Mongolian folk-metal band “The HU” has been rising in popularity, topping American rock charts before even releasing an album, and continuing to grow. Their unique throat singing and traditional instruments create a compelling sound that seems to motivate and energize people… myself included.
But they’ve sparked a bit of controversy.
In one of their music videos, the band performed accompanied by a Mongolian biker-gang. And at the 5:12 mark in that video, the camera shows one of the bikers wearing a swastika ring.
The Reddit-sleuths of the internet (always loving to show how something or another is “problematic”) investigated the biker-gang further, to discover that they appear to be a Neo-Nazi biker gang… From Mongolia?
It is entirely possible that the biker-gang truly does love Adolph Hitler and German National Socialism. But personally, this seems like an unlikely explanation. Nazism was specific to Germany and to Germans. Given that “there are enough fingers on two hands to count all Jews who live [in Mongolia],” anti-semitism hardly seems probable.
I think another explanation is more likely; an explanation which would predict an increase in swastikas in the coming years, as a direct result of the people most concerned about such a display.
The HU are an unapologetically nationalistic band. The lyrics of the video in question — “Wolf Totem” — is essentially a poetic battle-speech, glorying in the violence of an ancient conquering horde. Another popular song — “Yuve Yuve Yu” — mixes unabashedly traditional and nationalistic writing with a curiously anti-modern introduction in their video.
It has been so long eating and drinking being merry
How strange, how strange
Taking our Great Mongol ancestors names in vain
How strange, how strange
Yet, would not honor our oath and destiny
How strange, how strange
Why the valuable ethics of ancestors become worthless?
How strange, how strange
Hey, you traitor! Kneel down!
Hey, Prophecies be declared!
In the aftermath of WWII, German Nazism was morally condemned for its imperialism and antisemitism, but sometime in the 1970s, nationalism itself was added to the list of problems with the Third Reich. Great efforts have been made to distinguish “patriotism” from “nationalism,” often re-defining “nationalism” to mean the irrational belief in the superiority of one’s country, rather than the love of and identification with one’s nation. Conjoining this conflation of nationalism with supremacism and an unending condemnation of Nazis resulted in a culture which left any kind of nationalism or national self-affirmation tainted by associations with swastikas and death-camps.
But morality works on principles, and in principle, there isn’t a tremendous difference between uncritical love of country and uncritical love of anything else that is one’s own — be it family, city, biker-gang, or even self. The popularization of Godwin’s law in recent decades was probably the result of this over-use of Hitler as a hammer against anything self-affirming, at least in a political context. The moral preference for the past several decades (exempting a brief few years after 9/11) has been for gratuitious self-loathing, of the kind one might find in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (a book, incidentally, which was used as a textbook in a college economics course I took; for those who aren’t aware, the book has nothing whatsoever to do with economics).
But this has resulted in an interesting subculture on the fringes of society. It is this fringe that is most relevant in understanding the Hu, their biker gang friends, and the potential increase in “hate signs” over the next few decades.
Since there is no morally-acceptable way to take pride in one’s identity within the modern culture, groups who insist upon taking pride in their own identity cannot last within the mainstream. They exist on the fringes, in the belief that the mainstream hates them. I don’t think this is precisely true: the moral arbiters of the culture (here, we are speaking of journalists, political pundits, professors within liberal fields, movie producers, and the like) don’t necessarily hate any individual group. They just fear the nationalism — the unapologetic self-love — which can arise from any group. They fear this kind of nationalism because it reminds them of Nazis. And Nazis — everyone knows — are the measure of evil. The hysterical thoughtlessness of it all is enough to make one wonder if evil even existed in the world prior to 1932.
But to those who happily and uncritically embrace their own identity, this hatred from on high of nationalism and hatred of themselves as a nation doesn’t feel all that different. So those who develop a strong group-identity will naturally feel resentment and hatred back towards the all-conquering modern global system and its morality of diversity and tolerance. Worse than these fringe-group’s hatred will be the resentment of individuals who have begun to realize that what they have wanted all their life, and been prevented from attaining, is identity within a meaningful and self-affirming group. But what can these groups do? What can a single individual do against such a hegemonic power?
