Can the swastika ever be redeemed?

Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2014 07:48 am
Interesting article on the BBC website.

20th Century fad: Fruit packaging, a Coca-Cola pendant, and a pack of cards, all from the US

In the Western world the swastika is synonymous with fascism, but it goes back thousands of years and has been used as a symbol of good fortune in almost every culture in the world. As more evidence emerges of its long pre-Nazi history in Europe, can this ancient sign ever shake off its evil associations?

In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, swastika means "well-being". The symbol has been used by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains for millennia and is commonly assumed to be an Indian sign.

Early Western travellers to Asia were inspired by its positive and ancient associations and started using it back home. By the beginning of the 20th Century there was a huge fad for the swastika as a benign good luck symbol.

In his book The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption? US graphic design writer Steven Heller shows how it was enthusiastically adopted in the West as an architectural motif, on advertising and product design.

"Coca-Cola used it. Carlsberg used it on their beer bottles. The Boy Scouts adopted it and the Girls' Club of America called their magazine Swastika. They would even send out swastika badges to their young readers as a prize for selling copies of the magazine," he says.

It was used by American military units during World War One and it could be seen on RAF planes as late as 1939. Most of these benign uses came to a halt in the 1930s as the Nazis rose to power in Germany.

The Nazi use of the swastika stems from the work of 19th Century German scholars translating old Indian texts, who noticed similarities between their own language and Sanskrit. They concluded that Indians and Germans must have had a shared ancestry and imagined a race of white god-like warriors they called Aryans.

The full article is much longer.


Personally I can't see it happening, I remember the band Kula Shaker being shunned when they tried to do exactly that.

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Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2014 07:52 am
No, I think it is dead forever as a benign symbol. It is much like the Confederate battle flag in the US. Once it was co-opted as a symbol of virulent racism, it is hard to go back to a historical symbol of the Confederacy.
Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2014 08:03 am
I agree. Dead and buried.

I read recently that a fashion house (Melon?) were lambasted for making a polka dot style pattern made up of SS lightning bolts.

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Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2014 08:18 am
Although I do think that the coca cola swastika seems very relevant today.
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Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2014 09:47 am
There are a number of traditional Scandinavian knitting patterns that use the symbol. So far I haven't used them, but I'm always tempted as it is a lovely design.

It's also found on some beautiful old fabrics from the Indian sub-continent. To buy or not to buy.?
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