Signs and portents


Am I the only person to be shocked by conspicuous symbolism these days? Not the symbolism of protest, violent or peaceful, or a specific act intended to make a point. No, more the symbolism of how institutions express themselves.

While browsing a report about an appeal being made to the UK Supreme Court on the BBC News website, I saw an image of the court’s emblem.

It’s not your normal emblem for an apparatus of state – there’s no traditional portcullis symbolising the authority of the government, no heraldic reminders of monarchy, no Latin inscription. In fact, it’s pretty plain – the name of the court is boldly in English and the main motif is a design representing the floral symbols of the constituent parts of the UK.

But it’s what surrounds that motif which intrigues me – a whopping big omega.

The final letter of the Greek alphabet, it was Jesus himself who famously said “I am alpha and omega, the beginning and the end” to signify, among other things, his own divinity. There is no room for another, it suggests, I am the all there is.

So here, in absolute symbolic clarity from a system renowned for defendants always having a higher court to go to should a decision not go their way, is where the buck stops. “Here,” this emblem says, “is where it ends. This is the omega, the full stop, the final say”.

Yeah, you’re looking at me funny now. But it really struck me! Imagine being a defendant in court, being stared down not by the ancient symbols of an old country, but the stark and almost Orwellian symbology of a modern state that is in absolutely no mood to argue.

This is the end of the line, my friend.


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