What is Peace?
The world seems so crazy nowadays, and it seems like everyone everywhere has a bone to pick with someone. The recent global pandemic and the resulting lockdowns seemed to have made many people on edge, and the latest conflict in Ukraine finally tipped them over. It seems like peace in this day and age is quite hard to come by, but it is what everyone needs right now.
Speaking of peace, what is it exactly? Here are just a few of the common definitions of peace:
Peace is the Absence of War
The word peace has several different definitions depending on the context of when it was said. For most people, their definition of the word peace is “the absence of war or conflict”. You can say you live in a peaceful country where it has not been embroiled in a violent war with another country or experienced a civil war with its citizens.
If this is the sole definition of peace, then Sweden wins the award for being the most peaceful country in the world. The Swedes have been taking a neutral stance when it comes to world affairs. By doing so, they have remained conflict-free since 1814.
Not all the countries in the world have the capability of Sweden to remain completely neutral. The main reason is that many countries rely on foreign aid but the world will definitely be a more chill place if they could.
Peace as the Status Quo
Although a utopian society is highly unachievable, a person can still feel at peace with their current situation. For instance, your neighborhood might not be the most ideal, but you feel at peace within it because that is what you are used to.
This is why police officers and others like them are also called “keepers of the peace”. It is their duty to maintain the status quo when it comes to keeping away the things that would disrupt the peace of the status quo. Their jobs require the prevention of street crimes to keep the minds of the populace at ease.
Peace is the Absence of Mental Stress and Anxiety
Peace also has a definition that falls on a more personal level. You can also define peace as a way of not having any suffering from mental stress. Peace of mind also applies in the context of meditation. The goal of meditation is to reach a mental state that is devoid of stress. Regular meditation can result in long-lasting peace of mind because the practice can result in the expulsion of unwanted thoughts.
Without stressful thoughts plaguing your mind all the time, you will feel more energized and able to face the day. You may not notice it but experiencing negative thoughts saps your mental and physical energy, making you lethargic. This will also cause your health to decline, making you more prone to illness and disease.
Peace with Other People
Peace can also be defined as living in harmony with other people. This means not having any conflicts with other people in your home, workplace, and other places.
Although it is not possible to have peaceful interactions with everyone you encounter, if you are at peace with yourself, then it will not bother you. Also, it can help if you are a ray of sunshine to others. If you are pleasant to be around, others will tend to act the same towards you. This means you are the one responsible for making your own peace.
Where Does the Idea of Peace Come From?
You might be familiar with the war going on in Ukraine right now mainly because it is the focus of mainstream media. However, there are many other wars and other kinds of armed conflicts around the world that are happening at the same time.
In the last 3,400 years, there have only been, on record, 268 years that the world was at total peace. This means there were no conflicts of significant scale that happened in the world at the time. So, only 8% of the world’s recorded history was peaceful, and all the other times, the world was embroiled in war.
However, against these bleak statistics, there have been several people who have advocated to stop armed struggles and for people of all nations to live in harmony. Here are some of them:
Nelson Mandela was a radical political activist from South Africa. Because of his efforts in opposing the then-ruling apartheid regime. Mandela was imprisoned for over 20 years and was released in 1990. In 1994, Mandela ran and won the presidency. He became the first leader of Democratic South Africa.
Before winning the presidency, Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his part in ending racial segregation, which is essentially what apartheid is, in South Africa.
Mandela was fondly remembered as the father of democratic South Africa. He also gained admiration all over the world because he was able to unite a once-divided nation due to apartheid. Instead of division and hate, Mandela chose peace and unity.
Martin Luther King Jr
When talking about American civil rights activists one would have to try hard not to think about Martin Luther King Jr. Everyone has heard or read about at least one of MLK’s speeches. MLK was one of the most eloquent speakers the world has ever seen. He used this talent to evoke the imaginations and hearts of people all over America, leading to major political changes.
Martin Luther King Jr is one of the biggest reasons why segregation in the United States no longer exists. By helping raise awareness about the racial inequalities that have been prevalent for the longest time, and by using non-violent protests to boot, MLK managed to “free” Black Americans from the racist stigma.
