2005/01/17

German politicians call for Europe-wide ban on swastika

Here is an article from the EU-Observer which I find very challenging in terms of what is the *right* thing to do. I sincerely feel lost. Maybe you should read the article first below, then come back here to read what I'm pondering over, and why I'd be interested in other ppl's opinions.

[waiting for a few...]

Ok, read it? What do you think? Should Nazi symbols be banned? If so, banned from what? From being shown? Or being worn? Or being promoted in terms of a commendable symbol?

I have a really hard time coping with banning any form or expression that is not *obviously intently* promoting racial hatred. And even then, it has to come pretty close to being a physical danger to society for me to accept a ban.

Why? Not because I think some magic *principle of total freedom* actually exists. This is sheer utopia: anyone in their right mind, I'd hope would accept there is no such thing as total freedom - yours caves in if someone else decides to infringe on it. Short of accepting the law of the jungle as true freedom (which may have its merits, I guess, at least from a philosophical point of view - after all, that's how all other species live), we humans have accepted that we have to compromize somewhere.

On the other hand, this measure of banning intellectual expression, to me, spells the beginning of the end of intellectual freedom as we have known it in Europe for centuries. It's the beginning of today's US philosophy of preemptive action. Nip it in the bud because if let out of control, it just might be dangerous. Strike just in case it turns out to degenerate.

I don't want to get into a deep and meaningful metaphysical rant, I only want to zoom in on such a practical, current event as this nazi symbols issue, revived yet again because of this dimwit English spoiled kid's prank.

You know what? My reaction is this: I don't see anything wrong with this clown wearing a nazy outfit in a fancy dress party. WhyNot (LOL)? Seriously, so fuckin' what? Hey, ppl can wear costumes of Atilla, Jules Ceasar, etc, no problem, right? So what's the big deal about a Hitler uniform? Why would a Grand Spanish Inquisitor costume, or a Pol Pot one draw "ahhhhhsss" of awe in front of such ingenious creativity while a nazi one mysteriously becomes a heinous crime?

To me this is crazy. It simply equates to saying our human reasoning powers and moral values are so next to nil that we need to be told what to think in order to make a sane judgement. It implies that we - you, your wife, your neighbor, etc - are in fact so close to potentially becoming nazi criminals we can't be exposed to the sight of a nazi symbol. It might spark the dark side in you and me, the mass murderer waiting for the opportunity to come out in the open.

If so, it's a pretty sad view of what the average European is, and doesn't augur well for a society built on humanitarian values.

Ok, I don't want to bore you to tears, but just consider this dumb scenario - a kind of simplified one of the issue I'm raising:

- we'd probably all agree that documentaries about WWII are useful. They might hopefully teach us something, remind us of how horribly wrong humankind can go. Just the same, btw, as decades if not centuries of Christian Inquisition and its clones. Now, in these documentaries, we see plenty of them swastikas, right? Oh and we of course see lots worse than nazi uniforms and swastikas.

- Next, say you have a swastika stuck on your wall, and under it some title like "Never forget". That would prolly be ok with most of you ppl, right?

- Now, say you have the same thing without a comment under it. Ouch. Getting a bit tricky, no?

- Lastly, the same scenario, with a label saying "Hey, why not?". Out of line?

Why? What's out of line for thinking and even confessing the most outrageous beliefs, so long as they remain in the realm of intellectual territory?

To me it serves no useful purpose, all it does is set a climate of prohibition. We all know how well prohibition works, now, don't we, LOL? It doesn't change ppl's minds, all it does it make something that goes on legally thrive even more illegally. Surely that's not the aim of the game here. We are not seriously thinking most ppl are potential nazi fanatics, and the only way to prevent them from succumbing to their vile instincts is to threaten them with jail, are we? Surely, hopefully, our humankind is not THAT fucked that we need to threaten ppl for agreeing that mass murder is wrong.

I'm getting scared of this Bush-style rationalization and simplification of the world. With all this Axis of Evil crap and other bullshit hype about Being With Him or Against Him, the world is turning into a farcical video game of the worst taste. And it's contagious and gaining grounds even here in Europe. It's scary, much more scary than young idiots wearing silly costumes.

