Monday, February 1, 2016

The swastika is a meme.

This is an excerpt from my novel of Sri Lanka, "The Longest Tweet." In this section I explore the true story of a young man (couldn't have made this up if I tried) who proudly showed me pictures of his World War Two-themed wedding. Being a designer, he was very proud of the professionally photographed images of him and his friends and their Volkswagens emblazoned with swastikas. When I saw it I was lost for words but later I found words as I read about the new Sri Lankan "meme" Sinha-le and its recent public applications. 

What do you think?


The swastika is a meme

His friends are a good sized circle. Why not? We use those friends our whole life. These friends love love love to collect old Volkswagens! What an unusual pastime. You don't see many VWs in Sri Lanka. They must have looked hard for them. Nice thing to collect. Old beetles. Old historic cars. Great sense of history in those old historic cars. Great sense of design too. All around a great thing to collect, drive around in, parade. Who doesn't like antique cars? 

How to use those cars and make a really great wedding album? Gent musta stayed up nights thinking this one up until: Yes! We'll have a "World War Two-themed wedding." What a coup! No one on the island could have thought of this one. You'll make the "Matrimonials" in the weekend "Mirror" for sure. 

Tell me. If you can guess it. How do you decorate those cars to make the "World War Two" theme really authentic. Remember. You're a designer with a sense of history. Why not emblazon them (is that the right word in Sri Lankan?) with a nice big black swastika?! Guys you read it here first. I swear. Could never have made that one up in a hundred years. 

Scary? You betcha. Shoulda known then!

Was graffiti painting words on a gate brutal or free speech? Were the words used to protect, like the string around your wrist, or were they used to target? Singh-le just means lion's blood. Lion is an animal. Blood is its biology. Lion is a strong animal. Its blood is the sign of its strength. Blood means heredity. The lion has inherited strength. You have a car. You can do whatever you want with the car. The lion is an ancient symbol. You can put it on your bumper sticker. You can show it on your car because it's your car. Same thing with a swastika, no? It's a meme. 

You can write lion's blood on your gate if you want to mess up your gate with a slogan or a meme or if you want to distinguish your gate or set it apart from other gates. Set it apart. Not that your gate is necessarily unique but it is set apart. The lion is an ancient symbol. You could say the lion and its blood are mystical. Blood is mystical. Blood is mysterious. How is it that chlorophyll shines blood red in certain UV lights? Can you just use blood on your doorpost? That's an old one. Look it up in the Bible. You'll find it in "Exodus."

So uncool to bring up the Bible. So cool to have your own lion meme. Looks computer generated. There are other ancient signs. You have a Volkswagen club. You are so cute. Your bride girl is so cute. Your friends are so cute. You have a wedding theme of World War Two. That is so cute and so original and so out there. The swastika is a simple design. You are a designer so you use it. It's your car. 

Not quite done yet. Whose gate do you decorate with which symbol? Which words do you put on your bumper sticker and who sees it? Who gets to see it? Who has to see it in traffic?

Maybe if you put blood on your gate you'll be spared. That's the olde biblical myth. Maybe if you fly the flag you'll be spared. People will see you're a patriot! Flags aren't primitive are they even if they have ancient primitive symbols on them like lions or swastikas. Maybe if you write "Lion-blood" on the wrong gate you are making a target of the people in that gate. Maybe if you paint "Jude" on the shop window you will make a target of the people who own the shop. But it's only a name! How can you be guilty for just writing a name. And the font is interesting and modern. For some things we've dropped fraktur and invented a new font. A few more iterations and we'll call it "Helvetica." That calms it.

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