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The texts The Fiftieth Gate (1997) by Mark Baker, John Menszers website HolocaustSurvivors.org (1999 to present) and documentary The Tank Man (2004) by Antony Thomas seek to develop the reader/viewers understanding of a past event. This unders

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'History is how we understand the world and memory is how we understand ourselves': ~ A needlessly lengthy compendium The texts The Fiftieth Gate (1997) by Mark Baker, John Menszer's website "HolocaustSurvivors.org" (1999 to present) and documentary The Tank Man (2004) by Antony Thomas seek to develop the reader/viewer's understanding of a past event. This understanding is intended to encompass an appreciation of the events themselves as a means of preventing the atrocities of the past from repeating themselves, as well as a consideration of those past moments which inspire hope in the human psyche. To this end, in their representations of the Tiananmen Massacre and the Holocaust respectively the texts affirm the notion that 'History is how we understand the world and memory is how we understand ourselves'. Baker's representation of himself as a symbol of history and his parents and family as symbols of memory reveal the nature of both and inevitably affirm the given idea about the connection between history, memory and understanding. His exploration of his relationship with his parents, in this sense, is an exploration of the relationship between history and memory, revealing what the two discourses have to offer one another in terms of understanding of past. The memoirs are framed as an "exchange of pasts" whereby Baker provides his parents with fact and they provide him with emotional detail: "'What kind of underwear?' ...read more.


Ultimately, Menszer suggests that history and memory, whilst mutually exclusive, must work together to foster a complete understanding of the past. This suggestion emerges from the motif of barbed wire which runs vertically down the left-hand side of each page connecting those containing historical discourse to those containing personal experience. Despite this interdependence Menszer's position is clear: history, as a window into the world, is limited. Memory and personal experience are necessary to provide a window into ourselves and our own nature - "the past is not just about events it is about human lives". This principle is exercised in the "Audio Gallery" page in which Menszer juxtaposes recordings of survivors singing songs about their experiences. The songs, when juxtaposed, reveal a truth about the human psyche; different people can respond to the same events and experiences in contradictory ways. The optimistic lyrics "the morning sun will shine on us one day" are juxtaposed to the dark and nihilistic "a storm raged throughout the world . . . without pity or justice a world was destroyed" to show that one event can generate contrasting human responses. Therefore both through his presentation and employment of history and memory Menszer affirms the given notion. Antony Thomas' documentary on the Tiananmen Massacre and examination of how it is remembered, and how censorship has hindered history's efforts in immortalising it affirms the statement that 'History is how we understand the world and memory is how we understand ourselves'. ...read more.


Censorship also warps the understanding of our response to past events that might have been developed by memory. This is seen in the interview of a Chinese worker who is not free to speak openly about the past like the Western witnesses are: "Were those her real feelings? Impossible to know with all interviews monitored by government minders". Ultimately Thomas shows that due to censorship we cannot develop an understanding of how the Chinese people responded to the Tiananmen Massacre and the Chinese people cannot develop an understanding of the world in which they live and the events which formed it. Thomas resolves his exploration with the optimistic suggestion that the mystery surrounding the tank man, partially as a result of censorship, has contributed to its lasting influence in our collective memory. He uses a soundtrack of majestic ascending strings to create a grandious tone with respect to this revelation: "It is the mystery that gives the tank man his enduring power". All three texts affirm the notion that 'History is how we understand the world and memory is how we understand ourselves' through different means, however one thing remains universal. All retrospective explorations of an event converge in their mutual goal of building a valid and complete understanding of the past as to prevent the recurrence of atrocities, and to maintain enduring hope inspired by triumphs past. ...read more.

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