A secret language pervades our thought process; it directs us, it controls us, and, although it is hidden, it is hidden in plain sight and decodable by those who know where to look. I’m not building a prelude to a lecture on the Illuminati, nor a grand conspiracy theory that secret messages are being passed in front of our eyes. But a code of symbology, whose sole principle is persuasive control, exists in every country around the world. And Washington, D.C., appears to be the current epicenter.
In the ancient days, almost every encounter, weather phenomenon, or even sighting of birds or animals was considered a sign from the gods. If, when pondering a question, a gust of wind would blow, this would be regarded as either a positive or negative word of advice from an omniscient being. And, as the saying goes, art imitates life, our ancestors sought to infuse symbolism into not just artful creations but into the clothes they wore and the homes in which they lived.
And while we may consider ourselves far more sophisticated nowadays, unimpressed by eddies in the air or the arrival of animalistic psychopomps, we still, at least subconsciously, accept the meaning of these symbols in our conscious psyche.
A marvelous example of this is presented in fictional form with John Carpenter’s 1988 cult classic movie They Live. Based loosely on the 1963 short story, Eight O’Clock in the Morning, Carpenter paints a vision of the world taken over by an alien race and a public unable to see what is happening. Advertising, street signs, and billboards adorn every corner and building, but when the hero of the piece dons a pair of special sunglasses, he sees that coded into these messages are orders to “obey,” to “consume,” and to stay asleep.
Carpenter made the film as a strike against consumerism and the idea of Reaganism, but its message has become so much more. The idea that the signs and symbols we see every single day are nothing more than mere road markings or surface-level indications fails to take into account that billions of dollars are spent on brand advertising and subliminal connotations, with one express purpose: to impact us on an emotional and personal level.
These signs are naturally on a sliding scale. Some are merely innocuous, albeit clever, branding that hold a message only for those who designed it. Others are purposeful demonstrations of power and authority. First, let’s consider something on the lighter end of the scale.
We are all familiar with the Bluetooth logo. But what does this odd cryptic symbol mean? And for that matter, where did the name Bluetooth come from?
There was a Danish king in the 10th century called Harald Blåtand; his name is represented by the runic symbols for H and B, which, when pushed together, make the famous Bluetooth logo. Harald won notoriety for uniting the warring factions in the region (which we now call Sweden, Norway, and Denmark) and also for converting Denmark to Christianity. The logo represents the pulling together of technologies, in much the same way as the king pulled together the factions, and the name Bluetooth is a literal translation of Blåtand – meaning blue tooth. Legend suggests it’s something to do with the good king’s penchant for blueberries.
But this is certainly more an innocuous homage to a well-fitting historical character. On the other end of the spectrum, we have far more powerful symbolism.
Symbols of Power
Consider the Washington Monument. It’s clearly an obelisk, forms of which date back to ancient Egypt and likely even further. The obelisk has a particular, let’s call it, “masculine” shape, and this is designed with purpose. These have always been representations of control, as they display the manhood, or the patriarchy, high above all else, proudly protruding from the ground. But in the old days, they also represented fertility and the dream of more children to continue the line. Recent years seem to have stripped this secondary meaning.
Another prominent symbol of power is the fasces, a bundle of bound sticks, sometimes with a protruding ax head. It was first thought to be used in the Etruscan civilization and later adopted by the Romans, although it was also likely used as a symbol during the Minoan empire of Crete before this.
In Rome, the fasces lictoriae (bundles of the lictors) had a very precise meaning: power and authority. Leaders in the empire were guarded at all times when in public by lictors who would carry the bundles as both a symbol and a threat; according to Livy, the Roman historian, dictators, in the highest rank possible, were entitled to be accompanied by 24 lictors. If unrest happened in the presence of a dignitary or official, the lictors would sweep in with their fasces and deal swift “justice.”
The reason this bundle was accorded such high symbology was that it represented unity. One stick alone may break; bound together into a fasces, they were stronger than their individual parts. The addition of the ax sent a strong message to those who saw them: No challenge to power would go without punishment.
During the 20th century, the fasces was adopted by Benito Mussolini as the symbol of his party and, indeed, gave it its name: the Fascist Party, or the Fasces Party more rightly.
But it was not just the Europeans who were enamored with this powerful symbology; the United States has become a showcase for the fasces.
[rabbit-hole align=”right”] Look at the Lincoln Memorial: The sides of Honest Abe’s chair – or, more rightly, throne – are fasces. You’ll also find this symbol of authority on the base of the Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol building, above a door in the Oval Office, on the official seal of the United States, and in countless other places. In fact, Washington is littered with them.
The question is, why?
Why would the seat of power in a republic with a system of democracy be so insistent on displaying images of authority, and ancient images, no less, that are so deeply buried in the cultural psyche that we don’t notice them even when we see them daily?
We are being sent a message to not interfere with or question the authority of governments. It is not subtle; it is in your face, silently screaming that the power exists outside of yourself.
We are constantly reminded by our leaders that they have the authority but fear the reaction if they were to say so explicitly, and this is the purpose of symbology. It tells us what they want us to know without ever opening themselves up to challenge. As fantasy author Adrienne Posey once wrote, “Signs don’t shout; they whisper.” And it is the quiet whisper, once identified, that can finally be silenced.
Read more from Mark Angelides.