zenpundit.com » symbolism

Archive for the ‘symbolism’ Category

Significance of the Kiswah in Riyadh

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — oh, but it’s just a backdrop ]
.

When ABC News describes the room in which President Trump addressed King Salman of Saudi Arabia and the leaders of 50 Muslim nations in Riyadh this morning, they mentioned that it was “an ornate room that featured 11 chandeliers and six giant video screens.” Okay, but to my eye the scene was dominated by a great black and gold panel of the Kiswah [above], the ornate cloth, renewed once yearly, which covers the Kaaba in Mecca, the point in this turning world to which all Muslims turn in prayer, and around which they revolve in pilgrimage.

I spent some time searching for a decent press photograph or media mention of this Kiswah panel, without success — the chandeliers are clearly more important to media sensibilities than the veil of Islam’s most central shrine, to which all mosques are oriented.

**

I am reminded of Tim Furnish‘s comment yesterday, pointing out that the Time magazine cover showing the Kremlin (below) had airbrushed out the crosses atop the onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral —

— domes which Time referred to, in a further display of ignorance, as minarets.

Why are we so appallingly oblivious to religious symbolism, when it plays so major a role in communicating meaning? What tells us more about a cathedral than the cross which surmounts it? Which more completely dominates that conference chamber in Riyadh — the colorful array of flags, or the great panel of the Kiswah mounted above them?

Why do we so consistently airbrush religion out of the picture?

Are flags additive?

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

[ by Charles Camerondelicate matters here, please discuss with civility — not civil war ]
.

Are flags, as symbolic statements, additive?

I ask this because of three flags whose valences seem to differ considerably, depending on who is viewing them.


The
Gadsden flag flies over every post at ChicagoBoyz, where myself, Zen. Lex and other ZP friends sometimes post, and I don’t believe the ChicagoBoyz approve of racism, so though it may connote a right-leaning position on small government, it’s meaning if carried beyond that would seem to be up for individual grabs.

Consider this New Yorker piece entitled The Shifting Symbolism of the Gadsden Flag:

In recent years, the Gadsden flag has become a favorite among Tea Party enthusiasts, Second Amendment zealots—really anyone who gets riled up by the idea of government overreach. It’s also been appropriated to promote U.S. Soccer and streetwear brands. And this reflects a deeper question, one that’s actually pretty compelling: How do we decide what the Gadsden flag, or indeed any symbol, really means?

One answer involves history. The Gadsden flag is one of at least three kinds of flags created by independence-minded colonists in the run-up to the Revolutionary War, according to the writer and historian Marc Leepson, the author of “Flag: An American Biography.” Liberty flags featured that word on a variety of backdrops; the Pine Tree flag floated the slogan “An Appeal To Heaven” over a depiction of a pine tree. Neither endured like the design of Christopher Gadsden, a Charleston-born brigadier general in the Continental Army. His was by far the coolest, with its menacing rattler and provocative slogan.

and:

“The origins of ‘Don’t Tread On Me,’ “ Leepson summarizes, “were completely, one hundred percent anti-British, and pro-revolution.” Indeed, that E.E.O.C. directive agrees, “It is clear that the Gadsden Flag originated in the Revolutionary War in a non-racial context.”

Good. I’m a Brit, but I can handle an anti-British flag, even if I’m nursing the wounds of loss of Empire.

Volokh picks up the tale:

After a thorough review of the record, it is clear that the Gadsden Flag originated in the Revolutionary War in a non-racial context. Moreover, it is clear that the flag and its slogan have been used to express various non-racial sentiments, such as when it is used in the modern Tea Party political movement, guns rights activism, patriotic displays, and by the military.

However, whatever the historic origins and meaning of the symbol, it also has since been sometimes interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages in some contexts.

Hey, the New Yorker is right — the Gadsden flag does indeed have “Shifting Symbolism”.

**

What about this one?

One version of the Confederate flag draws a clear and significant distinction — once again showing that “flag meanings” may vary:

**

As someone who is interested in symbolism, and also in what Bakhtin terms heteroglossia, and what I think of (assuming we’re after roughly the same beast) as the counterpoint of ideas, I’m fascinated when these two flags are brought together in a third. I saw this one illustrated in a report in thre Daily Mail titled:

Crews wearing masks, bulletproof vests and helmets remove statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from New Orleans

Here’s a better image of the flag itself:

Are the two flags additive? I’d be interested to see a fuzzy-logic Venn diagram of the overlap of meanings between Gadsden and Confederate flags.

