I remember the first time I saw a Swastika in India. It was gaudy red, painted on the back of a dusty yellow moped. The driver wore a helmet, but the woman riding pillion had only her sari to protect her head.
India is different. The rules of the road are different. The languages are different. The colours, spices, and clichés are different. Over there, the स्वस्तिक is a symbol of auspicious fortune.
In England, however, when carved crudely into a wall, it has a different meaning. Be afraid.
As I sat on the loo at work today, that’s what I saw. A Swastika, scratched into the wall. An incongruous and upsetting scar on an otherwise inclusive workplace.
My office is a beautifully diverse representation of modern UK. I regularly work with Eastern Europeans, Iranians, the odd Kiwi, the children of immigrants, and people with visible and non-visible disabilities. My boss – and her boss – are women. On Monday we had a lunchtime presentation by a transwoman staff-member who talked about how Star Wars helped her overcome personal and professional difficulties.
It’s the sort of workplace that UKIP hate. We all get along, we all eat together, play pool together, and occasionally do some work together. I can’t swear that it’s paradise on Earth, but it’s far from the homogenising cry of “Culture Fit” (read – young white guys who like the same stuff we do).
Yet someone – some dummkopf – is seething with impotent rage. His only outlet is a coward’s ritualised scarring. A racist graffito designed to… to what?
Act as a rallying point? (Groups of men meeting in a toilet isn’t exactly in keeping with Paragraph 175…)
Demonstrate strength? (Ah, Kraft durch Reizung.)
Frighten and intimidate? Perhaps. But who? And why?
This has happened before. I don’t mean in a figurative history-always-repeats sense. I mean literally. A few months ago, in the self-same toilet, I spotted a Swastika. My employers were quick to have the wall repaired and the symbol obliterated.
But, like a turd that just won’t flush away, it’s bobbed back to the surface.
Someone – presumably the same fascist sympathiser – has carved it into the same wall, larger (and a touch more artistically) than it was before.
Up until this point I had harboured a naïve notion that the original was carved by one of the many Asian expatriates in the office. But seeing a larger version, rotated 45° and encased in a circle, disabuses me of that comfort. I think it is obvious what that represents.
Again, my employer’s response has been impeccable. They’re removing it post-haste, and have offered me their sympathies. Ultimately, though, it’s impossible to catch the culprit – short of placing cameras in toilets and hoping he’s unimaginative enough to strike again.
So, what are we left with? In an office of several thousand people, at least one person finds the tyranny of having to work with Jews, homosexuals, trade-unionists, Catholics, people with disabilities, Gypsies, Slavs, and Jehovah’s Witnesses – just far too much to bear. A diverse and successful working environment frightens their divisive and inadequate political opinions.
I pity them. While we’re all having fun and celebrating the wide range of human experience – they are angrily engraving their mystic runes into the cave wall, hoping to ward off the last 60 years of progress.
If you are interested in the technical reasons why symbols like ࿗ are in Unicode, I can highly recommend Bablestone’s When is a Swastika not a Swastika? and Elizabeth Pyatt’s How the Swastika Got into Unicode.