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Author Topic: Symbolism gone wrong  (Read 678 times)

arete

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Symbolism gone wrong
« on: March 06, 2019, 10:40:44 am »
Orthodox see a pentagram and they think ''Satan''
Europeans see a swastika and they think ''nazis''
Orthodox see reversed cross and they think ''Satan''
It's a pity these symbols are used for evil. Should we try to claim their former glory?  :)
Are other symbols gone wrong?

Uneryx

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2019, 03:54:02 pm »
Europeans see a swastika and they think ''nazis''


The problem with "reclaiming" some symbols is that the symbols were actively used as a tool of harm. Yes, the swastika was originally a buddhist symbol, but because it was used by a regime that murdered millions of people and destroyed many more lives (even the lives of the people who weren't part of the holocaust were affected, because a fascist regime like the 3rd Reich had to strong-arm the population to retain control, not to mention all the art and research that was destroyed...), that association isn't going to go away any time soon. Symbols do not exist in a vacuum.

Reclamation of a symbol only gets to be decided by the people who were hurt by that symbol, and if Jews, Roma, LGBT and other groups are saying a swastika is a nazi symbol, guess what. It's a nazi symbol. Furthermore, primarily in the west, the swastika is only used by Neo-nazis, who plaster it publicly to send the message "we wish the Jews were dead."

It might have been a symbol for good once, but denying that it has been tainted by evil, and still is used as a weapon to this day, is irresponsible.

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2019, 03:58:01 pm »
Orthodox see a pentagram and they think ''Satan''
Europeans see a swastika and they think ''nazis''
Orthodox see reversed cross and they think ''Satan''
It's a pity these symbols are used for evil. Should we try to claim their former glory?  :)
Are other symbols gone wrong?
While I do see your point, I personally think that there are many more urgent priorities to deal with in the world around us.

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2019, 05:32:54 pm »
Reclamation of a symbol only gets to be decided by the people who were hurt by that symbol, and if Jews, Roma, LGBT and other groups are saying a swastika is a nazi symbol, guess what. It's a nazi symbol. Furthermore, primarily in the west, the swastika is only used by Neo-nazis, who plaster it publicly to send the message "we wish the Jews were dead."

I'm curious how you reconcile your stance on reclaiming symbols with the fact that these symbols were culturally appropriated from oppressed peoples?

In the 1930s and 1940s, when Hitler was using the Swastika as a symbol of his genocidal regime, India was a colony of the British Empire, where millions of people were oppressed, forced to lean English, subjected to ethnic cleansing and forced migration, forced to endure state-sanctioned promotion of Christianity and other forms or religious persecution and intolerance, and subjected to racist politics that restricted their rights and freedoms.

Furthermore, India had been in that state of bondage for almost 500 years. Five whole centuries of oppression by white, racist Europeans. So I really don't see how it's fair to force Indian people to give up their symbols just because white Europeans used those symbols for evil, racist purposes, when they themselves were the victims of mistreatment by white Europeans.

The Nazis stole the Swastika from an oppressed, colonized, racially belittled group of people, and used it to oppress, murder, and belittle other groups of people -

Shouldn't white Europeans be expected to pay the balance for racism? Shouldn't white Europeans be expected to apologize for Nazi atrocities? Shouldn't it be white Europeans who have to repair the damage they've done? Why should Indian Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains be expected to pay for white European crimes?

Hindus and Buddhists didn't commit the holocaust; white Christians did - yet Christians get to happily attend Churches where the cross is displayed - while the most important of all Indian holy symbols is treated with shame and disgust? How the fuck is that fair? Shouldn't it be white culture and white people that bear the shame of the - white- Third Reich?

I don't think most westerners realize how important the Swastika actually is in Indian religions; particularly Jainism. It's not just 'a symbol' from India, it's the single most important symbol of the Jain religion, akin to the Jewish Menorah, Christian Cross, or Muslim crescent.

