Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A rose by any other name...

Bear with me, folks....I'm trying to make a point here. 

The word "swastika" comes from the Sanskrit svastika - "su" meaning "good," "asti" meaning "to be," and "ka" as a suffix.
Until the Nazis used this symbol, the swastika was used by many cultures throughout the past 3,000 years to represent life, sun, power, strength, and good luck.
Even in the early twentieth century, the swastika was still a symbol with positive connotations. For instance, the swastika was a common decoration that often adorned cigarette cases, postcards, coins, and buildings. During World War I, the swastika could even be found on the shoulder patches of the American 45th Division and on the Finnish air force until after World War II.

  Ok, shock effect over.  Here is my point:

  Some time back, a DJ from my one time home town lost his job for using what has become known as the "n-word".  His context was in a following comment conversation in which he noted that all groups have some "lower class" who seem to have their own name and culture within that race, even sometimes taking on that designation like armor.  He noted the white folks have the so-called "trailer trash" and/or "red necks", the Mexicans/Latin Americans have..., and the black folks have....    So, in the process of making a point, he found that - perhaps like me - he'd just offended some people without having any intention of doing so.  He lost his job.
  In the recent past, there was a cowboy phrase "you'd better smile when you say that".  And, that particular phrase has been taken to higher and higher circles, finding a position in the way we see each other and the manner in which we deal with other cultures and countries.  Our politically correct culture, our simplicity of politics that have little concern with taking one man's rights so that another can be comfortable, and in the process of it all having the temerity to not only lie to each other but to prefer it to the ugly truth.  The words are precise, polite, but the intent...
  So, now we actually come to my point of the post:  Intent.  There is a great field of psychology and even into other fields centering on Symbology.  What do symbols mean?  What sort of importance do they hold in the culture?  Do some symbols change over time?   And, the answer to that last is Of Course!  Of course the symbols change because the importance to the people seeing that symbol differs by distance and experience.  For instance, the symbol I used above for catching all of our attentions will have an effect on my friend Miles and on Nikki that is likely much greater than upon myself,  and  incredibly different to a person of the prior century.
  So what?  you say.  Well, this:  the video below really brought this to my thoughts last night.  Our looks create a 'judging the book by its cover' phenomenon, but so do our words.  We hear the words - of our politicians, our preachers, our neighbors, and even ourselves - but do we really hear the intent.
  A rose smells just as sweet because it is a rose.  It is what it is.
      Truth.  It isn't because it is a flower.  This to the right is also a flower, and just as the rose, it is what it is....and it stinks like you wouldn't believe.  Pretty, interesting, colorful....and gives a stench of rotten meat.  And, unless it is trying to present itself as a rose, it is just fine being its own creation.      The truth of this is that it is what it is.  That doesn't make it bad, it doesn't make it good.  It just is.  It is my hope in life that I can be so wise as to look at one presenting itself as a rose and hear correctly the buzz of the bumble bee or the bottle fly.


Anonymous said...

Hi Randy, I really hate this swastika, under its sign the nazis are responsible for killing more than 60 Million people in the name of racism and fascism. - Amongst those 60 milillion murdered people were my dad -I was just one year old, and my mom, who died at the end of the slaughtering of WW2.
frightend hugs

randy said...

I'm sorry, Miles;
I knew this would be a bad pic for you, but it made my point too well. You see the way that symbol went from being one of life to one of death? And, it's the same symbol, nothing in it has really changed but the intent behind it. What was once beautiful now stinks. Intent. And, we can presume that the symbol was used because of the meaning it had at the time, and it's perversion has forever destroyed that in your and my minds.
I send you love and hugs, and hopes that we remember to not be swayed by the symbols, the lies, the propaganda and only seek the truth.

oh, ps: what other symbols do you see that have changed? What other "wolves in sheep's clothing", or conversely, "sheep made to look like wolves"?

Anonymous said...

Hi Randy, I liked your commentary on the swastika. I taught high school history and German classes, and explained the original meaning of it. Another term for it is "Hakenkreuz" - twisted cross. It is unfortunate that it has such negative connotations now. By the way, a church across from Michigan State University has them in some of its floor tiles in the entryway. It was built in the 1920s

Anonymous said...

hi all, for me the swastika is unseperably connected to the death of both of my parents, leaving me quite alone in this world since I was not even 5 years.
So I not only hate this swastika but nazis and neonazis and all people feeling about war as "wargames" too.
<3 miles

Anonymous said...

Randy, you ask me: what other symbols do you see that have changed?

I only know one: When priest are blessing tanks for instance.

But I know many words that have been changed their meaning: Just think of "freedom" and "liberty".
<3 miles

randy said...

Hi Miles and Anonymous above;
thank you both for the wonderful comments.
I understand that armies want their God on their side in a war, so I guess on that point it makes sense...but what a weird thing for a priest to do, huh?
Your comment on Liberty and Freedom! What incredible words. Do you remember the Mel Gibson movie of the Scottish/Brittish war...dang if I can remember the title...and his dying word was Freedom! and the American history lesson we were taught "give me liberty or give me death". Both concepts have become a matter of course in America...and so, have lost their value. What do they mean now as compared to what did they mean then?
How about my point of the politically correct speach where a politician, etc., lies with pretty words full of knives?
Thank you so much for your input, Miles. Speak on!

Evan said...

A very interesting post. I fully understand Miles' reaction. As I am Jewish, that symbol does bring up strong emotions as well. Recently, I read somewhere a group was trying to return the swastika to its original meaning and symbolism of representing peace and harmony. Their goal, as they put it, was to "rehabilitate" the symbol. A nice thought, but that just can't be done. You are right - symbols change, and when the change is as dramatic as the horrors of the holocaust, no rehabilitation is possible. Its as if the noble representations that symbol used to have were murdered, just as the millions of Jews and others were killed. You may want to bring it back, but you can't. There is also the issue that trying to change such a symbol bears the risk of forgetting the inhumanity that occurred, and that is something we cannot risk.


randy said...

Hi Evan;
"the noble representations that symbol used to have were murdered..." Oh my goodness!

You are so right...and all the more sad I am that there is just no way to go back. But, like your reaction and Miles very bad memories, a symbol can hold a life of its own until only historians could remember. Certain things just can't be burried...which makes the manipulation of the nazi party in using this symbol even sadder.
I am reminded, as I type this, that my first thoughts on this article were to describe the ways the Christian Church, the Cross as its symbol, is being manipulated and deformed by those who preach hate and division. I just didn't have the heart to pound out another post on the "deformation church".
Thank you for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Hallo Randy,
I've only read this today.
I would agree with Miles - this symbol is currently not rehabilierbar - it has taken too much blood.
But the ambiguity of political / diplomatic language takes even in ever greater dimensions. What ordinary people yet understand the language of politicians and their phrases.
The German government is trying to explain to citizens why they sell tanks on a secret mission to Saudi Arabia. Their argument is that Saudi Arabia will help in the fight against extremists, although Saudi Arabia is extremism himself.
Likewise ambiguous is the position of the churches in the military. The churches preach love and peace and blessing at the same time weapons. So they even make money with the arms trade. They have investments in arms companies.

randy said...

Hi Nikki;
you are saying that the churches own stock in arms companies? I would never have thought that. But, it goes to show, what is said is not always what is meant.
Thanks for the comment.