Rev explores how memories of atrocities are closely connected with traumatic silence, as well as the theory of how trauma can be passed onto others by listening, making trauma an intergenerational experience.
Professor Rev begins by explaining that the 20th century had led to the emergence of the science of memory. He shows how there is an unfortunate and unnecessary line between history and memory when in fact they should complement each other. Aiming to survey the public discourse from the mid-1980s, Rev begins his story at a time in which the aftereffects of the Vietnam War were deeply pitted in the American psyche, there was serious alarm at the high incidents of child abuse, and fundamental critiques were being made of the typical bourgeois family. He discusses the crucial notion of trauma through the example of the work of Catherine MacKinnon in trying to associate mass rape during the Balkans conflict of the 1990s with genocide because of its attacks on sex and ethnicity. Rev also explains the intense discussions of the trauma in the section on mass rape of the U.N. archives on humanitarian violence in former Yugoslavia. To Rev, this along with other historical factors, such as the outbreak of hysteria in France in the 1970s, led to a new kind of memory born from the previously unrecognizable state called trauma and the previously unknown kind of forgetting called repression.
Rev explores how memories of atrocities are closely connected with traumatic silence, as well as the theory of how trauma can be passed onto others by listening, making trauma an intergenerational experience. The significance of such transmission has led to a belief that the history of events such as the Holocaust is better experienced than understood. Rev also examines how such historical events really came to light once communism had fallen, and there was a ready made discursive frame for the past to be made sense of. The significance of memory, in particular in Eastern Europe, was that memory was a tool of unmediated access to the past or a source of authenticity after decades of censored, centrally written history. Consequently, issues such as the Holocaust departed from being shameful taboos to a respected identity for the Jewish people. Rev explains how through memory such an identity could really be formed.
Rev also analyzes how the fall of the Soviet Union led the liberation of memories through key works such as Alice Miller’s Breaking Down the Wall of Silence. Miller links difficult childhoods to the acts of great tyrants such as Hitler and Stalin. Rev reveals how a tough childhood stunts the growth disabling one reach the full human capacity of being able to feel inclinations such as compassion. He links this with the work of Jeffrey Masson, the scholar of Sigmund Freud's work, who emphasizes that sexual, physical, and emotional violence is a tragic part of the lives of many children. Masson’s book played a serious role in the recovered memory movement. Rev brings this argument together by expressing that, to him, the Holocaust is a symptom as well as a cause of repressed memories of child abuse.