Understand Violence to Understand Peace

by Laryssa on 10/15/2009 · 0 comments |  Subscribe

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Most people are so over Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but I’m still thinking about it. I have to give the committee credit for calling my attention to the award because I am suddenly interested in its purpose, potential, and meaning.

Immediate overheard reactions to the announcement included variations of the following: “Why did Obama win the Peace Prize? He hasn’t done anything!”

Well, according to an Associated Press article that debunks myths about the Nobel Peace Prize, a common misconception is that “…the prize is awarded to recognize efforts for peace, human rights and democracy only after they have proven successful.”

In reality, “…the prize is awarded to encourage those who receive it to see the effort through, sometimes at critical moments.” To be honest, I didn’t know this was the case.

Awarding a prize of this nature to someone who strives to create peace could be a really powerful gesture, but I don’t think the media clearly presented the implications. Most people aren’t aware of the violence happening in other countries, as much of it is not reported by the American news media.

Wouldn’t it be great if Obama could present a plan for achieving peace (the question of whether or not we are responsible for creating peace is a completely different issue)? Do Americans even know what it means to create peace?

I’m not really sure how you can award a Peace Prize to the leader of a nation that doesn’t understand peace. Yes, we live in a peaceful country, but the younger generations (thankfully!) do not understand violence because they have not had to live it. To understand peace, one must understand violence.

I happened to catch a few minutes of a horrifically violent movie last night. Maybe some people are better at detaching themselves from movies/television, but I can’t separate myself from violent imagery. Many humans on this planet experience violence on a daily basis, and I refused to willingly subject myself to it. However, depictions of violence are tough to escape.

Here are three ways that popular and news media represent violence:

Violence as a scare tactic: If you watch the news, especially news with commentary (think CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews), you have probably seen violent video clips. The commentators often times associate these clips with a person and/or organization. The best example that I can remember is Rick Sanchez from CNN narrating (creating emotional significance) a video clip depicting violence in Gaza (I wish I could find it online!). Associating negative language with violent imagery is a common tactic used by any organization with an agenda.

Violence as entertainment: Many “scary movies” and action films contain violence that movie-goers love to see. The violence teaches no lesson, and its sole purpose is to entertain.

Too Shy to Stop contributor Ken Ward writes, ” These days it seems as if decapitations, mutilations and disfigurements are pervasive components of cinema. Movies now expose more extreme violence to children. Directors such as Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) have made a living shooting gruesome horror films.”

I would be curious to know if people living in a country where violence actually exists like to watch gratuitously violent movies.

Violence as a teacher: Some films depict violence, but the violence has meaning. Have you ever seen the film Pan’s Labyrinth? This film is one of the most violent movies I have ever seen, but I do believe the violence is necessary for the movie to exert an emotional impact. Set in Spain after the Spanish Civil War, Pan’s Labyrinth is a haunting representation of how one young girl uses fantasy to escape the horrifying reality of violence. I definitely think the violent scenes are necessary to counteract the fantastical elements of this film.

These past few days, the term “Nobel Peace Prize” has been thrown around carelessly, and I would really like to see Obama and the media create meaning where, frankly, none exists.

(Photo by Cyb3rbl@ck)

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