Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.


Posted by Michael Dickens on May 15, 2009

Apparently, some people find it offensive when I draw a shape that resembles a swastika. Why is that? The swastika is merely a symbol that happened to be used by Adolf Hitler, and many people happen to not like Adolf Hitler. If I draw a swastika:

1. I am not saying that I am a Nazi or that I endorse killing Jews. I just drew a symbol.
2. Even if I did, I have a right to have my own opinion. You have no right to stifle my free speech because you personally disagree with me.
3. It is just a symbol. Symbols do not hurt people. And sure, it’s what the symbol “represents”. But it only represents something if you want it to. I drew a shape resembling a swastika because I think it looks cool, and I was bored. I was not representing anything by it.
4. The “cross” (Christianity) is responsible for far more unjustified deaths than the “swastika” (Nazi Germany), and yet no one is offended by that. And I don’t see people going around with swastikas on their necks.

I just had to get in that point about Christianity. XP


3 Responses to “Swastikas”

  1. Bill said

    Both the cross and the swastika are ancient symbols that were co-opted by Christianity and Nazism respectively. Symbols don’t have any inherent meaning but rather people assign meaning to symbols.

    An example is the Confederate flag. I attended a high school in Texas during the 1970s that proudly flew the Confederate flag at football games and such. To me at that time, it was a symbol of independence–I liked the idea of being a rebel. It wasn’t until I grew up a little that I realized that to another group of people it was a symbol of slavery and oppression. With this knowledge and out of respect for others I would never support flying the Confederate flag now but I’m still aware that it can have different meanings for different people.

    So while I don’t believe there’s any right or wrong to using any particular symbol, it is good to be aware of how it affects others.

  2. Hi, MTGAP, i think sign doesn’t matter and it is probably thought which matter. And i think swastika is ancient holy symbol of India used in many rituals. Thanks

  3. Phynnboi said

    We use symbols to communicate with each other. Communication using symbols only works well when all parties have a similar understanding of the meanings of those symbols.

    Lacking any other context, randomly drawing swastikas on things is generally understood as an expression of support for the Nazi party–particularly their antisemitic ideals–which many people find quite distasteful. If you mean something else by that drawing, how are they to know? They can’t read your mind!

    It’s like if you decide that flipping someone the bird means, “Would you care to join me for a spot of tea?” If you walk up to a random stranger and flip them the bird with the intention of inviting them to tea, they’re still going to take it as an insult, because that’s the way the gesture is generally used.

    Here are answers to your points:

    1. As above, random strangers can’t read your mind, so they’re going to assume the generally accepted meaning of the symbol.

    2. Surely if you have the right to bring something into the world (draw a swastika), others have the right to feel offended by it!

    3. As #1. It’s also worth asking whether you’d have drawn the swastika–whether it’d have been so capable of relieving your boredom–had the symbol no shock value.

    4. The Christian cross is generally accepted as a symbol of salvation. People don’t generally use the cross as a symbol of sympathy for the atrocities committed in the name of Christ.

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