Mentioned in this article were only some of the individuals, who by their own actions, contributed to attaining lasting peace. They were among the people who contributed to the understanding of where the idea of peace comes from.
Where Does the Peace Sign Come From?
The peace sign or symbol has such a simple design but its meaning runs deep. It was a design or symbol created by Gerald Holtom in 1958. Holtom was a British graphic designer tasked to come up with a design for a banner and signs for a nuclear disarmament march that was to happen in London. He wanted a design that was simple enough that it would stick easily in people’s minds while still holding a strong meaning.
The design, as Holtom claimed, was mainly modeled after the naval semaphore flags that the British naval fleet used to communicate. Two flags angled down meant the letter “N”, which stood for “nuclear”. One flag pointed straight up and another pointed down meant the letter “D”, which stood for disarmament. He combined the two symbols to create the peace symbol that everyone knows now.
After just two years, the symbol crossed the pond, first appearing in the corner of a pamphlet for an American activist group. By the mid-60s, the symbol turned into a pop culture icon, appearing in t-shirts, pins, and most of all, posters protesting the Vietnam War. The symbol seemed to pop up everywhere you look. You can see it painted on walls, scribbled on park benches, and more. This became the rallying cry for pacifists everywhere.
The True Symbolism Behind the Peace Sign
Although technically the Peace Symbol came from the semaphore symbols, Holtom admitted in a magazine interview that it had a darker meaning.
Holtom said that the lines symbolized despair. It was the symbol of a person with his arms outstretched, palms facing outwards. It was presented in the manner of Goya’s painting of a peasant before a firing squad. Holtom said that he came up with the design at a point in his life when he was suffering in deep despair.
Also, Holtom originally wanted to use the Christian Cross, but he disliked its connection to the bloody Crusades.
Despite its peaceful intentions, some radical religious groups back then demonized the peace symbol. Some of them believed that it was a Satanic symbol, that it was an inverted cross, which is an anti-Christian symbol. However, if you think about it, almost everything popular back then was Satanic according to the ultra-religious people.
Despite the clear-cut origins of the symbol, some people still seemed to get the wrong idea about the peace symbol.
How A Symbol for No Nukes Turned into A Symbol for Peace
People normally associate the peace symbol with hippies, but it was not its original intent. However, the nice thing about it is that Holtom did not trademark the symbol and made it free for anyone to use.
It just so happened that at the time the symbol reached American shores, the Vietnam War also reached its peak. Some way or another, protesters against the war got hold of this symbol, thus, it became the symbol for protesting the war in Vietnam. From then on, the symbol of nuclear disarmament has turned into the universal symbol of peace.
The peace symbol might seem like a pop culture icon now, with people wearing them on their shirts and using them as accessories. However, you should never forget the reason why this was made and why it got to this point right now.
Where Does the Peace Finger Symbol Come From?
People used to throw out the peace sign all the time. However, these days, you can no longer find that many people flashing this sign. Have you ever wondered where this hand sign came from? Why is it the universal sign of peace?
Here’s the problem. There are many stories about how the V-sign came to be that confirming which one is correct is quite impossible. However, I will be giving you several of the most popular theories, so you would be able to choose whichever one you would like to believe.
World War II
The V-sign, victory hand, or peace sign is said to originate back during the World War II period. According to Victor de Laveleye, a former BBC reporter, it was in January 1941 when the Victory sign first became a symbol of unity and victory. The hand sign, which resembles the letter V, is said to mean “Victoire”, which is victory in French, and “Vrijheid”, which is freedom in Dutch.
The V sign first became popular in Belgium and then the Netherlands. After that, it became popular in England. It later continued throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. Many years later, the hand sign became the symbol of peace after activists protesting the American intervention in the Vietnam War adopted it. From then on, the V-sign has been called the peace sign and is recognized all over the world.
