER WAS KILLED IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR. AND WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THE YOUTH OF TODAY AND IN THE 1980s AND WHETHER THEY HAVE A SUFFICIENT UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR OBLIGATION TO THE COMMUNITY, AND I MADE THE POINT, WHICH SEEMED BRILLIANT TO ME AT THE TIME, WELL, KIDS THESE DAYS, THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT THE WORLD IS ABOUT. THEY WOULDN'T SACRIFICE FOR ANYTHING. THEY'RE LAZY, THEY'RE SELF ABSORBED, THEY'RE NOT INTERESTED IN ANYTHING 10 FEET AROUND THEM. I THINK IF THERE WAS ANOTHER WAR, WE WOULD ALL GO TO PIECES. AND THIS FELLOW'S RESPONSE WAS FASCINATING. HE SAID, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT WE SAID ABOUT KIDS IN THE '30s, THAT THEY WERE SELFISH, THEY WERE SELF-CENTERED, EGOTISTICAL, THEY DIDN'T CARE ABOUT ANYTHING. YET WHEN PUSH CAME TO SHOVE AND THERE WAS AN EVIL ENEMY THAT HAD TO BE MET AND DEFEATED, THEY TURNED OUT IN MASSIVE NUMBERS TO VOLUNTEER AND TO ESSENTIALLY PUT THEIR LIVES, THEIR FUTURE ON THE LINE. AND SO I THINK IT'S HARD TO PREDICT WHAT OUR SOCIETY IS GOING TO DO IN ANY SITUATION, BUT THAT... HIS RESPONSE KIND OF TOOK ME DOWN A PEG OR TWO.

Steve says I GUESS MY RESPONSE WOULD BE IS THEY DIDN'T HAVE SMARTPHONES IN THE 1930s, SO THAT'S ONE THING. BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, WE HAVE SEEN... THAT'S A BIT OF A SMART ASS COMMENT, ADMITTEDLY... BUT, YOU KNOW, IN THE COURSE OF THIS PANDEMIC, WE HAVE SEEN ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE WHO WE MIGHT NOT HAVE ORIGINALLY THOUGHT ALL THAT MUCH ABOUT REALLY RISE TO THE OCCASION IN SOME PRETTY SPECTACULAR WAYS, NOT JUST FRONT LINE HEALTH CARE WORKERS BUT PEOPLE WHO STOCK OUR SUPERMARKET SHELVES AND WHO GET ON BICYCLES AND DELIVER MEALS TO US AND ALL OF THAT KIND OF THING. SO CECILIA, MAYBE THERE'S SOMETHING TO THAT JONATHAN SAID THERE. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

The caption changes to "The memory of sacrifice."

Cecilia says I WOULD AGREE. THERE HAVE BEEN, YOU KNOW, COUNTLESS EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE, THE SUPERMARKET SHELF STOCKER, YOU KNOW, THE COURIER, THE PEOPLE WHO WORK IN HOSPITALS AND PARTICULARLY IN LONG-TERM CARE HOMES WHO WE KNOW HAVE HAD AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT, SOMETIMES AWFUL TIME DURING THE PANDEMIC. AND JUST TO SORT OF GO BACK A LITTLE BIT TOO, THE YOUTH OF TODAY, WHAT I THINK OF AS A BIT OF A TROPE. THINK ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT THAT WAS FLOWERING, YOU KNOW, IN THE STREETS BEFORE THE PANDEMIC STRUCK, AND THINK ABOUT THE YOUTH WHO HAVE ALSO SHOWN UP AT BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTESTS, AS ALLIES FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE. SO, YOU KNOW, I GUESS I ALWAYS SORT OF CAUTION... YOU KNOW, IT'S SOMETIMES VERY TEMPT TO SAY, OH, THE SMARTPHONE, AND THE TERRIBLE THING IT HAS WROUGHT AND THE INDIVIDUALISM THAT SEEMS TO PERVADE OUR SOCIETY, BUT MY GENERATION CAN BE JUST AS GUILTY OF THOSE QUALITIES AS WELL.

Steve says FAIR ENOUGH. ARNE, I'M DOWN TO MY LAST 30 SECONDS. WE TOUCHED ON THIS EVER SO BRIEFLY. MAYBE I CAN GET YOU TO FINISH UP ON THIS. THERE'S ALWAYS A DANGER OF GLORIFYING WAR ON A DAY LIKE TODAY. DO WE HAVE TO BE CAREFUL OF THAT?

Arne says THE SHORT ANSWER IS, SURE, WE DO. I WOULD ALWAYS CAUTION PEOPLE, THERE'S NOTHING INHERENTLY WRONG WITH COMMEMORATING INDIVIDUALS WHO FOUGHT WAR OR WHO CONTINUE TO SERVE IN OUR ARMED FORCES FOR VARIOUS REASONS BECAUSE THEY DO A VERY IMPORTANT JOB, THEY HAVE DONE AND THEY CONTINUE TO DO A VERY IMPORTANT JOB IN SAFEGUARDING IDEAS WE ALL CHERISH, MAYBE IF WE SOMETIMES DISAGREE OVER INTERPRETATION OF THEM OR EVENTS. SO CERTAINLY FOR TWO MINUTES EVERY NOVEMBER 11TH, CAN WE PUT THAT ASIDE AND UNDERSTAND THE TREMENDOUS SACRIFICE THAT PEOPLE IN THE PAST MADE WITH THEIR LIVES? I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THAT. AND THEN OF COURSE GO BACK TO OUR VERY ENJOYABLE LIVES AND TO BE SO GRATEFUL, AS JONATHAN SAID, THAT WE WEREN'T THERE IN VIMY RIDGE, STALINGRAD, ALL OF THESE PLACES. I DON'T THINK IT'S THAT MUCH TO ASK OF US ALL TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT PARTICULAR SUFFERING IN ADDITION TO ALL THE OTHER REMEMBRANCES THAT WE CAN DO.

The caption changes to "Producer: Eric Bombicino, @ebombicino."

Steve says GRATITUDE IS A GREAT PLACE TO LEAVE THIS AND WE ARE SIMILARLY GRATEFUL TO THE THREE OF YOU FOR SHARING SOME OF YOUR REMEMBRANCE DAY WITH US TODAY. JONATHAN VANCE, CECILIA MORGAN, ARNE KISLENKO, HOPE YOU ALL HAD A MEANINGFUL REMEMBRANCE DAY AND WE ARE THANKFUL YOU COULD SPEND SOME OF IT ON TVO TONIGHT.

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