Imagine a world where white Europeans had used the Menorah as a symbol of genocide against Jains; would that make it right for Jains to demand that Jews give up the Menorah? Despite Jews being victims of white Europeans themselves and being totally blameless for actions perpetrated by white Europeans? Because the reverse seems to be totally fine to most people right now, in our world. The Jains were victims; the Jains did nothing wrong (white Europeans did), and yet today it's the Jains who are told to abandon their millennia old sacred symbols.

...and the worst part? It does nothing to stop actual Nazisat all; law abiding Indian religious practitioners in Europe have given in and surrendered, substitution the Swastika with other symbols. The actual racists have not done so, will never do so willingly, and cannot be made to do so - even in countries where the Swastika is banned, there are still plenty of Nazis and plenty of Nazi symbols. The nonwhite, non-western minorities continue to suffer while the white, western racists do not suffer.

It seems to me that the Swastika should be totally accepted when used for Indian religious purposes; it's pretty easy to tell when someone's being a racist shithead versus when they're sincerely practicing a millennia-old religion from a nonwhite culture. I fully support condemning Nazis and Nazi symbols, and if people use the Swastika in that way then by all means condemn them and condemn the symbol in that context.

As you said, symbols don't exist in a vacuum; they also however don't always exist in the same context everywhere, every-time they appear. A symbol with one connotation in one place has a very different connotation in a different place. Let's not forget that the Nazis also used the eagle, and the cross - a lot - and yet both of those symbols still get used all over the place in the western world. People already distinguish, for those symbols, which contexts are racist and which aren't. Considering that those are both symbols that were NOT appropriated, it only seems fair that the stolen Swastika be given the same treatment.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2019, 05:42:09 pm by EnderDragonFire »
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2019, 10:22:54 pm »
Shouldn't white Europeans be expected to pay the balance for racism? Shouldn't white Europeans be expected to apologize for Nazi atrocities? Shouldn't it be white Europeans who have to repair the damage they've done? Why should Indian Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains be expected to pay for white European crimes?

I'm not sure who's asking Indian Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains to stop using the swastika as a religious symbol. I haven't heard of places of worship in India being harassed for using the swastika, or even diasporic Hindu/Buddhist/Jain houses of worship, for that matter.

What people such as Uneryx are saying is that in the context of Western religion--i.e. in practices not clearly based in the swastika's culture of origin--the appearance of the swastika is a red flag for horrible, horrible things, and therefore anyone who uses it should be aware of that.

If you're a Hindu, Buddhist, or Jain wanting to use the swastika for your personal religious purposes, this is basically irrelevant--the context of the swastika designs on your temple's decor or the fabric of your altar cloth or whatever makes it clear that it's not about Nazis, but rather a part of a long-standing tradition whose symbols the Nazis misused. On the other hand, if you live outside of that culture and you want to use the swastika out of context as a random ornament or decoration, then yeah, people are going to look askance at you, because outside of the context of Eastern religion, the swastika has an extremely nasty history, and the unfairness of what the Nazis did does not erase that.

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2019, 10:29:43 pm »

It seems to me that the Swastika should be totally accepted when used for Indian religious purposes; it's pretty easy to tell when someone's being a racist shithead versus when they're sincerely practicing a millennia-old religion from a nonwhite culture. I fully support condemning Nazis and Nazi symbols, and if people use the Swastika in that way then by all means condemn them and condemn the symbol in that context.

I don't disagree with your point. I skirted around discussing it as a symbol of religions of the Indian subcontinent because a, not my lane and b, I don't know what I don't know. However, context is important in culture, and more education on these issues has to happen in general.

My initial point I wanted to make (which I did less aptly than I thought, i suppose), was to raise my concerns over lumping in Satanic Panic fearmongering over the pentagram and inverted cross (both of which have a long history of usage by Christians and therefore don't have quite the same appropriation issues, on top of the satanic panic not killing over 10 million people) with the actual goddamn Holocaust, and I wanted to address that.

My perception was that the original post was saying "hey, we should all stop being mad about this symbol" when, no, there are people who have every right to be angry about it, and I wanted to address it.

