Sunday, March 04, 2007

On The Bastardization Of Language

I can actually think of no better day within the Jewish Year to post this. Actually some things are just not coincidence, I guess. Some things are fate.

It is Purim today in most of the Jewish world except for Jerusalem and Safed. These cities celebrate "Shushan Purim" which takes place tonight and tomorrow. Among other things Purim is a holiday which celebrates the event that the plans of Haman to destroy and kill all Jews did not come to fruition.

So for the moment let us talk about a recent modern day Haman and his ilk. Little difference between the two except for the fact that the Swastika bearers almost succeeded in their plans. Let us talk about something that it seems those who would protect and defend the right of the swastika bearers practice with great cynical ease.

Let us talk about Language, symbols and the various constructs within. About how opinions are formulated and stated and how one can, with no understanding or historical vision, pervert words and symbols.

One of the most prevalent and indeed most explored venues of the Nazi "Final Solution" is their use of language. For the "Final Solution of the Jewish Problem" was not a haphazard gang-bang upon innocents. It was not a voice here and there screaming that Jews must be destroyed. It was rather a concentrated and well-thought out attempt within all the facets that would lead to the end of Jewry and actually Humanity as it was viewed until the Swastika rose up in its hatred.

The Nazis were if anything, experts at words. They not only wanted to destroy they wanted to rob their victims of any sense of knowledge that they were going to be destroyed. Thus they created a whole new lexicon of meanings to mundane words. A whole new world where objects no longer held meaning in their traditional sense.

For instance: A "shower" was no longer a "water shower". When women and children and the elderly were led off to be gassed (leaving only those who could be used as slave labor until they died behind) they were told they were "going to the showers" to be de-liced. A shower in a concentration camp did not have any cleansing connotations.

"Work Brings Freedom" ("Arbeit Macht Frei") the sign still hanging at Auschwitz and Buchenwald and others. Yes it meant freedom from living. For the only end was death.

"Preferential Treatment" - meant that you were going on a list to be deported to a concentration camp imminently. But you were told you would be going to a labor camp. By the way, when Jews emerged from the cattle cars they were transported in, and yet another great word the "selection" word began, there was often an orchestra and even sometimes a table with candies to greet them.

Oh the list of language bastardization is endless. The Nazis were expert at it. It further kept the "cattle" subdued and meek and ready for the slaughter. They not only robbed words of their "normative" meaning they robbed their victims of the knowledge of what was going to be done to them. That is simply not going to happen again. Not in my world. You will not rob others of a real understanding of what exactly did happen or what is truly going on.

And all this was represented by the Swastika, carried out by the SS, and certainly helped along by the infamous Einstatzgruppen.

From the day our modern Haman, and his nation of Swastika bearers emerged upon the parchment of Human history, the world was not changed for just 20 years. It was profoundly and completely changed forever. Words and symbols no longer were simply innocent terms any longer. The Nazis taught us that communication is indeed a "double edged sword" of very lethal capabilities.

And so it is with an eye on such history that I can only view the rise of this bastardization of language once again. Einstatzgruppen emerge telling us that the Swastika is a symbol of peace and love. "Let us purify the symbol" these people say. As a member of Absolute Write wrote me in an email said:
They live in a hell of their own making. Can you imagine living inside a head that thinks that way? Makes my skin crawl.
There are some things that no matter how much purifying water is poured over them, no matter how much they are held to the light, no matter how many times they are thrown to the fire of purity to regain some lost meaning - they remain evil and sinister and horrible. They drip with blood of the innocents and will never, not in an eternity of screams of people being gassed in "showers" - they will never ever - not for a moment - be seen again except as symbols of evil and pure hate.

Such is the swastika. For no matter what this symbol was taken from, no matter how it was perverted, no matter how much you want it to be "returned" - some things once so turned and twisted - as the swastika was - can never be untwisted.