Here’s another purported origin of the peace sign. Legends say that this hand sign came from the gesture made by the archers who fought for the English army in the 15th century during the Hundred Years’ War. However, there are no written accounts that prove this claim.
As the legends say, English archers captured by the French would have their index and middle fingers lopped off, so they could not use their bows anymore. With that said, uncaptured and victorious archers would flash the V sign to their enemies as an act of defiance.
This does not make a lot of sense, though, since they could just have been killed outright, but I digress. In addition, as chronicled by the contemporary of the Battle of Agincourt, the French would threaten their prisoners to cut off three, not two, fingers. Expert archers also state that old English longbows were wielded using three fingers.
Although the possibility of this legend being true is quite remote, just hearing the story of bravery and defiance against adversity is worth it.
The Peace Sign in East Asia
If you check out pictures of East Asians online, odds are they are flashing the peace sign up as well. This practice is quite common in East Asian countries, specifically in Japan, which is theoretically the originator of this fad.
Supposedly, the peace sign in photographs started when Inoue Jun, the famous Japanese singer and celebrity, spontaneously flashed the now ubiquitous hand sign while they were filming a commercial for Konica cameras. Although the peace/victory sign has been used in other media, like anime, Inoue’s ad for Konica further embedded it into Japanese pop culture.
It seemingly is so ingrained into the Japanese culture that if you ask young girls why they flash the peace sign, they would have a hard time explaining. Some would even say it is a force of habit. With the proliferation of Japanese media, the peace sign also made it to its neighboring nations.
The actual origins of the peace hand sign may not be clear but its message of peace and victory is.
Famous People Who Used the Peace Finger Symbol for the Right Reason
People have flashed the popular peace sign for photographs for decades. Mostly, they do it just for fun. There are lots of celebrities and famous people who have used the peace sign but not all of them use it as intended. With that said, there are some famous people who did – among them are the following:
Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill was the British Prime Minister during the Second World War. He led the English troops in the fight against the Nazi Party, quite successfully actually.
Churchill was one of the first people who have made the Peace sign famous. He was able to do so by flashing his extended forefinger and index finger in press photographs. However, the V sign back then was not a symbol of peace, obviously because of the war. Churchill’s hand sign was indicative of victory, so the hand sign was a letter V.
You can find plenty of old photographs of Churchill flashing the V symbol, and they are often taken after the Allied powers have attained a major victory.
In the 70s, almost right after the Beatles have split up, John Lennon continued on his musical journey. With his infamous wife, Yoko Ono, John Lennon experimented with different genres of music and art. During this period of his career, Lennon has become a full-time hippie, and as with all hippies at the time, he would often flash the peace symbol in almost all photo ops he gets.
Being a huge proponent of peace, John Lennon knew full well why he flashes the peace sign. Lennon has always advocated for world peace. When he puts up the peace sign, he meant it.
The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatzo) is the spiritual and actual leader of the small country of Tibet. When the Chinese started to gradually take over Tibet, it forced the Dalai Lama to flee to Indian territory and seek political asylum. However, even though he was exiled, the Dalai Lama, in the true spirit of Zen Buddhism, did not harbor any ill will toward the Chinese. Instead, he advocated for peace and harmony.
That’s why in a lot of the photos containing the Dalai Lama, especially the candid ones where he allows himself to jest, he would put up the peace sign. The popular peace hand sign is quite different from the one that Buddhists use. However, the Dalai Lama would still put the V sign up since he knows that more people knew its meaning.
Westerners might not be familiar with the name but this Japanese singer/celebrity was able to put the peace sign permanently into an entire country’s culture. Inoue Jun was a popular singer, actor, and comedian in Japan. He singlehandedly (pun intended), yet inadvertently, make the peace sign into something that almost all East Asians would do when taking a photo.
It all happened when Inoue was contracted to do a commercial photoshoot for a Japanese camera brand. He held the camera with his right hand. Because he did not know what to do with his other hand, he just held up the peace sign. That ad became quite popular, and people everywhere began copying the peace sign.
These are only some of the people who have used the peace sign in photographs and have made a huge impact on the world.