To the wearer of swastika will come from the four winds of heaven good luck, long life and prosperity. The swastika is the oldest cross, and the oldest symbol in the world. Of unknown origin, in frequent use in the prehistoric items, it historically first appeared on coins as early as the year 315 B.C.
As this suggests, while the symbol of the swastika is most frequently associated with Hitler and Nazis during World War II, and is still used by neo-Nazi groups, the symbol itself has a much longer history. From wikipedia:
Archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates from the Neolithic period. An ancient symbol, it occurs mainly in the cultures that are in modern day India and the surrounding area, sometimes as a geometrical motif and sometimes as a religious symbol. It was long widely used in major world religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Before it was co-opted by the Nazis, the swastika decorated all kinds of things. Uni Watch has tons of examples. Here it is on a Finnish military plane:
A Boy Scout badge:
A women’s hockey team called the Swastikas from Edmonton (from 1916):
My mom is a quilter and collects antique quilts (when she can afford them). She says that while in general, antique quilts and quilt-tops have gone up a great deal in price over the decades, there’s still one sort you can pick up for a song — swastika quilts.
It’s kind of sad to think of somebody in 1900 putting all that time and hand-stitching into a ‘good luck’ quilt that is now reviled.
All of these examples occurred before the Nazis adopted the swastika as their symbol (and changed it slightly by tilting it on a 45-degree angle). Of course, the original meaning or usage of the swastika is beside the point now. Because it is so strongly associated with the Nazis, it’s impossible to use it now without people reading it as a Nazi symbol. And in fact it’s unimaginable that a group in the U.S. or Europe would use the swastika today without intentionally meaning to draw on the Nazi association and the ideas espoused by Hitler and his party.
On average, U.S. workers with jobs put in more hours per year than workers in most OECD countries. In 2012, only Greece, Hungary, Israel, Korea, and Turkey recorded a longer work year per employed person.
A long work year is nothing to celebrate. The following chart, from the same Economist article, shows there is a strong negative correlation between yearly hours worked and hourly productivity.
Before the Olympics, we often hear a fair amount about the preparations for the games — how much is being spent, the facilities being built, whether the city will have everything ready in time. But once the Olympics end, we hear very little about what happens to the infrastructure that millions or billions of dollars were spent on.
John Pack and Gary Hustwit’s The Olympic City project documents the life of Olympic infrastructure once all the spectators pack up and go home. As they explain,
Some former Olympic sites are retrofitted and used in ways that belie their grand beginnings; turned into prisons, housing, malls, gyms, churches. Others sit unused for decades and become tragic time capsules, examples of misguided planning and broken promises of the benefits that the Games would bring.
Flavorwire published some of their photos, mostly of sites that have been left to decay, leaving a long-term mark on the landscape of the locations that host the games. Here are just a few of their haunting images posted at Flavorwire.
Beach Volleyball Stadium from 2008 Beijing Olympics:
Ski Jump from 1984 Olympics, Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina:
Train station built for 1972 Olympics, Munich:
Swimming pool at Lake Ahvenisto, Finland, from 1952:
This post originally appeared in 2011.
Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
Posted last year, but I love it, so here it is again!
In this fun four minute history of Santa Claus, CGP Gray explains how the character evolved, the role of Coca Cola, his conquest of the globe (i.e., Santa’s cultural imperialism), and the ongoing debates about where, exactly, he lives.
A hundred thousand men and women identified as homosexuals were imprisoned during the Nazi regime. They were detained under a law known as “paragraph 175,” which made sodomy illegal. Up to 15,000 were sent to concentration camps instead of prisons. Nearly 2/3rds would die there. The last surviving victim is believed to have died in 2011.
These men and women were not only victims of Nazi Germany, surviving torture in concentration camps, they were also denied validation as victims of the Third Reich. They were classified as criminals upon release and included on lists of sex offenders. Some were re-captured and imprisoned again.
The world went on to mourn the inhumanity of the Holocaust, but not for them. Because they were designated as non-victims, and also because they were stigmatized sexual minorities, they were largely excluded from the official history of Hitler’s Germany.
Seeking to give these men and women a voice, historian Klaus Müller interviewed several gay men and one lesbian around the year 2000. At the time, there were fewer than 10 left alive. Not one of the men and women imprisoned for being homosexual — alive or dead — had ever been officially identified as a victim of the Nazi regime.
The documentary, titled Paragraph 175, is one of the most heart-wrenching I’ve ever seen. For some, it sounds as if this is the first time anyone — even members of their own family — has ever asked them about what happened. Re-telling the stories of death and torture is obviously incredibly painful, as it would be for any survivor.
On top of this, however, is anger at their extended invisibility and continued oppression. Many seem opposed to talking about it at all, saying that it’s too painful to re-live, but it is as if they can’t help it; they are at the end of their lives and facing, perhaps, their first and last chance to do so. In the interviews, the anger, pain, survivor guilt, and relief mix together. It’s excruciating.
I was riveted, even as I desperately wanted to look away so as to avoid the emotions it brought out in me. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
Our favorite economist, Martin Hart-Landsberg, has written a detailed account of what is causing the rise of income inequality around the world. Here I’d like to highlight just one of his really interesting observations.
While we usually think that rising income inequality is caused by the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, a more complex picture is emerging. The graph below plots the hourly wages of the 90th percentile (Americans who make more than 89% of the population) relative to the wages of the 50th percentile (the purple line) and the wages of the 50th compared to the 10th percentile (the dotted blue line).
In English: it asks how quickly the richest people (90th) are pulling away from the average person (50th) and how quickly the average person is pulling away from the poorest (10th). The answer? Income inequality has been increasing since the 70s but, since the late ’80s, rich people have continued pulling ahead of the average American, but the average American has not been gaining on the poor.
Another indicator that the middle class is shrinking is changes in the share of jobs that are low-, middle-, or high-paid. The next graph shows that, across a wide range of countries, high- and low-paying jobs are on the rise, but middle-paying jobs are on the decline. So, middle income jobs are disappearing, but there are more of both high- and low-income jobs.
Hart-Landsberg suggests that the reason for this shift in the economy involves the globalization of production. For more, visit Reports from the Economic Front.
If you take a close look at the stick figures in your life, you’ll notice that the “generic” stick figure is actually a great example of the way many of our societies center the male (as in, it’s generic insofar as the male is the generic human and women are, well, women). That’s why the bathroom symbol for “men’s” is the same one you see virtually everywhere representing “person.” Unless, of course, children or cleaning are involved and then they weirdly sprout skirts.
Today our Facebook friend Tamar G. sent us one we couldn’t resist sharing. It’s a playground sign from Goettigen, Germany featuring an adult and child. As is common, the adult has been carefully altered to be identifiable as female because the sign is in reference to caretaking kids. Someone in Goettigen found this as annoying as we do, however, and scribbled upon the sign: “Daddy, I also want to wear a skirt.” What a fabulous way to fight back against rigid gender rules.