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I Want To Be Cool: The Problem With Peace Branding

Catalina Rojas

November 11, 2016


I have wanted to write this blog for decades. Even as a young peace activist in Colombia, I would often comment on how unexciting is the overall imagery when you think about peace. Think about it. What comes to mind? The dove, the white flying dove. Rooted in ancient Greek, Roman, Judeo-Christian traditions, both the dove and the olive branch have been associated as symbols of peace through millennia.

Blah, blah, blah.

But I am uninterested. I feel that peace is associated with meditative lakes, and calming mountains and everything very silent, very peace-full. But really? Why cant peace be a noisy party, with music, and loud instruments, strong vibrant colors, good drumming? Nothing wrong with meditative imagery but in a world where we compete with war imageries I think is ABOUT TIME we get ourselves real and brand peace as an amazing, loud, vibrant, colorful adventure.

Take my son. My son, the product of two scholars in Conflict Resolution. Well, maybe this is a reflection of poor parenting and not only a problem branding peace. My son loves purple, pink and green equally. My son with long curly hair who has never been told NOT to cry (because boys don’t cry) or even I haven’t assumed he will be heterosexual (because why should we assume this?). My son loves superheroes. It all started with Batman, but it rapidly moved to IronMan, Wolverine, Spider Man, Captain America, then Luke Skywalker (yes!). He is NOT allowed gun toys in our home, except for light sabers but every stick of every park is a “blaster” (another term for gun toy). The allure of strength, from a T-Rex to a super heroes is there, embedded in our culture almost since birth. We read, we play, we watch all things super hero and celebrate our sons creativity of saving the world and catching “bad guys”. Along side, we talk about how guns don’t really solve problems, and try to provide some basis for –we hope- create a strong foundation of values like celebrating uniqueness, creativity, freedom, loving everyone. 

Lets go to our topic at hand. As part of the social change field, have we helped or contributed to create a fun, upbeat image of peace? I think that we have a HUGE opportunity for growth there in working from all sorts of fields: music, poetry, literature, graphic design, 3d printing, graffiti, story telling to re-create the brand of peace. To go beyond the white dove and the hands together to escape the binary dichotomy that war is loud and red and peace is quiet and white.

In writing this blog I don’t mean to offend you if you love your white dove, I just want to ask if other folks feel like me that we need to create a more competitive image of all things social peace for the XXI century. Where computer games get ever more sophisticated, noisy, virtual and mostly motivate children, youth and adults to play violent, zero-sum, all-or-nothing games, what do we offer that is equally enticing and fun? Happily, I know there are a small but significant movement of coders and people involved in video production generating video games for social change. Keep working on that and contribute to my question of cool peace imagery.

A few weeks ago we heard that the UN adopted Wonder Women as its symbol and I read an amazing blogpost by my colleague and friend Sanam Anderlini who criticized this decision by eloquently explaining how the UN’s mission is one of diplomatic and dialogue among nations and our amazon heroin, well, she will beat you with her magic lasso. And while Sanam is conceptually correct I feel like I can understand those (men) that selected Women Women as a popular icon that can be assimilated with independence, strength and overall badass attitude. Forgive me, but we lovers of peace and tolerance are not weak, quiet and docile creatures. Ask a White Helmet in Syria. We are risk takers, and beings of great passion, in other words, we are badasses and as such, we need a symbol that better represents our work. Why is it so hard to sell and popularize an image of peace that is cool?

To me, peace is a collective experience. Is a loud, musical, vibrant space filled with colors: a fiesta. Kind of if we hired Frida Khalo to do a party at her house. I imagine gorgeous decorations, piñatas, delicious food and people of all generations singing, dancing and just being joyful.

To me peace is messy, loud and spontaneous.

What is your peace imagery?





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