It was a particularly educational experience watching those who pride themselves on language use, watching those who supposedly are considered "educated", curse, vilify, lie and become in essence - the Storm Troopers - the Einstatzgruppen - defending their notions of right and wrong by such actions.

And thus the following comment left in the previous post, The Banality Of Evil, becomes so dangerous. I quote segments of it simply because I just do not have the time to deal with all its banal evil nor lies. (Bold and Italics are mine.)
The swastika has been around for thousands of years. That's a certainty, too. The shame of it is, is that the Nazis latched onto it. However, that doesn't mean that the Buddhists, Navajos and others who've used it prior to them should quit using it. That makes no sense whatsoever. It belongs to them.
Buddhists, if you bother reading and studying and speaking to them, do not EVER, let me repeat this, do not EVER, show the symbol in public unless it is among themselves in their own places of worship. The farthest thing from the mind of a modern Buddhist, a true real Buddhist would be to place that symbol upon a public forum board knowing that others would see it and react to it with negative connotations. Real Buddhists are well aware what the Nazis did to their symbol. They are well aware that once the Nazis did it - for eternity and then some - that symbol will be associated in the minds of many with pure evil. A Buddhist does NOT go around prancing and dancing the symbol around. (I would actually venture a guess here, that I know many more Buddhists, true practicing Buddhists than 99% of the people who are commenting here. And I have yet to hear one say that what was done on this forum that is being extolled here, is within the "spirit and symbolization" of Buddhism.)

If one wants to proclaim one's new found Buddhism, then one studies and learns. One does everything NOT to seek attention.

But that is not the point is it? The point is that symbol was placed on a forum board by an attention grabbing person and then adopted by another child. They are both Buddhists now? Suddenly we have a Buddhist revolution by children in AW?

"They live in a hell of their own making. Can you imagine living inside a head that thinks that way? Makes my skin crawl. And now here is a shame. The Nazis latched on to it. Such a shame. Poor symbol. And they murdered, gassed and otherwise killed 18 million people under the guise of such a symbol. That is a shame. Tsk! Tsk! Such a shame. It is a shame that when survivors see this symbol, right-side up or upside down, they just get all hot under the collar because they remember whole families murdered by Swastika bearers. Such a shame. I mean they should get over their sensitivities, don't you think? Forgive and forget.
This issue affects me, personally, on several levels. My grandfather was Jewish--my father's dad. He married a Catholic woman and they raised both their sons, Catholic. Therefore, I'm, Irish, German and Jewish. My uncle's daughter and husband are both practicing Buddhists. A dear friend of mine is a pure-blood Navajo living on a reservation in Gallup, New Mexico. And, Mac is also a dear friend of mine.
And here we go again. I have no words for this. I do not understand truly, why people think that if they can point to some Jewish ancestor hidden deep within the annals of their family that gives them the right to defend the Swastika bearers. I just don't understand what any of the above has to do with the the FACT - that the Swastika represents every aspect of evil, every nuance of evil that modern man can devise. It is evil. Whether you are Jewish, Catholic, Navajo or Buddhist.

It effects you? Why? Do you say Kaddish over millions that were killed? Do you have a neat blue number tattooed on your arm? Do you waken in the dead of night with a silent scream in your throat from dreams of Black Booted Swastika Wearing Animals coming to arrest and kill your family? What the hell here effects you personally, besides the fact that you are defending the indefensible? What here effects your life? What here effects your childhood, your adult years your children? What Nazi do you have in your past? You seem to know so many people. Do you know any second and third generation children of Holocaust survivors? Do you know anyone personally, who lived through the Swastika? Did you grow up with the small number of people that managed to escape hell wrought on earth by the Swastika bearers? Did you ever seriously in your educated mind, (for we are uneducated) study the Holocaust? Do you take a shower today and look up at the shower head and for a moment wait for the gas to come out? Do you look at a bar of soap and wonder how much human fat is needed to make it? Just what the hell effects you here?