Not much. But they can piss a few of the modernists off.
I have met — in person — a number of people who wear Nazi iconography. Among them was one serious wanna-be Nazi (the result of too much self-medication, drugs, and loneliness), but the majority had little knowledge or interest in the history of the Third Reich or its economic and political system. Their wearing of the swastika, or the iron cross, or the black sun, sometimes had some philosophical underpinning, which invariably dated back before the 20th century. But the majority were not identifying with the Nazis. They were identifying against modernity. Nothing scares modern liberals more than the the swastika, and so these riders on the fringe adopt the symbol, because fuck the world that thinks Nazis are the worst possible thing.
When I worked in pest-control, I had a coworker, an old American special forces vet who did cocaine and rode motorcycles in his spare time. He was about as apolitical and cynical as they came. Mostly, he just wanted to be left alone.
He also sported a swastika on his motorcycle helmet.
“What’s that about?” I asked him.
He smiled. “It offends people.”
And I smiled too.
In a world where the most annoying and controlling people are the ones always claiming to be “concerned” or being vicariously offended, helping them in their taking offense is enjoyable. But when those same people seek to denounce any meaningful identity — as an American, a German, a Mongolian, or anything else — then defying their control with whatever symbolism they incentivize for the purpose becomes almost noble.
Personally, I will never take up the swastika. It isn’t mine. It symbolizes an ideology I do not agree with, and have very little connection to. In today’s culture, I think it’s stupid, even dangerous, to choose an identity that isn’t yours as your hill to die on.
But at the end of the day, Nazis aren’t my enemies either. The global Nazi-phobes who would deny any right to national pride, on the other hand, are a real enemy.
But enough about my own opinions. I pose the position to the reader: which seems more likely? That these Mongolian bikers, waxing poetic about horseback hordes of the past and a national identity that is completely and unabashedly Mongolian are secretly German in their ideals? Or that they understand the link between the modern destruction of national identity and the loss of their own culture, and simply enjoy throwing an angular middle finger at the establishment when they can?
The folk-metal bands that are closer to Germany in ethnic identity — Wardruna, for instance — have to be much more careful, and would never dare to associate themselves with a swastika. But it doesn’t matter, because they aren’t National Socialists either (not that that fact will prevent people from calling them Nazis for taking pride in their heritage). Yet despite their ethnic differences, Wardruna and the HU are closer in world-view and aesthetic than they are to their globalist, liberal-progressive fellow countrymen.
In my opinion, this loss of identity has the potential to become a far greater tragedy than anything done by the actual Nazis in WWII — and that is to say quite tragic indeed.
This Post Has 4 Comments
My New Handle28 Oct 2019
I wonder to what extent this is also true (or not) of the far-left types who use communist symbols
C.B. Robertson28 Oct 2019
That’s a really interesting question. I’d imagine not as much, since communists aren’t hunted in the way that Nazis are… but then again, they kind of were in the 1960’s.
Also, to me, communist iconography generally doesn’t convey the same degree of misanthropy that a swastika does, but that might just be the circles I run in.
Knisely28 Oct 2019
I’m a cultural anthropologist and a historian and I can say with some certainty that this symbol is part of the traditional Mongolian
(folk) belief system. Both the right facing and the left facing swastikas have decorated sacred spaces since before written history. You can still see it as a decoration used on shamanic drums as well as Mongolian Buddhist temples. As the Hu advocate for a return to traditional cultural practices, it makes perfect sense that at least one of them would wear the symbol.
C.B. Robertson28 Oct 2019
It is always wonderful to hear from an actual expert. Unfortunately, the fears of associations with German National Socialism probably won’t be allayed (among certain crowds) by such arguments, but it’s always good to know what’s actually going on.
The purpose of this post was, in fact, to argue that Nazism doesn’t actually have a monopoly of ownership on any symbol, even including the swastika. My own case was younger and therefore a little bit weaker than yours, but it seems that we both agree that they certainly don’t get to take away the right of Asiatic shamanic religions to use their own iconography!