Updated: Apr 25
In dismantling the myth that our memory belongs to a purely individualistic and free mind, the study of the societal representation of the past foregrounds what governs how we remember. Zerubavel argues that the landscape of our memory is crafted by mnemonic traditions that we, as a member of a community, are socialized into us through school, objects, family gatherings and so on. Being a member of a social cmmunity requires one’s ability to experience the community’s collective history as though it is a part of their personal history. The collective memory here is not a mere aggregate of past events, but also a formulaic emplotment structure that guides our narration of the past. The structure entails a set of mnemonic traditions, involving many mental filters that operate independently from facts. These mental filters process information for us and define what is essential and what is not, what is worth remembering and what can be cast into oblivion, what fits into the storyline, what does not. “When I say “Hong Kong history,” what are the things that you would immediately think about?” I asked Peter, my incredibly bubbly friend, over a very random phone call one day. “Uhhh…...” His voice dropped suddenly after he heard that question. Many seconds had passed, and the only thing I heard was the sound of the truck outside of my apartment in London. “Hmmm…...” another 5 seconds of silence. Finally, his trademark loud hysterical laugh pierced through the air. “Hahahaha!!! Wow! Now that you suddenly bring this up, I really do not know!” he cried, amusing at the hollowness he felt surrounding this topic. “Just anything. Anything that pops up.” After another long and dead sounding “hmm,” he finally answered, in a very disinterested manner “Oh, um, British colony I guess.” “Okay..is that it? What a...” “Oh, and, you know” he abruptly added, “the fishing-village-turned-into-the-international-financial-center.” He said it like a primary school kid reciting the age-old Chinese poem that he is forced to memorize. He said it like he is repeating an answer, the answer, the dull and obvious explanation, that, “you know,” everyone knows. I could almost hear his eye roll as he dropped that answer monotonically, maybe because I know that it is the unspoken standard that we all know at the same time. The post-97 generation in Hong Kong belongs to the same mnemonic community for we were socialized with similar explicit and implicit norms of remembrance. Annie, Peter and five other interlocutors that are from the post-97 generation gave me the identical mnemonic associations with precisely the same wording when I asked them what Hong Kong is: “British colony” and “fish village to the international financial center.” On the contrary, the generation born in the 40s and 50s neither recited this formula nor mentioned these words at all. As seen from this Formula, our seemingly personal memory is an internalized single and shared a collective memory of this post 90s mnemonic community. “How about Sun Yat-sen and his history in Hong Kong?” The founding father of the Republic of China, the "forerunner of the democratic revolution" in the People's Republic of China, the leader of the revolutionary group that overthrew the 4000-year-old dynastic rule in China started and based his group in Hong Kong. “How about the fact that we were once colonized by Japan as well? There were comfort stations and comfort women here as well.” China, Korea, Japan fight over this issue. “How about the fact that Hong Kong was one of the last colonies of the British empire?” When Annie has nothing else to give apart from “British colony” and “fish village to the international financial center,” I asked her what she thought about these historical events, which are events that might be considered important somewhere else. She heard of some but frankly did not care much about them. “ Time after time in my interviews with these post-97 generation people, I find myself encountering this set of dilemmatic responses: a genuine amusement of one’s lack of knowledge about Hong Kong history and a subsequent blase attitude that would engulf the previous moment of epiphany. The former suggests that “Hong Kong history” is an ontologically established concept in our mnemonic tradition. In other words, “Hong Kong history” is not a completely foreign concept in our mind; we have heard of it, learned about it somehow, somewhere and could throw in the same mnemonic associations of it. It is the sense of hollowness we feel towards this familiar sounding subject that we are amused about. The latter is the disinterested attitude towards Hong Kong history. This attitude stems from the idea that Hong Kong has a history that has weight. There is a reverse hallucination here that runs parallel with the mentality that undergirds “cultural desert.” Not that nothing is happening in Hong Kong’s past, but that it is not recognized as history as such. This is your blog post. Great looking images make your blog posts more visually compelling for your audience, so choose media that really wows. Adding fun and compelling videos is another great way to engage your audience and keep them coming back for more. Want to spice up your post with a gallery? 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