The story we published recently about cultural appropriation reminded me of one of my favorite incidents in our series. It resides in the Cultural Detective Global Business Ethics package, and involves a corporate newsletter publishing photos from the office in India. One photo, taken at a temple, shows a swastika.
Outraged, an anonymous writer emails the newsletter editor to complain about a lack of cultural sensitivity, a lack of commitment to diversity and inclusion. The newsletter editor is crestfallen; the comment saps all his energy. It is exactly his commitment to inclusion and diversity that has motivated him to include posts from offices worldwide! How much harder can he try?
The swastika is sadly a symbol of genocide and the Holocaust for many; something to be reviled. There was an unsuccessful effort to ban the use of the swastika in the European Union. Seeing this symbol can bring forth indescribable pain and outrage for many people.
Swastika is a Sanskrit word, a religious symbol of good fortune used by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and others worldwide. It can be seen in the art of the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Celts, Native Americans, and Persians as well.
To me, the swastika is one of the world’s most horrifying misappropriations of a cultural symbol! I’d welcome hearing from anyone who knows the history of Hitler’s and the Nazis’ appropriation of this symbol.
It is important for us to understand both of these very different realities. To some, the swastika symbolizes genocide and hate. To others it symbolizes beauty, the steps of Buddha. Does this therefore mean we should not use it? That we should? Can we transform its use through ongoing learning and dialogue?
Back to the incident, learning to make the most of learning opportunities such as these, to encourage cultures (organizations, communities) in which people listen to, respect and collaborate with one another, is what Cultural Detective is all about. Thank you all for joining us in this mission!