Sunday, February 07, 2016
Why Memoirs Are So Important?
Sometimes I listen to a story from a friend that I wish to have that story in writing. When people get older, they get the fear of being forgotten. No matter how powerful, rich, famous, smart, effective they are, when they reach to old age, nearing extinction, all this power, wealth, reputation are lost. Then they rush to write their memories, their accomplishments, describing their presence to the next generations. They initiate to create documentation efforts to create a book.
I knew a medical doctor. He was influential, well-known, very rich person. He had terminal illness. He opened a personal blog page on the Internet, he wrote his memories until the last days of his life. A few years later, during a google search I came across his blog, he was able to finish the his childhood memoirs.
Over internet communication, I recently received letters of a retired general manager in the Treasury. He disclosed his important letters to public without any further delay during his old age. Those letters covered confidential information of the long past periods of Nixon, Kennedy, explaining his young career, his inaccessible power, his broad influence, his accomplishments during his tenure as IMF rep in Philippines during retirement. This texts were then confidential in the past, but not confidential any more today. Now it does not matter, only future historians will benefit.
We had an old uncle. He held an important post in one important ministry for many years as general manager. We were close, but he did nothing to help us. He escaped especially when we needed his assistance. He spent the last years of his life in bed. A young scholar asked his permission to record his memories. Young scholar created audio tapes to record his days in his active senior bureaucratic period of his life. These records are now in the researcher's personal library. He may publish a book when appropriate.
When I was working for an US- Turkish JV company, we hired American General managers for two consecutive 4-year terms. Company paid them $ 12.500 per month plus expenses (car, rent, traveling). I worked closely with them as the company sales manager. They completed their terms and returned to their homeland. Then we heard they died. Both have died from terminal lung disease. There was nothing left as written document on their back, as if these people have never existed. By Google scan, we can barely find their names on our technical articles as co-author, and in our English press release.
I notice a trend of our aging rich writing memories with the help of ghost writers. They say, "I came into this world, I've done a lot of work for the community, I earned money, I employed people. Do remember me". Due to their advanced age, memories are fading. Old events are difficult to remember. Digression comes again, clarity and details are lost in those memories.
Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Tommy Blair, Mikhail Gorbachev, Henry Kissinger in particular, all the western leaders, they wrote memories after they left power.
Çanakkale 1915 war memories are another example. British General Ian Hamilton (Gallipoli Diary, 1920), then the German General Otto Liman von Sanders (Der Kampf um Die Dardanelle of 1927) wrote books an war.
Young journalist Rushen Ashraf spent one full week in 1919 with Mustafa Kemal bey in his Şişli apartment to collect Dardanelles memories.His notes were made public first in the daily newspaper and then printed as a book, that book made Pasha a living legend.
Turkish writers Aziz Nesin, Sabahattin Ali, Orhan Veli, Ahmed Hashim are much more immortal. Aziz Nesin's childhood memories, Ahmet Hashim's collected 20-articles which he wrote during his medical treatment in Germany in the 1930s for "Frankfurt Diary" are very impressive books even today. Sebahattin Ali's novels are still in the best selling list. My last reading addiction Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) left behind magnificent books. Socrates, Aristotle and Machiavelli call us from many centuries before.
Queen writes her memories every night with pen. Without any interruption, every night, she writes in her handwriting her impression of that day, records for future authors. I watched a documentary TV program about her writings. All her writings will remain secret for the next 50-years, then it will be published later to be the source for academicians, researchers, and historians.
A school friend of mine was working in Russia for last 12-years. He had set up an office there. He employed local people. When Russian SU-24 aircraft was downed on 24 November 2015, he says that he is finished commercially. He lost everything he had in Moscow. "I understood that I was a balloon. They stuck a needle. Then they burst my business, my property, my office. It is all over. They do not give me entrance visa, so I can not go there. I can not manage my job. I reset almost everything. I have to restart again here", he says. He almost lost all of his last 12-year work, jobs, contracts, references, connections, wealth.
In our geography, writing memoirs is not very desirable, not recommended. "Sometime, someone may get angry of my writings, a legal responsibility may arise and they may harm my kids." That is the fear behind.
However, when we get older, we get more comfortable to disclose our experiences, our records, our memories to share. As time goes by, we can laugh at ourselves. These virtues are generally not valid rules accepted in our region.
Americans say, "Learn from the mistakes of others, you do not have sufficient time to learn from your own mistakes".
I share my stories in thermal power plant construction phases. I tell the young engineers of the tender bidding process. Those stories sound like a fairy tales for them. I believe that memoirs / biographies are very important. It is more important for our society that the same mistakes are repeated over and over again throughout the year. Life is not long enough until we can experience everything. We must benefit from the experience of others.
Details of the letters of retired general manager of Treasury had reminded me all these thoughts. I would be grateful if you could let me know your expectations, thoughts, recommendations. If you want to send a direct message, my email address is always available for your access.
Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of ODTÜ Alumni and Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.
Ankara, 08 February 2016