To accept one's past—one's history—is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it.
“Watchmen” is interspersed with fake notes typed by his future dystopian villain (slight spoilers). This antagonist runs a huge corporation that—among other things—sells perfume.
In an era of stress and anxiety, when the present seems unstable and the future unlikely, the natural response is to retreat and withdraw from reality, taking recourse either in the fantasies of the future or in the modified visions of a half-imagined past.
If your memory gets scrambled, your ability to envision a coherent future is severely hampered. When the past feels slippery or shifty, you lose the “footholds” that give you the stability to think a day or even a few hours ahead at a time.4
The “perfect memory” of digital media has given rise to a kind of collective dementia that is scrambling our shared memories and messing with our shared imaginations/simulations of the future.
Memory is the link between past and future; it allows us to learn from our previous experiences and extend our “narrative runways” beyond the immediate present. Imagining the future is just another form of memory. It’s a kind of forward-looking nostalgia. “The history of utopias is the history of rear-view mirrors. Every utopia is a picture of the preceding age.”3
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