You are right - it's not fair. Not to Jains, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Roma, or anyone affected by nazism.  As Eastling said, no one is saying that it doesn't belong on religious buildings in the right context (and if they are, they need to chill and be respectful). I certainly am not. However, living in a North American city and not actively attending these temples or practicing these religions, I do not see this symbol anywhere except drawn on transit platform walls with a sharpie under "die [racial slur] die".

We can't just glibly say "Europeans see it and go OMG NAZI" and then expect millions of Westerners to automatically go "gosh y'know what you're right, it was originally a symbol that belonged to a different oppressed minority and I feel bad now for being angry and afraid whenever I see this symbol, I'm sorry."

We also need to be careful with who is and isn't allowed to use it within the appropriate context. I saw SO MANY people on the internet in 2005 going "what? :) it's a symbol for peace :) Its ok if I post all these swastikas :) Neji Hyuga has it carved on his forehead so why can't I have it on my livejournal? :)" These people were not Jain, Hindu or Buddhist, and I really don't think it's right or fair to piggyback on a legitimate concern about appropriation to do this kind of thing.

To answer your question about how do I reconcile this - beats me, I'm just an animator with opinions. Like I said originally, the people who were hurt by the Nazi's hate - BOTH the group who it was stolen from, and the groups who were murdered under a banner bearing it - are the ones who get to decide how it is restored, not a bunch of white folks who belong to neither group.

Our place (my place) is, instead, to affirm and support those who DO belong to those groups, smack other white people upside the head who try to gloss over the damage done, and be ready with hand sanitizer when someone writes hatred on the walls of the train platform.

I apologize if I offended you, and hopefully this helps to clarify my stance. Please understand that it comes from a place of wanting to both re-appropriate what belongs to Indian sub-continental religions to them, as well as ensure that the centuries of oppression that led up to the Holocaust are not ignored.

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2019, 12:58:29 am »

We also need to be careful with who is and isn't allowed to use it within the appropriate context. I saw SO MANY people on the internet in 2005 going "what? :) it's a symbol for peace :) Its ok if I post all these swastikas :) Neji Hyuga has it carved on his forehead so why can't I have it on my livejournal? :)" These people were not Jain, Hindu or Buddhist, and I really don't think it's right or fair to piggyback on a legitimate concern about appropriation to do this kind of thing.

Allowed?  I am wondering now.  Are there people who really expect me to to ask for permission or consider everyone in the world’s feelings when I integrate an existing symbol in my own way into my own religious system for my own purposes?  Am I expected to explain myself to anyone who disagrees or is offended?  Is it “stealing” or “appropriating” just because I wasn’t the first person in the universe to draw a squiggly line, or a pentagram, or a cross, or a circle with a cross in it, or a cross with its arms bent into a swastika... yet somehow can find uses for all those things within my own developing religion?

The way I see it, there is no “should I”.  Only “will I”.  And I will utilize whatever symbols I will, regardless of how people choose to look at it. 


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EnderDragonFire

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2019, 02:43:10 am »
I'm not sure who's asking Indian Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains to stop using the swastika as a religious symbol. I haven't heard of places of worship in India being harassed for using the swastika, or even diasporic Hindu/Buddhist/Jain houses of worship, for that matter.

I see people say this a lot; I can only assume it comes from lack of personal experience? People *do* harass Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists over the symbol; I promise I will provide sources later or redact my claims - I've read several new stories about it happening, from reputable sources - I need to dig them up.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2019, 02:47:28 am »
What people such as Uneryx are saying is that in the context of Western religion--i.e. in practices not clearly based in the swastika's culture of origin--the appearance of the swastika is a red flag for horrible, horrible things, and therefore anyone who uses it should be aware of that.

If you're a Hindu, Buddhist, or Jain wanting to use the swastika for your personal religious purposes, this is basically irrelevant--the context of the swastika designs on your temple's decor or the fabric of your altar cloth or whatever makes it clear that it's not about Nazis, but rather a part of a long-standing tradition whose symbols the Nazis misused. On the other hand, if you live outside of that culture and you want to use the swastika out of context as a random ornament or decoration, then yeah, people are going to look askance at you, because outside of the context of Eastern religion, the swastika has an extremely nasty history, and the unfairness of what the Nazis did does not erase that.

