Recently in Britain, occurrences of racism have been videoed and uploaded to the internet in the post referendum racism that has gripped our nation. A lot of people are scared, and with good reason too. Far right, white supremacists have used the Brexit vote to enable their behaviour. They were dicks before the vote, but with the vote in their favour, they feel untouchable. Like they’re “taking their country back” as Trump, or even the recently resigned Nigel Farage would say.
Their notable fashion sense usually hails from 80s skinhead culture. Jeans, braces, Doc Marten boots and bald heads. Though there’s also sects of far right activists who also embrace neo-nazism. Adopting nazi ideas, symbols and even chants in an attempt to intimidate other people. Most recently we’ve seen this behaviour in Dover, as a group of far right activists shouted “SIEG HEIL” amidst clashes with anti-fascist groups.
As with my post about the word nigger, this post is again about the idea of power and where it comes from. In this case we can see exactly where the power is coming from, its coming from the fear and intimidation we all still feel surrounding the nazis, and world war II. Which is understandable, it was super recent, the nazis were super scary and are even often used as the big bad in lots of forms of media to this very day. Video games, television shows, and movies all use the nazis as the idea of the ultimate evil; so its understandable why we as a collective tend to get so offended when we see or hear nazi-like sentiments being proclaimed.
This is partly due to the idea of recency in psychology. This idea states that the more recent an event or set of events have taken place, the more likely you are to be aware and cautious of that event happening again. Take the rising occurrences of Islamic terrorism, we all know they’re happening, and we see them happening too on our media. It seems like ever since 2001 we’ve had problems with Islamic terrorism almost every year. So when we’re looking to book a holiday or go abroad, we see the cheap deals for flights to Tunisia and we’re like… maybe not. There was recently a really bad terrorism event there, maybe I should avoid that.
Rightly so too, that’s our survival instinct trying to keep us alive by using recency to avoid putting us in harms way. It’s part of how we make decisions. Whereas Islamic terrorism is the most recent event to occur, the sheer amount of importance placed on the nazis and their ‘evil’ has left us all mentally scarred to some extent. We can’t look at a swastika without those feelings of fear, intimidation, panic etc setting back in, it’s why it offends us. It brings up the past and tries to paint something truly horrible in a light that is far more positive and coated in admiration than its ever been presented to us before. Our offence here isn’t real, it’s us just rejecting that idea due to our knowledge of recent events.
That’s the power in a swastika, but what if we could change it? What if we could make it mean something else instead? Well…. you might already know that swastikas were never invented by the nazis, they were symbols, often religious symbols, that meant things such as fortune, or well being. There’s a long history of swastikas that stretches back roughly 5000 years before the nazis ever existed.
We have to stop allowing this symbol to empower racism, and to do that, we have to stop fearing this symbol. Allow its use, allow its meaning to develop and change once again, this time back to its original more humble roots, remove the power from the nazis and neo-nazis of today and give it back to everyone. By forbidding the symbol and allowing ourselves to become emotional and offended at it, we accidentally place that power in the hands of people who want to use it for fear and intimidation. We need to control ourselves. Not be intimidated by a 5,000 year old symbol that has been co-opted into evil.