Jan 21, 2007

Ill-advised Publicity Campaign.

This just in from our correspondents in Europe... Hindus about to launch a campaign to "take back the swastika." This is one of those cliches that folks in the know about the pet peeves of Hindu and Jain enthusiasts' (I didn't know that this concerned Buddhism as well): it burns up the folks that care about these things that the Nazis took a perfectly lovely and useful icon of faith and philosophy and killed a lot of folks in its name. So apparently, the folks in Europe, maybe as another chapter in the "recognize us because we're not the bad guys" playbook, have decided to come out loud and proud about the millenia of swastik use throughout the ancient world.

Sanjay Mistry, of the Hindu Forum of Britain, says: "There was an attempt to extend the ban on swastikas throughout Europe in 2005. The UK government opposed that and we hope it will do so again. Outside areas with a large Hindu population, people do not know it as anything other than a Nazi symbol and we have been running workshops to make them aware of the history."

In Hinduism, facing right, it represents the evolution of the universe, and, facing left, it represents the involution of the universe: the two forms representing the two forms of the creator god, Brahma. [more]

I don't know - while I think it's fascinating that this ancient shape and icon, which clearly has mystical and deeper meanings attached to it as evidenced by the many cultures that have used it over the centuries, I'm too much of a realist to think that this is worth the time, energy, and effort that people are putting into it. Do you really think that people are going to want to hear about the other histories of this symbol, when in Europe, the scars in the German psyche, not to mention the French, British, and Russian, is pretty intense? The funny thing is - if these are Indian neo-nationalists of the BJP variety, and this campaign takes on some steam that is supported by the motherland, could this blow up in their face as they continue to try to cozy up to Israel, stating that "we're in the same boat against terrorism"? What trumps - the anti-Islamism of the radical elements of both national fronts, or the wariness of possible Anti-Semitism that sparks vibrant outbursts by the reactionaries in the Jewish diaspora?

After all - a swastika may have meant a lot of things to a lot of people, but does recent history mean nothing? It's not like the rest of the world has happy memories of the swastika from before the time when it became a symbol of genocide - that's just Eastern (and other) mysticism. Who the hell knew about it then besides the Nazis seeking an appropriate icon to brand on themselves and perhaps even link them to their imagined Aryan antecedents.

Anyway, this was interesting. Who knows. Had Nazi Germany not taken the swastika, maybe it would have found its way to the center of the Indian flag, though it's not seen as a secular image. Wouldn't that have been interesting?

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