This is part of the Bastardization Of Language. An attempt to say how something effects you - clearly leaving out just why it is seen as the root of all evil to modern man.
So, am I not to talk to all of them since what some of them believe in offends your uneducated sensibilities? Actually, my dad and grandfather are both deceased, so that leaves them out of the equation.
Once again the name calling. I am uneducated and all of course Renee is uneducated and ignorant because our sensibilities have been attacked. We refuse to forgive, forget and let bygones be bygones. We will not allow evil to rear its ugly head without speaking up. No matter how warped it seems.

There is more to this comment to be sure. But it serves the point. It too, is within the parameters of the new language-speak. It too, simply does not face the central focal point. The writer of said comment points out family and friends. Calls names. But never once does the writer of this comment come out and say, "At least 18 million people were murdered by the swastika bearers."

Anne Frank and her diary have become symbols in the modern world for what was done to the individual by the swastika bearers. She was found hiding in a house, actually, this was not her house, but an attic, or 'Secret Annexe' as it is officially known, where Anne Frank, had hidden from the Nazis during World War Two. She kindly left us a diary of her thoughts while she hid in that attic, scared out of her mind, that any day, men who had somehow made the metamorphosis into animals would come and take her away. A couple of weeks before this 15 year old girl and those hiding with her were found and shipped off to the devil's playground, on July 15, 1944, she wrote in her diary:
"It's utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more."
They found Anne Frank one day, the Nazis did, and they took her away to die in a concentration camp. That was her last time. I wonder if she woke up that last day knowing somehow, even for a fleeting second, that this was her last day in the attic?

When the world decided to return to some semblance of sanity, Anne Frank became famous. Posthumously, of course. Anne Frank's wish written in her diary on April 6, 1944:
"I want to go on living even after my death."
Here is an interesting historical footnote for you. Karl Silberbauer was caught in 1963 as the Gestapo sergeant who found and arrested Anne Frank and those with her in the Attic, on August 4, 1944. Know what his defense was, which on the by-and-by got him acquitted? "I was just following orders." Guess what dear old Karl was doing at the time of his arrest? He was a police inspector. Know why? Because it was easier to forget the evil than to deal with it.

Then in January, 1966, the Nazi police chief in the Netherlands, S.S. lieutenant general Wilhelm Harster was arrested in Munich. (It took that long to find him?) He was directly responsible for the deportation of 100,000 Dutch Jews to Auschwitz, including Anne Frank. He and two others were tried, and at their trial former S.S. Major, Wilhelm Zopf, testified that the person who betrayed the eight people who lived together (if 'living' is what you could call spending two years hiding from your fellow man) in the Secret Annexe, received five gulden a head as payment for his wondrous information. That is about $1.40 for each person. Imagine that. A grand total of $11.20! Must have been his lucky day!

And yes, Anne Frank was granted her wish. She still lives in our hearts along with six million others. And no, we will not forgive. We will not forget. We will not be silent. We, the uneducated, will not allow language and symbols to be changed and purified. We will not allow ignorance and silence to be used as an excuse ever again. We will not allow ourselves to be sold for $1.40 so that someone else can feel good about the purity of their symbols while using that symbol in a matter that would be offensive to even the religion he claims to belong to. A true Buddhist would shrink from this. This symbol was used, and then "defended" by sick minds who for some reason believe that the tactics of the Einstatzgruppen can be repeated. Not for one $1.40 and not for $140 Million will the uneducated keep silent in the face of such warped thinking.

Amalek and the Haman's of this world, the swastika bearers and protectors, breed their filth and death calls on our silence.
"And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more."
Cruelty will end only when we do not allow ourselves to forget. Peace & tranquility can come when we face reality and face the evil that was allowed to propagate and run rampant upon human kind.

We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will not be silent. In the name of Anne Frank and six million plus like her, we will not be silent.

Silence is just not an option here. Period.

