Symbols

Symbols are pretty powerful. That’s why brands have, or at least try to have, an instantly recognisable logo. That is preferably associated with positive messages. There are brands I like. When I see the Amazon logo I think ‘trustworthy, value’. When I see the H of Honda I think ‘reliable, precision engineering’. When I see Clarks logo I think ‘comfortable, hard wearing, mature’.

There are brands I don’t like, or have reservations about. To me, Apple means ‘control freak, extortionate’. Archos reeks of ‘cheap, nasty’. It wasn’t always so with Archos. Brand messages change. BP wasn’t always ‘pollution, oil slick, Gulf of Mexico’. It is now.

There’s one logo which is particularly powerful. It elicits particularly strong messages. Genocide and fascism being top of the list. But it still has some ‘positive’ feeling. Efficiency and unity. They are pretty overwhelmed by the former though. But context is everything. I was quite surprised to see Hitler dolls and memorabilia at several markets in Mexico City.

But the war doesn’t have the same meaning to Mexicans as it does to Europeans and their northern cousins. It’s just local context. Likewise, the Hammer and Sickle have become popular additions to fashion. The horrors of communism aren’t the same for everyone. But then, the logo isn’t worn as a show of support for communism, usually.  The British flag, the Union Flag is most definitely a brand. See the logo on this page to your right.

The Union Flag isn’t a positive symbol for everyone. For millions around the world, the Union Flag is their Swaztika. It’s understandable, as the British Empire claimed, potentially, as many victims as the Nazis and Soviets combined. To a lesser extent, the Stars and Stripes is not a positive image. Just goes to show, you can’t please all the people, all the time.

The images below come from my recent trip to the Military museum in the Dorchester Keep. It’s a fascinating trip through history, culminating with a fine view from the top of the building. Well, it would have been a fine view if it hadn’t been chucking it down. The prize exhibit, amongst the many model soldiers, medals and memorabilia, was Hitler’s desk.

It was taken from the Berlin chancellery at the end of the war. It still had some of his stationery in it. He’d spent many a morning and afternoon sat at that desk, doing his thing. I touched the desk. Stuck my grubby mitts around the protective glass and gave it a good rub. Just trying to get a feel for the history. To get some context. I can’t buy from Adolf, and his products only come second hand these days. But I can touch and imagine.

My photos are on Flickr here, and Google here.

9 thoughts on “Symbols

    1. I’m just a touchy feely type of person! To think….me and Adolf now have a physical link! I’m not sure how to feel about that. I don’t feel particularly touched, though.

      It’s tough to provide context to things which no longer exist. I guess that’s why heritage organisations spend so much time and effort keeping things going.

      I’m not so departed from WW2 really. My grandparents were both in the thick of. He in the army. She left this mortal coil a few years back with a piece of shrapnel from a German bomb still buried next to her spine.

      Had time clicked back into reverse from the moment of my birth in ’72, the year would now be 1933, and Adolf only just getting himself secure in power. I’ve watched every episode of The World At War, too. A couple of times each episode.

      And yet, it’s already distant history, from another time, another world and even, dare I say it, another reality.

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  1. I would dearly love to understand the Mexicans’ fascination with Hitler. I am always amazed to see (not infrequently, as you know) translations of Mein Kampf into Spanish for sale in book stalls, swastika-emblazoned t-shirts, and other Nazi memorabilia casually worn or carried around DF. I’m virtually at the point of flagging down random Jews I see there to get their take on it.

    Dying of curiosity.

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where you NEVER see Nazi imagery outside of a museum.

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    1. I don’t think Hitler is much different from Ming the Merciless, the Joker, Lex Luthor or any other bad guy for most Mexicans.

      Have you ever noticed that the Jews aren’t massively liked in Mexico City? Or so it seems to me. I am not entirely sure why. It would be interesting to get their take on Hitler and life in Mexico City. There is a Jewish woman who does a Jewish tour of DF. I’ll have to look her up some day.

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      1. I guess I don’t get out enough….

        Hadn’t heard about the Jewish tour of DF, but I’ll have to find out more. Do you know if it’s in Spanish or English?

        Saludos,

        Kim G
        Boston, Ma
        Where, suddenly, we wonder if it’s possible to get tours of here in Spanish.

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  2. I react to Che Guevara t-shirts in about the same way. I just assume that the wear’s Hitler shirt was in the wash.

    I am not much of a symbol guy. Probably has to do with all that post-modernism swirling around in my mind.

    I just returned from China where symbolism is the essence of culture. Living there would make me more than a little uncomfortable. But not merely for that reason.

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    1. I’m not sure I’d ever compare Che and Hitler, or even mention them in the same breath. And I wouldn’t assume anything negative about someone wearing a piece of clothing with Che emblazoned on it. If you argued that the air of mysticism, romance and adventure associated with Che is a false myth, I probably wouldn’t argue with you.

      But that doesn’t mean his image means the same thing to the wearer (or his contemporaries) as it does to you. I don’t think it entirely means the person has swallowed the myth either.

      Have you ever owned anything with an Aztec symbol on it? What were those guys like?! There’s plenty of iconography within the US that’s pretty controversial at times too.

      For me, the swastika stands alone as a uniquely despicable and unredeemable symbol.

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