Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

I cannot remember. I forgot.

I cannot remember, I forgot. I still recall this answer in my mind. These words were part of a legal strategy. When the pressure got too high, “forgetting” suddenly changed into “not understanding at the time”. Clearly, there was nothing wrong with this person’s memory. Nevertheless, how do you prove that someone is able to remember facts?

Yesterday, a friend asked me if I could still remember something that happened some months earlier. Of course I could. She asked because I had once said to her that I had forgotten about the memories between her and me. She had taken that statement literally. She was relieved to hear that I still remember these memories.

What I had meant to say to her is that I had compressed and then archived my memories to a remote location in my mind, just like a computer does. Whenever these memories are in demand again then you more or less “download” and “unzip” them. There are no words for this activity in human vocabulary. We just say forget although we still remember.

Using the words “I forgot” or “I cannot remember” is quite an effective strategy in courtrooms and in politics. Others now need to prove that this statement is a lie. Even after delivering the evidence, such persons are quite likely to say that they “suddenly” remember again. Essentially, they have no shame in lying their way out of a mess. A nice example is Donald Trump using his alter ego John Barron or John Miller to brag about himself. He has confirmed, subsequently denied and then later reconfirmed that it’s indeed him (eg, HBO’s John Oliver, NYT, WPWP).

Why do we feel so strongly about these words? I suppose that it is first and foremost an insult to our intelligence. We may indeed not remember and have actually forgotten about trivial things. We accept such instances as we think, feel and believe that this memory loss is unintentional.

It is however hard to imagine that someone would forget about and cannot remember serious issues. We then think, feel and believe that such memory loss is intentional and that this person is lying to us. Lying is a betrayal of the “truth” and we generally take betrayal extremely serious. Also see my 21 February 2015 blog: “Betrayal can only happen if you love (John le Carré)”.

Once you catch a lie and then realise that people are lying to you, something fundamental in the relationship changes: Trust. While trust builds over time, one lie is sometimes enough to never trust someone again. As the famous Dutch politician Thorbecke (1798-1872) was once quoted saying: “Trust comes on foot and leaves on horseback”.

Unfortunately, most of the persons whom I have caught lying to me were women. A 2015 Guardian article by Anouchka Grose claims that women lie twice as much as men, and some women even up to 30 times a day. Guardian: “The survey, funded by an insurance company, found that an overwhelming majority of lies were told in order to make someone feel better, to avoid trouble, or to make life simpler (and very rarely for false insurance claims)”.

I suppose that the words “I cannot remember, I forgot” are indeed often used to avoid trouble. In my experience, almost any question is much more interesting than its answer. While a question nearly always reveals what is truly on someone’s mind, an answer is often biased, incomplete, and subjective.

Questioning people is an art rather than science despite the availability of interrogation techniques. Contrary to what some people (eg, PoliticoWP) believe, torture is not at all effective (eg, The Atlantic). Similar as in real life, we tend to share our secrets with our (close) friends, and certainly not with our enemies.

To some extent, we remember (not) to forget things. We never forget that we remember.

Michael McDonald – I Keep Forgettin’ (1982) – artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Framework Posts


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest