Like the calm blue sea, society appears and equitable, but the truths are pretty different. Various hate groups based on religion, skin color, and race constantly try to get the upper hand. Deep-seated animosities and passions are hard to delete, just like die-hard substance abuse habits. They will cling on and not let go, like leeches.
Governments must keep trying, however, and anti-vilification laws are steps in the right direction. Intolerance like the anti-Asian sentiments and the prejudice against aborigines and dark-skinned people make no sense in the ‘now’ society. The rise of automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and Web 3.0 reminds us that culture is no longer the same. It is high time we said goodbye to age-old practices and sincerely combined the old with the new.
A Tolerant Australian Culture
Descended from the original British colony, Australia is a warm and friendly, relaxed, and equitable society that offers opportunities to all. A high-income and well-developed country far away from disturbing neighbors, Australia is historically lucky indeed.
Victoria in Australia has taken the wise step to control vilification. Yet, what one group considers justified is bound to face opposition. The banning of Nazi symbols like the swastika publicly will have far-reaching repercussions. Hindus consider the swastika a much-honored religious and cultural symbol.
Further anti-vilification laws in Victoria would also consider the cases dealing with sexual orientation, gender identity, and differently-abled people. Hate language should also be considered. The existing Australian laws deal with protections to race and religion only.
We are seeking justice against hate crimes
Though the law has not come into effect yet, You can well imagine the future. With such a law in Victoria, some say it is against freedom. Others say that courts will find it easy now to prove vilification. When the swastika and the hooked cross become illegal, civil and criminal courts will find it easier to prove injustice. The swastika law may become active at the beginning of 2022.
How did Hitler hit upon the so-called ‘swastika’?
The truth is that history is often based on misinterpretation! To rally the masses, Hitler’s black swastika on a white circle with a red background is different. It is called the HOOKED CROSS or Hakenkreuz in German.
Archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann found the hooked cross on the supposed ancient Troy site in 1872. It achieved popularity in Germany. The hooked cross came to depict German ancestors, signifying the master race of Aryans. Racists and supremacists had found something significant. It seems to be no logical connection with the Hindu swastika though it may be somewhat similar.
The plight of Hindus in Australia
Now consider the role of data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence that have become common, like the air and sunshine. It is not physically or humanly possible to keep a watch on the millions of pages that pass through social media each day. Along with social media, you have work, education and recreation, games, and business working together on the internet.
Like police officers and law enforcers, automated AI like through browsers keeps a watch on what is happening. If a swastika image appears, the report is immediately sent to the authorities that control the media. Not everybody realizes it, but that is the truth. Working at superhuman speeds, spiders crawl through innumerable pages like detectives in the wink of an eye.
Swastika in Sanskrit brings good luck on auspicious occasions for Hindus. Religious scriptures like the Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas mention it. Significance includes the movement of the universe and the four goals of life. Seen in temples and home entrances, the swastika occupies a unique niche in human existence, used in festivals like Diwali and Navratri.
Buddhists and Jains, the Japanese too, use the sacred swastika or similar symbol. About 1.5 billion people globally use the swastika or an equivalent with a religious significance. Should we not consider their feelings with the use of an age-old symbol?
Struggling through bitter controversies
If a single world represents the present condition with an over-populated Planet Earth suffering environmental degradation, it is ‘controversy.’ Nobody wishes to see eye to eye. The most advanced and tremendously powerful America is a supreme example of intolerance and racist injustice. Laws do not seem to work at all, and court cases may drag on forever. Getting adjusted to a world of stark indifference to the ‘other’ seems to be the hallmark—no wonder the comparison of Trump to Hitler’s Germany during the Second World War.
The rise of digital technology
Just like the grass that grows everywhere, technology has blended every world with a tremendous equalizing influence. No matter the age or the level of education, wealth, and power, almost everybody wields smartphones and small digital devices like tablets. Digital devices quickly get affordable though a hiatus remains between advanced countries and remote desert and forest regions with connectivity problems.
