When one hears the word PEACE, some may think of the grand ideals of world peace and the absence of war. For others it simply may refer to inner peace and the guarantee that one feels safe. Peace is indeed a very abstract concept, and what is important is how we can translate it into everyday things. And that is exactly what “The Six Senses for Peace” event, organized by the Hague Talks, Humanity House and the Royal Theater, attempted to do by showing how our six senses can be used to overcome challenges and contribute to peace. This was indeed a new and moving experience for me, and thus I wish to share some of them with you and provide you with some food for though.
Photography and art has always thrived during times of conflict, as we all rely on war correspondents to bring all those shocking and moving images onto our screens, while we stay curled up in the safety of our homes. Paul Hansen, a photo journalist from Sweden, who has taken numerous photographs such as the Gaza Burial was the first to share his experiences. We all have heard, how no one is born racist, and instead it is the society that fills the minds of children with stereotypes and racist ideas. We, as adults, realise that we have been subconsciously been filled by these ideas only when we talk to children who are yet to be corrupted by society. And thus, seeing the world from a child’s perspective is maybe that what we need, so that we can move away from generalisations and become “colour-blind” when looking at the world.
As a photo journalist it is his job to find the individual stories and show the truth behind the picture. However even he admits that much of the problem with the news business is that journalists report only on things that go wrong – “We do not hear the report of planes that land”.
Listening to Paul describe the above image, I realised that, while it is true that a “picture is worth a thousand words”, without knowing the real context behind the image and the thought of the photographer much of the meaning is never conveyed. A picture maybe worth a thousand words, but a picture is worth ten thousand words when it is shown with the story behind it. Unless I heard him speak, I would not know that these women in Congo were all victims of rape, I would not have known that they are in front of their shelter run by the woman in the doorway who was a victim herself, I would not know that she was raped by 20 men while she heard the screams of her daughter being raped in the next room, nor would I have known that the child in the pink trousers was found besides her dead mother while attempting to suckle…
Daeun Lim and Seoyoon Kwon, design students from the two Koreas, told of their story of how they tried to translate the abstract concept of peace to visual and sensory “objects”. The Peace Palace, which houses International Court of Justice, is considered to be symbolic pinnacle of peace and justice. However, the halls of Peace Palace at times seem rather cold, and the work of the ICJ very distant from the everyday citizen in East-Timor, Estonia or Zimbabwe. As a result of this, these two designers came up with two innovative concepts on bringing the Peace Palace and the ICJ closer to us. One was a garment that incorporated symbolic objects of the Court. It was designed to be worn by the ICJ staff when attending official functions outside of the Court. The second were coffee cups with inscriptions from ICJ trials which become apparent as the coffee gets drunk – a great conversations starter, and a great way to raise awareness of Peace and Justice.
Taste, Smell & Sound
Yuval Gal from Israel and Palestinian Muawi Shehadehand also took the stage to share how their love of food connected two individuals, who from childhood were though to hate each other. Using the example of hummus, they explained that food has no boundaries, be it race, ethnicity, language, or gender. They believe that in life we should strive to focus on what brings us together instead of focusing on the negatives around us. This love for food and communication resulted in the birth of the restaurant Love&Peas.
Hillary Jones, ethical director of Lush, shared her story of how she was given the opportunity to work with Lush, and proved that one can smell goods while still caring for the environment, animals and providing fairness to all. Hillary also had some great idea – though they may seem radical to some. She believed that not market themselves through Corporate Social Responsibility programs, nor should there “be fair trade, because it means that there is bad trade. There should only be trade”. All companies should strive to be fair and ethical, thus making it the norm. Hillary reminded us that most of our money goes to corporations, and that we as consumers have the power to demand companies to be fair and ethnical, thus doing our bit to improve the world.
She also reminded us that it is our duty as humans to be constantly involved in democratic processes of our society, instead of voting once in four years and leaving everything else up to the people in parliament while justifying to ourselves that we did our little bit for democracy. All in all, I truly hope that other major companies could also act ethically and adopt the practices of Lush, as well as we as customers would become more aware of the source of our products and only buy those that are ethnical and fair. (For those interested friends at Roar-Life have recently written an article on Sri Lankan brands that are committed to being Socially Responsible.)
The drummer Koen Herfst, talked of his experience of moving crowds with his music. While touring, he noticed how “at peace” his audience was, despite their outward differences. He reminded us that music has also the power to bring inner peace, and urged us to look at the world from the “attitude of an astronaut” – as one planet with one beating heart.
Mind & Body
When all of the above-mentioned senses come together they mould our mind and body. One of the fundamental feelings that every man, woman, child and animal comprehends is fear. And millions across the world are constantly reminded of this. And this is despite the fact that, as explained by Marieke Liem of Leiden University the world being a much safer place in historic terms. Despite 2016 being safer the 1940s or any prior century, it does not necessarily mean that we feel safer. This is because we are constantly reminded through media that we may be the next victim. This idea went hand-in-hand with Romana Vrede’s prose on how unpredictable life can be, how any moment could be our last, and how we all could go “boom”.
Romana sighted the importance of thinking differently when approaching the concept of peace and then bring these ideas together and create something unique. Clearly, as Koen said, we must all do our best, even if it’s miniscule, towards making the world a better place, because doing nothing is not an option. Start small, with places near you, and then it can grow into something beautiful.
Therefore, dear reader I urge you to shed away the biases and prejudice that we may have, and connect with others through sight, taste, smell, sound, mind, and body, such that together we make this world a slightly better place.