teisipäev, juuni 24, 2008

i disagree

The recent decision by the parliament of Lithuania to ban both Soviet and Nazi symbols, as well as national anthems, is, in my mind, a mistake.

It is not a mistake of "blasphemous" proportions, as the policy shapers in the Kremlin will tell you. That they are so uncomfortable with unauthorized history telling is their own national pathology. I have chosen to put them on ignore.

But it is a mistake because I believe that the prohibition of these symbols only makes them more sexy; by turning them into contraband, you reinvigorate the desire for access. By banning something, you only make it more powerful.

And do not look West for inspiration, because we have not handled the legacy of the Second World War well either. For reasons unknown, we use it as some sort of moral compass. All political decisions can be fed through the Neville-Chamberlain-in-Munich-o-meter for the detection of various strains of appeasement. The words "Versailles" and "Sudetenland" may not mean anything to the average person, but they know the Austrian with the funny mustache when they see him.

If you take a few steps back, you can see that we are all really quite mad. We treat both of these regimes, Nazi and Soviet, as if they were not our own, as if we were not related to them, the same way that we may not wish to be related to a certain odious relative. But the fact is that we are related to that relative, and you can no more sever your genetic fabric than you can sever your connection to history. You can cut your relative out of photos, but that doesn't mean he wasn't there. You can ban symbols or music, but that doesn't mean that they don't exist.

And why do you ban music and symbols? Thanks to my exposure to these symbols and music, I have actually come to see the cultural legacy of both regimes as terrifically antiquated and reliant on outdated forms of media. I mean, the Soviet and Nazi cultural legacy comes down to bold poster art and creaking film strips of parades. There are some people who live vicariously through such art forms, but to most people, the only thing that could make them interesting is that you are not supposed to be looking at them; in the same way that a person views the wall that separates them from the X-rated section of a video store, a person can view the legal trip wire that might be set off should he drive around town in Vilnius blasting the Soviet national anthem.

But he probably wouldn't drive around town doing that, anyway. Why? Because he knows some big Lithuanian dudes nearby named Daumantis and Algirdas might decide to take the law into their own hands. And so social mores prevent our hypothetical Soviet propagandist from performing his musicology experiment. No laws are necessary.

Why do lawmakers consistently waste their time delving into this stuff? It's not just in the Baltic rim countries; all over the world parliaments churn out ceremonious gobbledygook that barely impacts the lives of average people. And it creates distance between the representatives and their constituents, because, believe me, the first thing on the people's agenda in Estonia, for instance, might be increasing worker productivity and lowering inflation. Banning symbols and music is something you might do after happy hour at Stenbock House.

Or maybe I am wrong and this is all ok with you. What do you think?

19 kommentaari:

Kristopher ütles ...

The music for the Soviet national anthem is, unfortunately, very stirring and powerful. I found myself humming it one morning without realizing what it was.

Since it's also the tune for the current Russian national anthem, I wonder what happens if a Russian athlete wins an event at a track and field competition held in Vilnius?

And do Russian fans who inadvertently sing the old words get arrested?

I agree: no good can come out of this. It will tend to hurt artists and thinkers and benefit demagogues. The only positive is that it puts "Soviet" and "Nazi" on the same footing, so in that sense it is more complete than the anti-Nazi laws in Central and Western European countries.

klx ütles ...

i wonder if it's a catholic thing, though. don't catholics love to ban things in general?

Ain Kendra ütles ...

I see that both forces have to be equal. If the swastica is banned, then is logical also to ban soviet symbols.
If in some countries there is special treatment to holocaust, then there has to be parallel action.

Giustino ütles ...

i wonder if it's a catholic thing, though. don't catholics love to ban things in general?

Soviet national anthem? Check. Sinead O'Connor albums? Check. Da Vinci Code? Check.

I see that both forces have to be equal. If the swastica is banned, then is logical also to ban soviet symbols.

But why is it banned? I mean, we all know what it looks like, so, the cat is sort of out of the bag.

The only rationale I see, is that it gives law enforcement agencies new ways in which to crack down on purposefully-bald totalitarian goons, of any persuasion.

Anonüümne ütles ...

I think this is a bit more complicated than a simple
freedom of speech issue.
In the united states we are allowed to wear soviet star pins ( very fashionable) and buy nazi paraphenelia ( frowned upon strongly). But the basic thing about these symbols is that they are exotic and the stuff that happened related to these symbols took place far away.They are like props from a movie. Someone wears them and no one gets hurt in America. But in eastern europe people wearing these symbols actually did do bad things. And that sentiment is still there somewhere like a latent virus. Time and geography make thing innocuous. We think that the Spanish Inquistion in now a Monty Python sketch but when it was actually happening it was horrible. You can't move eastern europe ( or germany which banned Nazi stuff) geographically, but you can make the movements just seem outdated and unfashionable. Which is what this legislation tries to do.
I see it as a little like gang colors. Wearing red in Larchmont NY won't cause you any problem... wearing red in the South Bronx fifteen years ago might get you into a fight. They tried to stop gang violence by banning certain colors in schools. And yes it does get silly... and maybe the violence in human nature just finds another door, while everyone is trying to bann the color red. In the end focusing more on maintaining general human rights seems more important. Still it's complicated.