Crossroads of justice and tolerance
The utopia of our dreams may never translate to reality! We condemn to live with bits of the past hanging on. The nature of human existence and the ‘survival of the fittest” theory indicate that some parts of humanity must lose out. At least, that is what the racists and supremacists would want.
Who else is to blame in such a case regarding the communities on the verge of collapse?
Not only are many flora and fauna species disappearing from the earth, but some languages and lineages have weak futures. Who to blame in such a scenario? No doubt the governments and NGOs make efforts to help. They try to conserve not only communities, languages, and heritage buildings but art and culture too. Should we not consider conservation a sacred duty?
Weighing the opposites
Consider the numerous swastika auspicious meanings:
- The Buddha’s footprints, according to Buddhists
- Jains associate a liturgical function
- Mesopotamia used it on coinshate symbols
- Germanic and Viking cultures used it
- European medieval churches used it
- Western culture considered it a good luck charm
I cannot deny Jewish suffering either, and the German swastika then was at the height of its supremacist symbolic power. We disagree that it was not the swastika but the ‘hooked cross’ of Hitler that symbolized Aryan superiority.
An auspicious SWASTIKA that is getting extinct
Whichever way you look, the stunning digital online scape creates ethereal wonders. This internet boon to humanity promotes a thousand advantages. Everybody today has some practical use of the digital splendors in a rapidly evolving universe for work, study, training, business, or social media.
Hindu Council of Australia feels pained and deeply disturbed by banning the lucky swastika that graces every significant religious and cultural occasion. The bitter irony of history is to blame, as in many other examples of delusion. Avoiding controversy in dealing with other contentious issues concerning religions different from ours, is this swastika ban justified?
Is it not the duty of the present generation to correct the wrongs of the past? Who will take the lead? It is agreed that the most prominent voice and the magic of numbers make the difference in a democracy. Buddhists and Jains should be joining hands with Hindus since the noble swastika is a common heritage.
Jointly exploring a solution to the swastika impasse
We find similarities with the Hindu experience in America that is a melting pot of cultures. We would expect to see greater broad-mindedness there. The Hindu experience with New Jersey and Maryland governments has been something similar. Getting rid of hate symbols is fine, but the swastika so-called German symbol runs into sensitive complexities with Hindu customs.
Getting suppressed by digital technology and artificial intelligence whenever the ‘image of a swastika’ or the word ‘swastika’ itself occurs makes no sense anymore. Hindu culture suffers deeply at the loss of the intensely expressive symbol.
Finding something in common with the Jewish Community Council Victoria, can’t we get together to find a way out? The two communities could jointly work on clearing up the confusion about the Hooked Cross or Hakenkreuz. That is what the Hitler image signified and not the Hindu swastika despite some vague similarity. Hopefully, restoration of the Hindu swastika would come at an early date. The Hindu swastika depicts love and not the opposite.
Nurturing the online environment
The new catchphrases that genuinely represent the internet today are cloud platforms, machine learning, and AI, along with Web 3.0 under the auspices of the World Wide Web Consortium. Millions of daily interactions online cover text and images, videos, and study materials. Don’t forget the billion-dollar industries like e-commerce.
How do fundamental rights, social values, exploitation, and suppression, or lawful behavior work online? The authorities keep watch, but how is it possible to keep track over such an endless internet expanse? The answer is algorithms and filtering technologies!
Moderation is the need of the hour
It requires a tremendous feat of imagination to comprehend the depth and dimensions of the online world. The rise of technology mega-companies that wield immense power reminds the extent of online influence for the successful few. The new lifestyle is quite internet-dependent, from searching home remedies to gaming. At every step, don’t you need a range of digital devices? The internet does often seem quite superhuman.
Like holding wild parties online, restraint is necessary. Draw a comparison with the copyright laws that prohibit unlawful copying of incensed digital works. Blacklisting follows if anybody breaks those rules. Several techniques keep a watch on language meaning and context, images, and image-text combinations. A list of prohibitions helps exclude whatever is disapproved of in legal or social terms.