Posts In This Series:
  1. Depravity, Disgust and Stupidity - Passing Ignorance Around Like A Venereal Disease.
  2. Never Again
  3. Doctrine Of The Lie
  4. The Banality Of Evil
  5. On The Bastardization Of Language
  6. Who Let The Dogs Out?
  7. The Day Hitler Became A "Funky Dude"

Posted On: Cobwebs Of The Mind


zentao said...

Hear here.

Anonymous said...

Dear Teddy,
I am not one to "blog" much but I have been following this discussion-if it can be called that since that usually entails 2 or more parties listening and responding, which is not what is happening here-and to put it mildly, it's gotten me upset.

I am a Jewish women, who made aliyah 10 years ago. I am a licensed Israeli tour guide, which means that among other things, I visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial complex ALOT with tourists. That means that I have to get into this very difficult "headspace" of relating the immensity of the Shoah (I prefer this term to "Holocaust" since holocuast has connotations of sacrifice and I really don't think that any of those killed by the Nazi War machine were sacrifices "up to" anyone or "on behalf" of anything.)

The immensity of the Shoah-how do you begin to deal with the sheer number of victims? with the ability of the most advanced society of the time to turn into something so evil in such a small amount of time? with the relative ease the "bystanders" let the Nazis perpetuate their crimes? Can we really say that there were bystanders? I also don't believe that there are 3 categories of people: perpetrators, victims and bystanders. Because by "standing by" and letting evil run rampant, you become one of the perpetrators. You see, you must choose sides-you can't just stand by.

This is why this whole discussion irks me so. Those willing to defend the use of the swastika symbol are the epitome of the "bystander" attitude. There is a quote in the Yad Vashem Museum: A country is not just what it does—it is also what it tolerates…--Kurt Tucholsky I just hope that these self-named defenders of peace and freedom who are so quick to point out that the swastika is NOT an offensive term and who wish to rally together in order to reclaim the true meaning of that symbol would have shown the same concern as the Nuremberg laws were rolled out in Germany in the 1930s. I hope that they would not have been bystanders as the Nazis unfolded their plan for the "final solution". I hope that they would have tried to hide their Jewish neighbors and friends; or to protest against the Nazis (who by the way were elected to office democratically); or would have refused to rat on their Jewish colleagues to the Gestapo.

Unfortunately, history has taught us the harsh lesson: it is much easier to be a bystander and blame evil on others than to take action and try to stop it. As one enters the Yad Vashem complex, there is a tree-lined avenue. It is called the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations and there are trees planted to honor those "Righteous Gentiles" (currently 21,758 have been identified) who saved at least one Jewish life for no monetary reward and at personal risk. I tip my hat to these 21,758 people. However, part of me can't help but ask: Why is this just a tree-lined path and a garden? Why isn't this an entire forest, with trees too numerous to count? See, if it there had been a forest of Righteous Gentiles, of people who were NOT bystanders to the Nazis, then there would have been no need for Yad Vashem at all. If all of Europe had risen up against the Nazis, there would have been no Shoah and this entire discussion about the symbolism of the swastika would have been moot.

BUT, that didn't happen! There was a Shoah! And that symbol was appropriated by the Nazis! And so, that symbol will for now on be associated with Hitler, the Reich, the gas chambers, the reduction of an entire people to unhuman vermin with numbers instead of names.

Two comments in particular made my hair stand up on my neck. I will quote them here: What a maroon.

The Teddys of the world have allowed a few decades of hate to totally obliterate a symbol that for thousands of years meant peace, luck, and power over dark forces.

I won't even go into the whole "maroon" for "moron" bit. People make typos. But the glibness of the comment is just so upsetting. The flippant reference to a "few decades of hate" is so disturbing on many levels. First of all, the Shoah was THE LARGEST genocide seen in human history. Jews do not have a monopoly on suffering but there has not been a single event as destructive and deliberate as the Nazi doctrine of the Final Solution. Secondly, the anti-Semitism that permitted the Shoah to happen was not only a few decades in the making but traces back to centuries of Christian anti-Semitism in Europe. Lastly, this person seems to have no concept as to how symbols work. Which brings me to the other offensive comment: Simply put, it's a different perspective. The issue here is that the symbol itself is not the problem. It's the reaction.