LPR ütles ...

This very banning IS what creates jobs and increases productivity. Lest we fail to see the obvious.

It may not stuff more oily schprotts into the tin cans, but it will pay for some millicent's kid's new sneakers (Made in China of course).

You do what you gotta do. Are there any more of those statues left anywhere? We could get another project going and bill some hefty overtime chasing raving rooskies again. Eh?

Bäckman ütles ...

I'm not as street-wise as Puu, but my personal experience is that I was wearing a red do-rag with the hammer and sickle in Long Beach. No one seemed to mind at first. But then I went a couple blocks away from the actual beach and I started getting a lot of crap: "Hey pinkie, you're pretty distanced from the results of your labour." Etc etc. I was more worried about being white and my Kid Rock tattoo, but all of the remarks I got were ideological.

So maybe the symbols aren't as innocuous as Puu says.

P.S. The situation is the reverse in Compton: You definitely don't want to be wearing Nazi symbols there, but commie stuff is cool.

If one place bans the symbols, they will move somewhere else.

LPR ütles ...

Sven, I am sorry for being a such nerd, but ... ahem, what is a Kid Rock tattoo?

martintg ütles ...

Banning symbols can be an effective way of nipping hate crime in the bud, according to:

Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...

State activity on historical issues has a bonus of making Russia mad.

Bäckman ütles ...

Sorry, should have clarified. The tattoo is literally a picture of the Detroit rocker's face, slightly less than life size. It is on my right bicep.

Anonüümne ütles ...

The amendments provision that flags, coats of arms, national anthems, portraits of persons responsible for repressions of Lithuanian people, as well as those of German National Socialists and leaders of Soviet Union's Communist Party, uniforms and symbols of Nazi and communist organizations, swastikas, Soviet Union's signs, the Soviet hammer and sickle and the red star will be banned in public gatherings and symbols used by political parties.

Hence, if you wish to wear T-shirts with the hammer and sickle in the public, go ahead. On the other hand, if you don’t see the similarities between Nazi swastika and the hammer and sickle… Well, have you heard a phrase ‘Never again’.

In addition, there are four Soviet statues on the Green bridge in centre of Vilnius No one is planning to remove them, even though they are getting red paint on them at almost every Soviet or Lithuanian national days. So, this is not only a Catholic thing.

Best regards,

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, for me the swastika (though of course not the Finnish one which is actually still in use...) and the hammer and sickle are identical symbols of unimaginable terror and repression. It is sickening to hear the old Soviet anthem melody still in use. But I would absolutely not forbid the use of these disgusting symbols - unless liberal democracy itself would be under immediate threat and would need such (temporary) actions for self-defence. Actually Germany an Russia are the only countries where prohibition might be defensible. It is beyond me to see those communist symbols being celebrated in Russia knowing that countless of millions of Russians themselves where slaughtered under them. Sick.

Kristopher ütles ...

There should be a law that says that the display of the hammer and sickle is only legal if accompanied by a swastika. Pensioners who want to hold up portraits of Stalin would be required to display Josif next to Hitler.

Or maybe all displays of insignia should be accompanied by a warning label -- totalitarianism kills.

Doris ütles ...

I don't really see how banning the five-pointed star has gone throgh. After all, too many countries have a star like that on their flags, USA and EU being the most obvious examples. Also, the Soviet star wasn't really red, it was golden (like the EU stars *gasp!*) on a red background...

I do see the point of banning the hammer and sickle though. the sight of those still makes me shudder.

If I could, I would aslo make people stop making, buying wearing things with CCCP on them. Unless they can tell me exactly what the acronym stands for and their reasons for displaying it. If ideological then fine, people have a right to be idiots. But if just for "coolness"... eugh. it most definitely is NOT cool. Sadly, that kind of banning goes too far to be justifiable in a democratic society though and if we were to do that then we would be just the same as those whose symbols we are banning.

On another side, one of the best message t-shirts I've seen sold here is green with a white arabic script, underneath is an English translation "I am not a terrorist, I am a tourist"

LPR ütles ...

I like that, Kristopher. Should not be that hard to push it through the legislative bodies either.

Frank ütles ...

Those who want to adorn themselves with totalitarian plumes will always find a way to do so - check out the story of the "Nordic Company":


Ain Kendra ütles ...

Easy, drop both bans - swastika and hammer-sickle. And demand that these must be used only together.
However, to remind the readers where stuff started in Tallinn - since only guests of bronze soldier were old veterans and russian just-married pairs, no problems were related. Things went sour when russian schools began touring with kids to demonstrate liberators. Meaning, that until bronze soldier wasn't used as ideological tool, there were no serious problems. So from schoolkids lessons raised reaction which in turn invited russian rebels (maybe here with assistance of russian embassy).

On lithuanian statues on bridge - from the moment you realize that russian schoolkids are taken there by classes and told the pro-soviet stories, you will have two options - take the bridge down together with statues - or just statues.

Unknown ütles ...

Giustino, what is on the shirt you are wearing on the cover of the Ragazza CD? Would you be in the clear with the Lithuanian authorities?