Do Memorials Make Sense?

Memorials are a means to remember and to have experience from them for what they stood for. Some are reminders of glorious moments or people; others are reminders of tragedies. As a picture they can tell more than a book what they stand for. They remain fresh in mind. But too many memorials make some fall into oblivion or become insignificant. Just at present, how many national and international days are there that pass unnoticed? Let alone statues, tombs, buildings we pass by like passing in a street whose name we don’t know, care to know or remember even after getting its name.

There are memorials for the living as well as for the dead. Some dictators don’t feel at ease until they have their statues displayed all over the country in preparation for leaving them as memorials after they have passed away. Their omnipresence for them is an assurance of being eternally remembered. Needless to say some are scrapped from the ground as those of Saddam in Iraq and Lenin in former soviet republics. Even in democratic France, late French president François Mitterrand build pyramids in the Louvre Museum to be remembered by.

Posters and albums are a form of memorial. Some buy the poster of a star to keep them company as they keep albums for past moments to be relived again and again. In a sense, everyone has the means to have their memorials in addition to the “grandiose” ones about historical figures or events.

The “mania” for memorials isn’t over. It is a way to record history in a different way. Memorials can be a source for contemplation, a tourist attraction like the tomb of Karl Marx which is visited by communists and non-communists. The latest memorial in project is that of the executed Iraqi former president Saddam Hussein. Libya is going to build a statue in his honour along with another one for Libyan Omar Al Mukhtar, a historic a resistant leader during Italy occupation of Libya.

Maybe for a nation, memorials are a part of its history, to keep reminding people of what was an event like. But ordinary people, the anti-heroes have their own memorials like a picture of a memorable person on the wall that keeps gazing on them and refurbishes their existence with meaning.

Maybe it is impossible to live without a memory. The past is the essence of what we are as it shapes our attitudes and our view of ourselves. Memorials are instruments to live virtually past moments in which we haven’t even existed. But we also need to live our present as we perceive it and not to be the prisoners of a past through excessive memorials that look like ghosts haunting our present.

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