March 10, 2008
LAURA’S WORLD: Feb 05
When Harry Met Silly…
Prince Harry dons a Swastika armband for a party and the world is in uproar. He is at best, a tasteless fool and at worst, according to many international publications, a supporter of fascism and genocide.
Asking around, I canvassed these opinions of Harry’s dress-sense. From a 17 year old, a party is a party, and it is the one place people can be outrageous with licence, and without risk of offending anybody. From a 25 year old Nepali, the Swastika originates from his territory and is an ancient symbol of good luck, whichever way the four arms point. He is bemused that a young man should be crucified over the humorous use of the symbol.
Predictably, as the age of the individual increased, the opinion elicited became less tolerant of Harry’s actions, but even so the strongest criticism didn’t go beyond calling him ‘stupid’. Myself, I am a bit of a WW2 buff, in the sense that I find it a brilliant slice of history through which to view human behaviour and the
reaction of different nationalities and personalities to the Nazi phenomenon.
I learnt more about the war through talking to participants - including a nurse who lost 18 children in her care during a bombing raid in London, an NZRAF pilot who lied about his age and at 18 was rapidly trained in 3 months to fly bomber planes all over Germany, and a Polish Jew who escaped a Siberian gulag with her mother and walked to Palestine - than I did from any textbook.
I have attended a few dawn ceremonies on ANZAC day and find them incredibly moving. All considered I would describe myself as someone who honours the memory of WW2, even though it predates me by several decades and none of my family participated (except a grandfather who served beer to the troops in Egypt). The Nazis evoke horror in me, and initially seeing a member of the British royal family masquerading as one made me feel ill.
Then I began to probe a little deeper into my and others’ reaction to atrocity. The list of large-scale atrocities is endless, it is hard to find a culture that has not barbarically mistreated some element within it or alongside it. Were the Jews treated worse than the Indians subjugated by the British Raj, the Africans enslaved in America, the Pakistani Christians murdered by Pakistani Muslims? What are the symbols of terror for these victims? The Union Jack, the Stars and Stripes, and the Koran.
What the Jews have achieved that other victim-groups have not, is great PR. It is hard to find a single soul in NZ who remembers the fate of Chinese slaves bought to our country 100 years ago to work the goldmines and die there, never granted citizenship, never afforded rights and even worse, never seen as an equal.
The world didn’t stay outraged with Idi Amin or Pol Pot for particularly long, and the Spanish and Portugese have largely escaped vilification for their massive acts of genocide in a continent as large as South America. Any one of thesecompare in scale with the annihilation of Jews in WW2 and yet the world is pressed overtly to recall the suffering of the Jews above all others, as if their treatment represents the pinnacle of human pain, alone deserving commemoration for all time.
I think it is great to remind each new generation what ‘average’ human beings are capable of when they follow the wrong leader, or allow themselves to be convinced that certain people are beneath them and do not deserve to be treated equally or even to live. Prince Harry no doubt has had this drummed into him throughout the course of his education and is probably as egalitarian and humble as his big brother, but he is also a rebel.
It often seems to go that way with siblings, a wild one follows a conservative goody-two-shoes, as if nature is intent on balance. Harry is simply not politically correct and probably never will be. Life is challenging enough for the anonymous rebel, for Harry it is inconceivably fraught. Personally I wish that just one of the many people asked for their opinion on Harry’s costume would have exclaimed that the bigger atrocity is the fact that he was photographed at all whilst at a private party, and atrocious that the world has an appetite for smutty details of another’s life.
We all participate in the ruination of lives with our international voyeurism, seeming to take great glee in dishing out criticism and scorn. I frankly would be too embarrassed to ever walk out
my front door again had I been photographed at a single party bypaparazzi. I would make an absolutely hopeless Royal, I would be a disgrace as is poor Harry whose future seems cast by the weight of our global expectations.
The Jews are determined to never let us forget, which I take my hat off to them for, but I politely remind them of equally important homages to the dead such as Hiroshima Day, and the lack of remembrance for the vast majority of victims such as the 20 million Russians killed during WW2, nearly half the total dead and far in excess of the number of Jews.It could equally have been Russians who expressed outrage at Harry’s attire, but the Jews have maintained an image of the ultimate persecuted, and are not about to let it go, or to share the title. God forbid anyone challenges them on this.