Monday, January 22, 2007

Flirting with Nazism???

I don't support Nazis but it's amazing to the extent that Taiwanese misuse their symbols.

The swastika on the Nazi flag of course really resembles the Buddhist swastika (which goes in the other direction). On top of that it's on a field of red which is an auspicious color for Chinese.

In my ramblings I've found the pattern in many places that are temple related. There are even modern buildings with swastikas on them for fengshui purposes, mostly when facing or housing a temple.

But there's more to this strange obsession. Some Taiwanese admire Hitler and associate him with German products. At one point I remember one electric heater company, with a heater from Germany, advertising it with the slogan "Set fire the cold front!" and showed a cartoon picture of Hitler beside it. Needless to say the Jewish community launched a letter of complaint.

Another case was the restaurant owned by Jackie Wu called the Prison. The tables were placed in cells. You get the idea. What caused the controversy were the pictures of the people in Nazi concentration camps. Off went another letter.

I've heard some Taiwanese admire Hitler on occasion due to his ability to unite and lead the people. Coming from an authoritarian past themselves, I guess I can see some people's fond remembrance of that period. I mean, the KMT fashioned itself as a Nationalist party (even though it had more of a Soviet hierarchy and training).

One last note. Westerners often look down on this Asian flirtation with Nazi symbols, flags and uniforms but we are equally unaware of our transgressions as well back home. I have often seen the Japanese rising sun emblem on t-shirts and caps (it's a military flag with the rays of the sun representing the reaches of the Japanese empire). How offensive would Chinese find that if they were bold enough to complain about it?

We also have clothing, hats, banners, bandannas and mirrors emblazoned, not to mention tattoos, with Japanese and Chinese symbols and characters we don't really understand the full implications of.

So think about this the next time you see that swastika. It might be an innocent mistake. And maybe again it isn't...
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