: The Best Of AFP

Vampiric political thread!

Date: 31 Oct 2000
From: Orjan Westin

In reference to Orjan calling himself "brown"

Oh dear. That's a political colour that has very specific connotations for those of us with German/Austrian interests...

I know. But a symbol is only as powerful as you allow it to be. If you're realistic, you know that just because someone is wearing a brown shirt, they are not necessarily bigoted, ignorant, racist, violent, anti-Semitic, nationalistic or anything else we'd rather not see in a fellow human being. Likewise, just because someone is one, some, or even all of the above,they don't have to wear a brown shirt.

The thing about symbols, though, is that they serve as a focus, and as a statement. Followers of a movement, an ideology or a religion use symbols to express their membership to their fellows and/or other people. A symbol can be a secret sign - as the fish with the early Christians - to identify members to other people in the know. It can be a public statement - like the Christian cross nowadays - of membership to inform other people, and to show that this is something the bearer is proud/glad to be a member of.

Another thing about symbols is that they're very hard to clean, once soiled. The swastika - an Egyptian sun sign, or a popular ornamental pattern among peoples as diverse as the Vikings and the Scythians - does now represent nothing but the German National Socialistic party of the last century's fourth and fifth decade.

Eight straight lines in two different lengths, at straight angles in a symmetrical pattern...

It is not much, is it? But still, it manages to convey a whole host of meanings. That's the power of symbols!

But then we also see that the symbol is twofold - it is the visual, recognisable bit, the often simple and geometrical design. It is also the meaning we as witnesses to that design associate with it, our interpretation of what the symbol stands for.

The design of the swastika has not changed in a couple of thousand years, but our interpretation of it has.

God knows how long the colour brown has remained the same...

But the point of all this, and the point of the comment you took objection to, is that our interpretation of symbols can change.

I do not see the political colour 'brown' as fascistic when applied to my views. As I said:

That's what you get if you mix green, red and blue.

Which is logical, I think. And what I wanted to do was to defuse that symbol, so that people whose ideology I find very objectionable has a symbol less to gather round. Because a new symbol will have to put a lot of effort into marketing to be as powerful as an old. But it can be done, which is why I'm suspicious.

I always seek different interpretations of symbols and labels, because I find the self-defining through symbols and labels almost as sad as the use of those tools to define others. I believe that when we have a world where symbols are an historic curiosity, Gideon's blazing red-black (sic) utopia will have been achieved, and I believe that this is a better and more important way of getting there than the socio-economic path.

[mix green, red and blue]
But there are other ways of getting there as well.

Yes. You are absolutely right. The important thing is that you realise there are more than one way to be politically brown, and now that I have lectured on self-evidences, maybe that thought will remain.)

By the way, Gideon: if anarchistic is black, socialistic is red, liberal is blue, then conservatism must surely be white? Maybe that's why those pointyheaded ones in the American South wear sheets? Talk about a soiled symbol...


This section of L-Space is is maintained by esmi.
Please send all submissions to

The L-Space Web is a creation of The L-Space Librarians
This mirror site is maintained by The L-Space Librarians