Is there a single correct interpretation of any of the three flags (Gadsden, Confederate, & Gadsden-Confederate) that are my topic here?

How would we even decide?

*

I’m aware that this is a delicate topic, and would request civil responses from both sides of the aisle, both sides of the police barrier, you know what I mean. As a Brit, again, I can benefit from exposure to views of different (stars and) stripes.

Pistol, crucifix, condom

Friday, May 12th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — covering all bases? — an astonishing display of symbols ]
.

Lists of three — sex, drugs and rock’n’roll for example, or wine, women and song, as we used to say — sex, lies and videotape — can usefully itemize / totemize the whole of life as it is lived — a jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou beside me — at the individual, general, universal or transcendent level — when two or three are gathered in my name

But this image, from a Ukrainian law enforcement advisor’s Instagram account beats all!

Hat tip: Christopher Miller

Pistol, crucifix, condom
— I was wondering whether one could play scissors, paper, rock with those symbols, but..

**

Coleridge characterizes symbols thus:

A symbol is characterized… above all by the translucence of the Eternal through and in the Temporal. It always partakes of the Reality which it Renders Intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in that Unity of which it is representative.

At night, to be honest, a pistol, a condom an a crucifix might each be placed on the bedside table of someone in law enforcement as a matter of convenience, with no great symbolic import attached. But they are each nonetheless highly symbolic items. And the greater the degree to which these three items, when considered as symbols, are “translucent” to the individual resder here, the more astonishing their juztaposition in this image will appear.

Footnoted readings 01 – Whose beholding eye is this beauty in?

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — hoping to unload a series of quick posts sparked by my recent readings — 01, jihadi culture ]
.

**

I was reading Thorsten Botz-Bornstein, The “futurist” aesthetics of ISIS — who could resist such a title? — in the Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, desultorily, and my eye was naturally caught by the phrase “religious apoalyptic symbolism”, because symbolism is my terrain and apocalypse (IMO) the specific area where the human imagination runs wildest and freëst..

… and since analogy is my preferred mode of insight, I was then delighted to find the comment about “stronly reminiscent” but subdued jihadi purple:

In the case of ISIS the overcoming of symbolist rhetoric signifies a clear shift towards Futurism. In Symbolism, poetical speech attempts to present a refined and infinite mental world. Such symbolist ambitions do exist in ISIS propaganda but they remain restricted to religious apocalyptic symbolism. ISIS replaces sunsets and hazes with whirring engines and explosions; further, the aim of ISIS propaganda is not merely to evoke a metaphysical world for its own sake but rather to establish the forces of a new futurist ideology in everyday life as a utilitarian force. Also this overlaps perfectly with futurist strategies of overcoming symbolism.

While ISIS aesthetics makes a decisive step in this modernist direction, Al-Qaeda religious propaganda remains kitsch and is strongly reminiscent of visual material delivered by Jehovah’s Witnesses or New Age sects. With the latter it shares the preference of purple as the dominant color, though the jihadi purple is more subdued than the New Age one.

The whole idea of jihadi aesthetics, of course, will seem wildly inappropriate to those whose view is constrained to the physical personnel, materiel and processes of war — but to those hoping for insight into the jihadist mindset, it is not so easily dismissed — see Thoman Hegghammer‘s Paul Wilkinson Memorial Lecture, The Bored Jihadi blog and forthcoming book, Jihadi Culture: The Art and Social Practices of Militant Islamists.

Hegghammer’s book will be a
must read, I suspect. I hope to review it here on ZP>

A boon for conspiracists

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — FBI Pentagon photos from 9/11 h/t Nada Bakos, and an anarchist logo ]
.

The FBI just released a portfolio of previously unseen photos from 9/11 at the Pentagon, and Politico published them yesterday. My immediate reaction was to think what a boon they’d be to Truther conspiracists, since they could now measure and calculoate and generally insinuate a whole raft of new hypotheses regarding how the whole thing was staged, a false flag, a deliberate own goal.

And then, see upper panel below, I noticed the circled inverted A in several of the slides:

That’s all the confirmation we need! It’s anarchist graffiti — see the same A in a circle in the lower panel for confirmation!

**

As I write this, it is still April First, and I am not seriously proposing that 9/11 was a put up job, nor that the inverted A in the Pentagon photo has anything to do with the anarchist A in the lower panel — but that’s how conspiracies unfold — a plausible match that supports an obsession or paranoid fantasy, and voila!

The anarchists did 9/11!


Switch to our mobile site