The Golden Arch vs the Cross

Symbols are very powerful things. We think in terms of them, language is based upon them, they underlie everything in our society, our culture. Thus, the more well known a symbol is, the more power it has over us and how we think.

With that in mind, the results to a survey on symbols that I found in a newspaper has a great deal to do with our society. The survey was carried out in 1995 and covered six countries, including Australia, the UK, Germany, Japan, and India - between them covering east and west, rich and poor. The survey examined the "recognisability" of nine commercial and non-commercial logos/symbols. The results:

Symbol             Australia     all six countries
McDonalds             95                88
Shell (oil)           95                88
Olympics              95                92
Mercedes badge        --                74
Xtn cross             55                54
Red Cross logo        --                47
World Cup soccer      --                36
United Nations        --                36
Nature                --                28

Shell is a UK oil company, which has interests in most parts of the world. I'm not sure about the meaning for the "nature" entry, the paper did some poor editing and chopped out a few lines. "--" mean that figure was not mentioned in the article.

Barely half of the people surveyed recognise the cross as the symbol for the church/Christianty/etc. In fact 33% had no idea wot it represented at all! (Figures not included in table). One may say, "But wait, several of those countries are non-christian ones." Yes, that's true, yet the recognition value of the cross here is the same as the six-country average and that includes India and Japan, the later where Christianity is less than 1% and they confuse Jesus on the cross with the easter bunny (another story) and the former where Christians are only about 5% (including nominals). Says a lot for the position the church has in Oz thinking. Or other western countries, for that matter. According to a recent census down here, something like 80% of Aussies claim to be Christian, yet almost half of them don't even know that the cross is a symbol of the faith they claim as their own!

When interviewd over it, church spokesmen were "not surprised". One even said, "it just indicates that we don't live in a christian culture."

As I said up the top, symbols are very important things, we think in terms of them. Thus the more recognisable a symbol is, the more important it is to society, to the world. People worship symbols, people die for symbols. It is argueable that symbols control how we think. So it is very disturbing that of the symbols in the survey, only four attained a recognisabliity of greater than 3/4's (roughly), and three of those are the symbols of some product or company and only one represents some idea or concept (the Olympics). That says something very serious about our world today, about what motivates us and our society (whatever country we may live in). Mind you, as far as I know, no one has martyred themselves on the altar of "The Golden Arch", but there are countless sacrifices on the altar of "Greed, wealth and success". What symbols have the greatest power in your life?

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