Anyway.... as I said... I'm confused about all this. Something seems wrong, or at least the approach to solving the dilemma with a commendable purpose seems wrong. Please tell me how I should think, for I just don't know.

Here is the EU-Observer article:
-------


German politicians have reacted
with anger to the UK prince's
outfit (Photo: Notat)



17.01.2005 - 09:56 CET | By Honor Mahony

German politicians have called for a Europe-wide ban on Nazi symbols after the UK's Prince Harry was last week pictured wearing a swastika to a fancy dress party.

The Vice-President of the liberal group in the European Parliament has called for the issue to be addressed at the next meeting of EU justice ministers.

"All of Europe has suffered in the past because of the crimes of the Nazis, therefore it would be logical for Nazi symbols to be banned all over Europe", said Silvana Koch-Mehrin.

The Vice-President of the Christian Democratic parliamentary group Wolfgang Bosback said the outfit "really lacked taste" and Michael Müller, a senior Social Democrat member of parliament, told the Guardian, "We'll ask our EU politicians to look into a ban, and we may also ask our justice minister to look into what can be done".

The General-Secretary of the opposition conservative party the CSU, Markus Söder, told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, "In a Europe of peace and liberty there can be no room for Nazi symbols".

Prince Harry was photographed wearing a nazi outfit with a swastika armband last weekend.

Last Wednesday, the Prince, who is 20 years old, issued a statement saying, "I am very sorry if I caused any offence or embarrassment to anyone. It was a poor choice of costume and I apologise".

2 Comments:

I agree with you and feel that to put a continent-wide ban on a symbol is intellectual totalitarianism and is equally innapropriate and tyranical to facism. Although I am a liberal, I oppose the nature of political correctness (which US conservatives blame on the "liberal Academy"). Extreme political correctness, of which Prince Harry's costume shenanigan was a total violation, limits speaking out against anything. When a group of people cannot speak out against another group of people, they are going to be opressed.

It is clear to me that although conservatives in America claim to be opposed to political correctness (as it prohibits them from calling blacks "niggers", homosexuals "fags" and "dikes", etc.) they are willing to use it to repress differing views. For example, according to conservatives it is wrong for Michael Moore to invoke imagery of the 2001 New York terrorist attacks in a political film, thus exercising his US freedom of speech (which political correctness limits). At the same time, they hold their national convention in New York, and every other sentence verbally and visually invoke the 2001 terrorist attack.

But this hypocracy is of course human nature. It makes absolute sense that to survive we have to squash intellectual competition. This brings me to the question that if political correctness exists solely to curb the right people have to speak their mind on all issues, it is not a liberal creation (as social libertarianism would allow for people to even speak of overthrowing the government, which is illegal here and provides a one-way ticket to Gitmo). Hmm... might have to write a separate blog entry on this.

To get back to the topic at hand, "The General-Secretary of the opposition conservative party the CSU, Markus Söder, told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, "In a Europe of peace and liberty there can be no room for Nazi symbols"."Perhaps in a Europe of peace (who really wants total peace anyway? It'd be so boring...) there is no room for Nazi symbols, but in a Europe of true liberty there is an obligation to allow those symbols to be shown.

WhyNot, you asked in your article, "Should Nazi symbols be banned? If so, banned from what? From being shown? Or being worn? Or being promoted in terms of a commendable symbol?" My response is that Nazi symbols should be banned from property which belongs to a non-Nazi government for fear of mis-representation to the rest of the world, as well as to its citizens. Of course, if the government changes its nature, then yes, it should be permitted to show Nazi symbols. Individuals and organizations representing Nazi ideals should also be allowed to use Nazi symbols (for reasons I spoke of above).
1/17/2005 11:09:00 pm  
I admit this is a hard one for me due to recent racist comments on my other blog. They called for death and mutilation of blacks and Muslims. My response was these people need to be jailed. I had a hard time seperating the thoughts from action. I'm still affected.

As for Harry I think it was a tasteless joke and done at and especially sensitive time. But, it was a joke and certainly didn't deserve the attention it got. But, because it was the Prince it did. An ordinary citizen doing this we would have heard nothing about.

You both make good points and I'm sure I agree. But, for now I'm so angry I can't look at the issue in a rational way. Maybe I will say more later.
1/18/2005 09:30:00 am  

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