I agree with you. If everyone held you views, it would be a more just world. I would never, ever take a Swastika anywhere public except a Hindu temple or religious service. I wouldn't dream of wearing it in public or displaying it outside my home - I rarely even do that (specifically, I've got one Kali Yantra with a swastika in it, that I never take out of the house and rarely use even in the house - I've also got a couple of sacred texts with it on the cover - they stay on the shelf when not reading them).
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2019, 02:53:50 am »
My initial point I wanted to make (which I did less aptly than I thought, i suppose), was to raise my concerns over lumping in Satanic Panic fearmongering over the pentagram and inverted cross (both of which have a long history of usage by Christians and therefore don't have quite the same appropriation issues, on top of the satanic panic not killing over 10 million people) with the actual goddamn Holocaust, and I wanted to address that.

Mea culpa! I didn't really consider the other symbols in Arte's post, and why they were there. I have strong personal feelings about the Swastika and what the Nazis did to it,  and it jumped out at me - I totally agree that Satanic fear-mongering is nothing in common with sincere concerns about Nazis.

(I really hate Nazis, and the way they abused Indian culture offends everything I value - I always have to be careful how I express myself because some of the Nazis dabbled in -and bastardized- eastern religious ideas. I imagine some protestants feel the same way about the KKK and the cross.)

I agree there are lots of times to be legitimately cautious or angry about the Swastika. Namely any time it mixes up with white supremacy, racism, or Nazis, or is generally divorced from Indian culture and adopted by Eurocentric groups.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2019, 02:56:34 am by EnderDragonFire »
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2019, 03:01:38 am »
I apologize if I offended you, and hopefully this helps to clarify my stance. Please understand that it comes from a place of wanting to both re-appropriate what belongs to Indian sub-continental religions to them, as well as ensure that the centuries of oppression that led up to the Holocaust are not ignored.

No offence taken. My anger was at the Nazis, for obvious reasons, and the neo-Nazis who idolize them, for equally obvious reasons. They're genocidal, racist, totalitarian bastards who did unspeakable things, and the fact they did it using the symbols of peaceful religions from oppressed cultures really pisses me off.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2019, 10:01:33 am »
Mea culpa! I didn't really consider the other symbols in Arte's post, and why they were there. I have strong personal feelings about the Swastika and what the Nazis did to it,  and it jumped out at me - I totally agree that Satanic fear-mongering is nothing in common with sincere concerns about Nazis.

(I really hate Nazis, and the way they abused Indian culture offends everything I value - I always have to be careful how I express myself because some of the Nazis dabbled in -and bastardized- eastern religious ideas. I imagine some protestants feel the same way about the KKK and the cross.)

I agree there are lots of times to be legitimately cautious or angry about the Swastika. Namely any time it mixes up with white supremacy, racism, or Nazis, or is generally divorced from Indian culture and adopted by Eurocentric groups.

Yes, I believe we probably have similar feelings about Nazi appropriation of symbols.

The good news is that the swastika doesn’t really need to be “reclaimed” throughout much of Asia. If you travel to India or to many Buddhist countries, you’ll see it displayed without any shame. It’s largely outside of Asia that the stigma prevails.

Here in the west, I think it makes sense to exercise caution. In the US, it’s not unusual for a Sikh to be attacked for being a Muslim. Nobody should deny that people have a right to reinterpret symbols, but I tend to be careful. In part because I don’t feel a pressing need to display spiritual symbols on my person.

arete

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2019, 10:25:30 am »
While I do see your point, I personally think that there are many more urgent priorities to deal with in the world around us.

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I think that when we solve the urgent priorities, automatically the symbols will clear!  :)

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2019, 10:28:31 am »
I think that when we solve the urgent priorities, automatically the symbols will clear!  :)
I hope you're right!

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arete

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Re: Symbolism gone wrong
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2019, 10:31:55 am »
I wouldn't dream of wearing it in public or displaying it outside my home
You should try to walk wearing a pentagram/reverse cross in public here in Greece... Evil people seems like they cursed foreign to them symbols and now we pay the price.

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