Bushwick Photo du Jour: Speak Softly And Carry a Big Stick

January 28, 2008 by
Filed under: Bushwick 

I found this beautiful relic of Brooklyn’s autonomous past recently on Wilson Avenue.

Seal, City of Brooklyn

Being a bit of a history nerd, I could not resist doing a little research. Here is very concise synopsis about its origin and iconography.

Een Dracht Mackt Maght was inspired by the motto of the United Dutch Provinces and means “In unity there is strength”. The rather frightening looking axe this young woman is wielding is called a fasces. Opinions as to what this symbolizes seem to be both varied and contentious, follows is what Wikipedia has to say about it. Draw your own conclusions:

Symbolic interpretation of the fasces suggests that the rods represent the authority to punish citizens whereas the axe represents the authority to execute them: an important concept in the concerns of a Roman ruler, whose authority over such matters carried greater consequences than typically in modern societies concerning capital punishment. For example Cicero, in his condemnation of Catiline and the others supposedly involved in the floridly exaggerated (or perhaps fabricated) “conspiracy“, lost his chances of further consulship for his act of executing Roman citizens without trial. Thus the one wielding the “axe”, ( meaning the power to execute) remained liable to the “rods” of his fellows.

Inventive moderns have also suggested that instead, rods in a bundle become simply harder to break, or harder for the axe to cut. While still a valid outlook, this tends to mislead one into thinking that that symbolism conveys a banal message like that of “united we stand”. The fasces served as the ultimate symbol of executive power and vulnerability in Republican Rome: more akin to the concept of “checks and balances”.

Numerous governments and other authorities have used the image of the fasces as a symbol of power since the end of the Roman Empire. Italian fascism, which derives its name from the fasces, arguably used this symbolism the most in the 20th century. The British Union of Fascists also used it in the 1930s. However, unlike (for example) the swastika, the fasces, as a widespread and long-established symbol in the West, have avoided the stigma associated with fascist symbolism, and many authorities continue to display them.

Either way you cut this find is pretty damned neat. Methinks there should be an Idiotarod team next year comprised of  women dressed like our fair maiden of the county of Kings. We’ll cross the Pulaski Bridge and show those uppity folks in Long Island City what Brooklyn women are made of. Een dracht macht maght!

In closing (and for those who might be curious) this lovely lady is still with us. Both on the Brooklyn Borough flag and at City Municipal Hall.

Borough ot Booklyn

Anyone up for a toga party?

Miss Heather


One Comment on Bushwick Photo du Jour: Speak Softly And Carry a Big Stick

  1. bboy on Wed, 30th Jan 2008 11:29 am
  2. I love this blog, Miss Heather. Salute from South Brooklyn.

Tell me what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

You must be logged in to post a comment.