Re: [xmca] Pinochet

From: David Preiss (
Date: Mon Dec 11 2006 - 09:02:41 PST

I do think that remembering serves as a tool that prevent us, as a
species, of falling into the same mess one time after another. I
think that it was actually the misremembering of Vietnam which made
the USA so prone to jump into such a bad initiative as was invading
Iraq, and it was the bad memory of those responsible of promoting
officers, which didn't realize Pinochet was involved already in
abuses before being general, which made possible for him to ascend
across the military ladder, and so on. I do agree that we can
remember in obsessive, non-purposive ways. And also memory can be
used for revenge (just think of the Balkans). And I agree with you
that it is not any memory that is practical, but a memory with
elaboration and significance. But I think complementarily that with
no memory we are in risk of a greater danger, which is letting the
doors open to political regressions. So what we need is a memory that
interrogates us: not a memory that gives us preprocessed solutions. I
can't avoid but think of Ricouer here.

On Dec 11, 2006, at 12:00 PM, Michael Glassman wrote:

> David,
> My question to you though is what is the purpose of remembering.
> Do we remember simply to remember and hope that by remembering it
> will make us better human beings? My feeling is that even
> Santayana would have trouble with this. Remembering must have a
> purpose, and that purpose needs to be related to an overt problem,
> otherwise memories can be more dangerous than helpful. This is
> because when we remember without purpose we may have a tendency to
> objectify those memories - or there may be a latent purpose to the
> memories that we are not admitting to. When we objectify the
> memories we separate ourselves from them. Rather than being
> participants in the natural scheme of activities we become judges
> and observers. We are able to say, "Oh that Pinochet, what a bad,
> bad man", without thinking of the role we ourselves might play in
> the actions of people engaged in horrifying activities - or even
> the roles we play in hurting people in our everyday lives. The
> idea of a latent purpose to memories is also dangerous. You
> mention using Vietnam to understand Iraq, but the truth is Vietnam
> has little if anything to do with Iraq other than their proximity
> in our history. By invoking the memory of Vietnam without
> explicitly exploring the problem that you are looking to deal with
> you are bringing a whole host of emotions and fears to the table
> that individuals then use for their own purposes (there is
> surprisingly still a large group in the United States who believe
> we lost in Vietnam because we did not fight it wholeheartedly. And
> many of the people who were pushing this war stayed home on
> deferments and such during Vietnam and were fighting their own
> demons). The only way you escape the use of history to steer
> political debate is by explicitly invoking history in terms of an
> immediate problem, and using it as one of many instruments to solve
> that problem (can this actually be done? My heart says yes,
> sometimes my head says no). Of course it is still political (can
> we ever escape the political) but at least it is explicit.
> Michael
> ________________________________
> From: on behalf of David Preiss
> Sent: Mon 12/11/2006 9:31 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Pinochet
> Dear JAG,
> I think that you depict a too optimitic portrait of the final days of
> the junta. After the intend to assassinate Pinochet in 1986 there was
> a new wave of repression that got a significant number of people
> killed and tortured. It is true some measures softened, but the power
> of the military remained quite in place even until years after the
> democracy returned. The real downfall of Pinochet started in 1998
> when he was caught in London, which made a lot of people here to
> realize the guy was really bad. It was only after 1998 that the
> Chilean justice got he courage to do some minor but significant moves
> against him. As for the relevance of memory, I think that this is of
> foremost importance. Remembering is actually, using your terms, one
> of the dimensions where we can act politically in the present. For
> instance, by remembering Vietnam we can denounce the Iraqi war, by
> rememering Rwanda, we can denounce Darfour, and so it goes. Too many
> sad events that keep being reenacted by the humankind.
> David
> On Dec 11, 2006, at 5:56 AM, JAG wrote:
>> I hope that by focusing on past crimes and criminals we don't forget
>> about present crimes and criminals. I doubt that prosecuting the past
>> serves as a warning to the present. I fear that focusing on the past
>> allows us too much to forget about where there are possibilities for
>> action - now.
>> I did research in Chile - just before the fall of Pinochet - when
>> there was a referendum on whether to have elections or to give
>> Pinochet 4 more years to prepare for an election.
>> It was clear that a) the junta had already fallen apart - to even get
>> to the point of having the thought of a referendum b) people were
>> still scared but many that had left in fear to go to Mexico had
>> already returned c) since the Junta had done as one of its first acts
>> the burning or invalidating of voter registration cards - people had
>> to do something positive (act) to vote d) the fears were real enough,
>> but the reality was more like "kitch" - the Junta masquerading as
>> having power and the students around the University having what
