Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Post#183 Nazis, Burqas and Reason's Shirkers

I recently discovered that some teenage girls in Japan like to dress in facsimile SS uniforms. This is part of the same practice of costume play which sees others dressing as bobby-soxers, French maids or superheroes. The gist of it seems to be competing to come up with the cutest, most extravagant outfits within the chosen genre.

Anastasia has also recently written about the phoney furore over some people with political connections burlesqueing the Nazi gear at various events.

There seems to have been a lot of vexation about the symbolism of clothing lately. I've come to believe that this is a futile preoccupation and that the world would be better off if people could leave the overwrought arguments out of it. Particularly, they should refrain from demanding that governments do something about it. The French government has banned Muslim face-covering garments for being an affront to French cultural values and has thereby made an issue of a piece of cloth which, in itself, does no harm to society. The two objections seem to be that some women are coerced to wear them and that the idea of face-covering is an assault upon egalitarianism and social inclusiveness. It seemed to me more like muslim-bashing to buy votes and to show a gross lack of cultural memory and respect for individualism. Women who are genuinely oppressed aren't going to be allowed to take advantage of the relief that the law is supposed to provide. They'll simply be forced to wear clothing in violation of the law and suffer the penalties or will be confined to their homes and thereby deprived of a measure of liberty. Those who wish to dress in the prohibited costume are being imposed upon by the state from the other direction. And what is all this stuff about the alien culture of Islam and its weird costumiery? Don't any of these meddlers ever look into any picture-books showing antique European costume? There they will find robes and cloaks and hoods and masks worn by men and women. And the masks were not solely worn for entertainments; people at various times in various places did wear them for anonymity and in the eras when paleness of complexion was a sign of social status and female beauty (contrary to the modern fixation on tanning), aristocratic women wore them for cosmetic reasons.

The obsession with Nazi regalia also has a flaw of unselfconsciousness at its heart. No-one would make a major scandal of it if Prince Harry appeared at a party dressed as a Roman legionary or a Mongol or Hun warrior. All of these costumes are associated, indisputably, with robbery, rape, torture and mass murder. If Julius Caesar was to be available today, or Marcus Crassus (vanquisher of the Spartacist rebellion), both would be prime targets for the International Criminal Court. As for Genghis Khan or Attila...'nuff said, guv.
So why isn't there an outrage when people hire such get-ups for party-wear? Simply the caprice of human nature. The further the deeds of the past recede, the fewer can be bothered being passionate about them. This is the inevitable and necessary process of forgetting the fine detail. We couldn't remain aware of and enraged by every turn of history's pages and have time to live our own lives.

Exasperating and offensive as it is to see the emblems of evil made into toys and party-favours, we cannot prevent it and the centuries to come shall not be commanded to maintain our rage.

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