Stopping Selective Memory – You’re Not A Hero


In The Shock Doctrine – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism Naomi Klein points out that Jeffery Sachs has a selective memory about his role in Russia’s economic meltdown and corruption after the collapse of the Soviet Union1. He remembers his contributions as all good, and he was stymied by the IMF and other organizations in getting Russia the financial support it needed. He says that he expected something like The Marshall Plan to be provided to Russia to stabilize it and bring it into the fold of the world economic stage.

While the author does admit that Sachs’s current actions to help support failing economies around the world are all about spending money in them and supporting them she does seem incredulous that Sachs doesn’t see the outcomes in Russia as the exact type of capitalism he was selling. The extreme being maximizing profits and looking out for yourself first, which built the Russian oligarchs as we know them today.

We can debate capitalism and how it’s “brought” to countries another time.

We Want to Be Heroes

We all want to be the hero in our story. We don’t want to realize we were the villains because that makes us bad people and most of us don’t view ourselves as bad people. This leads us into Confirmation Bias as we look at our past. We only see the parts that confirm our heroic efforts.

But this means we’re unlikely to confront our flaws and become better people.

I Was a Terrible White Guy

At one point in my life, I would see news about First Nations in Canada being angry about resource extraction or their living conditions and say something along the lines of “they’re a conquered people why should we care about them.”

Now I find that thinking horrific. The First Nations in Canada are not a conquered people. They signed treaties that the Canadian government never upheld. Canada continues to ignore many of the duties that they have to First Nations.

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I’m now appalled at our government and its treatment of First Nations. I’m appalled at the militarization of the RCMP against First Nations and that so much of the Canadian people turn a blind eye to this abuse.

My attitude towards First Nations in Canada has changed completely, and I continue to try and change them more so I can be a less terrible white guy.

How do We Change?

So how do we change our mindset?

One of the things I try to do is to read books I am likely to disagree with. I grew up in a very traditional Christian household. One of the big things that were frowned upon was the LGBTQ+ community. At times the community I grew up in seemed like it would have been more accepting of beating your wife than being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

A few years ago when I wanted to expand my views on the community and start to confront the biases I gained as a child, I reached out to my local bookstore and asked for 5 books that would help me do that, which they recommended and I purchased. I’ve read 3 of those 5 books now and have never even opened the original book that seemed to support the position I grew up with. That book is what sounded interesting and prompted my desire to examine my beliefs.

Another time I was in that bookstore and saw Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race. The title made me angry and so I bought the book to see what it was saying. Yup I can see why it’s exhausting to talk to white people about racial issues. Most times white people are simply forcing people of colour to do all the work of education while they spend as little time as possible on their own learning.

So my recommendation is that when you purchase a book that you think will line up with your existing ideas, also purchase a book or two that you think won’t line up with your ideas and read those first. Look for the counterargument and start with that.

Hopefully, sometimes, you’ll be challenged and have a deeper understanding of those around you.

  1. Pages 300 – 304

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