The Algorithm significant task
Like an automated censor, the set algorithms constantly watch out for what is prohibited online. Considering the vast online dimensions, correcting and deleting, purging, and reporting is not so simple. Is it possible to review and select the content that will go online as some platforms insist upon? While that is a good policy and followed on some websites, the internet is too vast to carry out such a procedure.
Probably it is a fitting metaphor to call the internet one vast battlefield where no rules hold. Some are illegal winners like the hackers and fraudsters, while some are unjust losers like the swastika.
Preserving the Vedic culture
Isn’t it unjust that the symbols of the most ancient Hindu religion and Vedic culture get suppressed online by technology? Many arguments are raised about the destructive aspects of technology though everybody can see the positive side. Here is a severe instance of automated suppression and deletion of that sacred swastika that means the world to Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains.
Raising a campaign and promoting awareness is the least we can do to set things right. Like every individual, all religions and beliefs have a right to a place in the sun. If clouds occasionally appear, they will be gone in good time. Hopefully, such a discrepancy will be set right so that the auspicious swastika can flower again and spread light and cheer universally.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Compared to the natural intelligence that showed the way for millennia, digital technology has designed systems that mimic human thoughts and ideas. Such convenient replacements for human workers like the assistants online that answer customer queries are timely. It seems as if the human brain is at work through AI. The wonders of processing Big Data for research purposes are an excellent achievement that only AI can. While humans have weaknesses, AI hardly fails.
Machine learning ( ML)
Even classroom teachers have lost their traditional roles! It appears as if teaching and learning machines are taking over the planet. Multimedia education and training online achieve precisely that with certain advantages, too of cost-effectiveness and global reach. Remote locations have been lighted up by machine learning.
Web 3.0 Technology
The semantic web that makes content machine-readable seems to be going too far. Despite serious advantages like avoiding fraud and piracy, it appears that digital systems are getting too mechanical, which might lead to adverse situations.
The Web Filtering dos and don’ts
Even in daily casual settings in family surroundings, certain words and expressions are avoided as considered indecent and immoral. Extending the same idea to the internet world that appears like one vast conversation, deletions are certainly required. Prohibitions may be based on politics, social taboos, religious and cultural aspects, etc. Who decides? The authorities decide on government panels and the mega-companies that hold the reins of the digital world.
According to the milieu and political and cultural environments, may set the standards. The advanced countries of Europe and America have their systems of ethics and values. Frowning upon Hitler and the Nazi symbols like the swastika are fine. Connected ideas like Sanskrit and the Hindu culture have unfortunately spread like wildfire with negative approaches in global thinking.
Automated filtering processes have been justified in many cases, but sometimes it is pretty unfair. Restoring the evils and misinterpretations of the past is undoubtedly a paramount duty that leaders and thinkers should be busy with. Past injustices can be corrected, like the slavery that continued for over 200 years but was finally abolished in America. Freedom came to many colonies like India in the 20th century after ages of oppression.
Managing the present digital influence
Consider the incredible power that governments and technology companies wield. Is the public being swayed according to their wishes? Partly ‘yes,’ and positively for good. Errors and discrepancies do crop up. Controlling the thoughts and ideas of masses of people may be justified if guided by humane policies.
Call it an error of history or pure chance, the noble swastika got connected with the ruthless Hitler war and propaganda machine and became the hated symbol. Nowadays, algorithms, AI, and machine learning wish to delete these Nazi signs and symbols wherever they are online. Aimed at the general good to avoid negative influences and reminders of the terrible World War 2 and Jewish tragedies, the Hindus suffer.
Penalties and Blacklisting follow
Naturally, just like human society, the internet can only work under a system of rewards and penalties. So it is with the content that the algorithms manage so well. Nobody will upload those banned materials once they are aware of the consequences. Hopefully, such ironies and quirks of history will be undone soon. May the time-honored swastika be restored to its propitious place high on the pedestal to worship Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists.
Credit Source: Krutarth Majithiya and Jayesh Patel