>> looked like candle lit conspiratorial corners - where they were doing
>> things like selling pictures of John Lennon or tapes of Violetta
>> Parra
>> (Gracias a la vida).
>> The junta and the revolution against it had turned to theater. My
>> role
>> was conduct, analyze focus groups and to devise strategies to get
>> people to register to vote - since we knew that underlying opinion
>> was
>> 80% against the "four more years of Pinochet stewardship." People
>> felt
>> weak - in the face of the illusion of power and needed to develop
>> some
>> "collective" soiurces of strength. We did that by having the
>> equivalent of a rock concert where, while people were turned up and
>> socially protected it was easier for them to sign up to vote (as part
>> of a social group that was doing the same). They were'n't thinking
>> about voting (that was too scarcy) but they were thinking about
>> "celectrating being Chileno." We got over 7 mil to sign up and won
>> the
>> referendum to have an election - thus washing away the power of those
>> who had prospered during the Junta (following Milton Friedman and the
>> "Chicago Boys" economic policies). So theater defeated theater - but
>> by that time the contest it was only theatrical - with some practical
>> consequences (like getting rid of a figure head)..
>> Little noted was the fact that Milton Friedman recently died too -
>> but
>> there has been no Pinochet like outcry or celebration. I think that
>> the toll in human suffering unleashed by economic neo-liberalism was
>> as great or greater (but not as noticeable as crimes against
>> humanity)
>> as the crimes against humanity of Pinochet.
>> My general point here is that it is easy to focus on the wrong
>> symbols
>> and then feel celebratory or angry about their ultimate demise -
>> while
>> we forget some of the underlying inhumanities that we either "only
>> symbolically" protest, or don't even notice or care to acknowledge.
>> By the time that people like Pinochet become prosecutable - they are
>> already gone - and we are prosecuting a ghost and making ourselves
>> feel good about it.
>> Ghosts must be prosecuted, but we shouldn't allow ourselves to be
>> diverted by apparitions,
>> There is more to be done.
>> As a simple example - the work of Vygotsky had to be brought out from
>> under a veil by the moral force of A.R. Luria who made sure that his
>> manuscripts found wider circulation - and became known to us. It was
>> action like Luria's and Mike Cole's that created the availability of
>> Vygotsky's thought - which we now take for granted as having "always
>> been there," It was always there - but it required work for it to be
>> seen,
>> On 12/11/06, Leif Strandberg <> wrote:
>>> Yes,
>>> I remember our slogan from 1973 when we were marching on the
>>> streets in
>>> Sweden:
>>> "Chile, Chile - Solidaritet"
>>> It did not help - that time and now when Pinochet is dead another
>>> thing comes into my mind. Last week a Swedish citizen was
>>> sentenced to
>>> life time in prison for war crimes in former Yugoslavia during the
>>> civil war. He (a black man AND a member of White Aryan Resistance
>>> (sic!)) did very bad things against muslim people in Bosina - so
>>> I do
>>> not think the trial was wrong. There are a lot of people who are
>>> put in
>>> trials (in Haag) for war crimes. I think it is good. But some people
>>> are evidenetly very hard to bring to such trials. And Pinochet was
>>> one
>>> of them.
>>> Why?
>>> Leif
>>> 2006-12-11 kl. 01.00 skrev David Preish:
>>>> Today the dead of Pinochet made me remember the old thread Mike
>>>> initiated regarding forgiveness. Thus, the same day than we
>>> across the
>>>> world celebrate a new anniversary of the universal declaration of
>>>> human rights, a new dictator goes away, unpunished for all the
>>> harm he
>>>> caused on thousands. Some people see this as a nice turn of
>>> history:
>>>> the general´s final day is marked by the international
>>> commemoration
>>>> of human rights. I see here the opposite thing: Pinochet left us
>>>> smiling, untouched by the action of justice, remembering us that he
>>>> won his final battle over those that intended to give human rights
>>>> some kind of substance, to turn them in something real, which
>>> can be
>>>> touched. Here, then, a criminal has died. Shame on our judges.
>>> We will
>>>> not forget. Without justice, we will not forgive.
>>>> David Preiss, Ph.D.
>>>> Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor
>>>> Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
>>>> Escuela de Psicología
>>>> Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
>>>> Macul, Santiago
>>>> Chile
>>>> Fono: 3544605
>>>> Fax: 3544844
>>>> e-mail:
>>>> web personal:
>>>> web institucional:
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> David Preiss, Ph.D.
> Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor
> Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
> Escuela de Psicología
> Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
> Macul, Santiago
> Chile
> Fono: 3544605
> Fax: 3544844
> e-mail:
> web personal:
> web institucional:
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> <winmail.dat>
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

David Preiss, Ph.D.
Profesor Auxiliar / Assistant Professor

Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
Escuela de Psicología
Av Vicuña Mackenna 4860
Macul, Santiago

Fono: 3544605
Fax: 3544844
web personal:
web institucional:

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Jan 03 2007 - 07:06:18 PST