- Published on Monday, 16 April 2012 10:18
- Written by Joann Julius
Is stirring up the shadows of the past really as politically incorrect as it's made out to be?
A few weeks ago, a twelve-second Turkish TV advert featuring Hitler promoting men’s shampoo was withdrawn following complaints and threats of legal action from the Jewish community. The footage used a dubbed voice of Hitler telling the audience that men should not use women’s shampoo if they don’t wear women’s clothes.
The community called for a public apology, the US-based Anti-Defamation League was apparently “repulsed” by the marketing ploy and the Istanbul-based advertising firm that created it said that the community “seemed more upset than they were supposed to be.”
The whole event got me thinking about how people will hold onto the past and never forgive or forget certain events – even if they themselves were not directly impacted. I wonder how many of those who complained against the Turkish TV ad were actually victims persecuted by the Nazis all those years ago.
It is in our nature to want to carry the flag of our fallen comrades, family and friends as a lasting eulogy to their sacrifice. Doing this won’t bring them back, but it makes us feel like they haven’t been forgotten. But forgiveness isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice.
Our very own Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a crucial component of the transition of our nation to a free democracy and gave the people a choice. Nineteen public hearings were held where the victims of gross human rights violations gave statements about their experiences during the Apartheid years.
The perpetrators, who were also present, could then give their testimony and ask for amnesty from criminal and civil prosecution. It was a healing process that brought a nation together.
It gave our nation the opportunity to face the pain head-on and decide to forgive. It helped to heal our nation in a way that no other country had been able to up until that point. We looked at the persecutors and realised that they were human beings who made the wrong choices.
I wonder how many Jewish people complained about the twelve-second shampoo advert when they saw it the first time. So often we get that mob mentality where a few angry people incite the rest of us to persecute the bad guys and supposed monsters in our society, be they alive or long dead.
My advice is that we learn from the past and then move on from that. There is no point in rehashing it centuries later- it only causes more pain to those who were directly affected in the first place. Just think about it. Would you want a friend to constantly remind you of your broken promises or past mistakes? Of course not, so why do it to Hitler?
If our own Madiba could forgive those who persecuted him and his fallen comrades, and then sent him to jail for 27 years of his life, why can’t we?
Forgiveness is not a thing you do when it feels right. It’s a choice, the effect of which has the potential to go right across the world. You can start the movement just by letting the past go.