To those old enough to remember the unfolding of the Watergate investigation, the words eighteen and half minutes have resonance. That was the amount of time that was erased from the taped conversation that then-President Nixon was having with JR Halderman, his Chief of Staff. This comes to mind when thinking about the ongoing conversation about the “right to be forgotten”. For those unfamiliar, this rule states “personal data must be erased immediately where the data are no longer needed for their original processing purpose, or the data subject has withdrawn his consent and there is no other legal ground for processing, the data subject has objected and there are no overriding legitimate grounds for the processing or erasure is required to fulfil a statutory obligation under the EU law or the right of the Member States.” In short, we can create our own eighteen and a half minutes of invisibility, take anything that happened and erase it when we think it is no longer appropriate to the current image we wish to project. While at once of two minds about this, I now have come down on the side that the past is something that we can reinterpret at will, it should not be something plastic to mold and form to fit into the current style.
While there are many who may argue over the Holocaust, perhaps the numbers of people extinguished, the importance or legacy that has left behind, but there is still a historical record, there are people who were there, who remember, photographs, lonely piles of shoes and glasses, the only remnants once-living people turned to ash. As we move to a more silicon-based memory, we must remember the physical is a testament too. While it may seem so, our entire lives have not been transformed by a blue light fairy into a Tron like existence, solely in a binary world. They used to say New York is a snake that devours itself every 50 years, are we not quickly approaching the same fate? Are we creating a world where the past is simply a thing to be shed off in pursuit of an ever distant promise of becoming? Where ones past has no importance, or relevance. A world lost in a constant now?