Yet, another person who doesn't undestand how symbols work and where their power resides. Symbols are effective communicators precisely because of the emotion/thoughts/feelings/gut reaction/whatever that are elicited by the perceiver. The reaction is what is critical to a symbol. Otherwise it wouldn't be a symbol, just an icon or picture or some doodle. It only becomes something of meaning when the person seeing it associates it with a deeper meaning.

Unfortunately, the Nazis warped the original meaning of the swastika. I say "original" and not "true" since the meaning now of the swastika is NOT peace and hope but everything bad and evil the Nazis represented. Sorry folks, but that's the reality. The symbolic meaning of the swastika HAS been changed and to try to rationalize that away is fruitless...and offensive.

zentao said...

Thank you, Anon-.

Ted W. Gross said...

Anon happens to be one, Kayla Ship, a graduate of Dartmouth with a degree in Divinity from Harvard.

Lest she too be called uneducated.


(She simply forgot to sign it.)

zentao said...

According to them who thus perceive themselves to be the epitome of heightened intellect, regardless our degrees, we are and will be seen as Pimple-headed Dunderbrains. Be we all to them the undereducated masses unless, of course, we solemnly forswear our predilection for just prudence.

Robert Toy said...

AW seems hell bent on calling Ted’s original post on the subject a knee-jerk reaction, and numerous other charming names.

Being a simple person, I am going to try and draw an analogy, so this will be a bit wordy.

Step back, take a deep breath, close your eyes and remember September 11, 2001. Now think of the faces of those who committed those acts of terrorism – Arabs, dark skinned, Middle Eastern looking Arabs.

Now, count the times that Americans have ejected dark skinned, Middle Eastern looking people from U.S. aircraft for fear of what “they” symbolized. Those ejected ranged from an Arab American Secret Service Agent (Presidential Detail); people speaking Arabic on/before boarding; someone wearing a tee-shirt with English and Arabic writing (“We will not be silent”) and the list goes on and on.

These incidents were true knee-jerk reactions to the “symbol” of terrorist, dark skinned, Arab looking people. The U.S. implemented the Patriot Act, which in part singles out and permits racial profiling.

Okay, now the majority will simply say, it’s just racism and a bunch of idiots that work for the government, airline companies, etc.

It has been roughly five and a half years ago that the attacks took place. Imagine, in this same time frame six thousand more 9/11 attacks took place, that my friends is roughly the scale of horrors that took place under the symbol you are trying to defend.

Now go on to AW and read the past posts, reactions and comments related to the above analogy. I remember a number of posters who clearly stated they would not fly on an aircraft with Arab speaking/looking men (symbol).

AW would defend a white supremacist right to wear a swastika on a tee shirt boarding your flight, but if he was an Arab speaking/looking man, you want his ass off your flight.

AW, you are trying to unring a bell, the Buddhist/Hindu/Navaho, etc. symbol of peace has, and will forever be tarnished.

How soon we forget.

CyberCobre said...

Well said.

Paula's Poetry said...

For we know not where evil hides
Only by speaking out and defending human rights to live in peace can we truly unearth and defend against it.

Proactive instead of reactive.

Anonymous said...

This is Kayla here. Slight correction to my degree from Harvard-I have a Masters in Theological Studies from the Divinity School ( a 2 year degree) not a MDiv (a 3 year degree) lest those on AW think that Teddy and I are trying to inflate my education and pull a fast one on the readers.

alternatefish said...

>>some things once so turned and twisted - as the swastika was - can never be untwisted<<

I honestly don't see why we would want such a thing to be untwisted. Returning the swastika to its original peaceful meaning--removing the connotation of hate and murder--is the first step in removing the history of hate and murder.

The Nazis branded themselves forever with this symbol, claiming it for evil. If we forget the symbols of evil we will eventually forget the evil. That cannot be allowed to happen.