Conventional wisdom tells us that, war, peace, violence, conflict and sex sells. Read any newspaper, watch any TV channel, walk down any shopping street and you will find these topics writ large and entangled in our everyday lives – perhaps more than ever before. We humans are hard-wired to such subjects, mainly down to the fact that our lives have depended on or have been severely affected by them for millennia.
In the midst of diplomatic talks, cross-party facilitated meetings, judge-led inquiries spanning the Middle-East, Ukraine and Northern Ireland, it is interesting to note, not only what is being said, but how it’s being said. In other words, how do we communicate in times of crisis? not only in the words used, but the visuals we construct and present too. It could be argued that 21st Century diplomacy has now just as much to do with the world of advertising, than those diplomatic principles of power, partnership and patience taught within international relations and conflict studies.
These two recent television adverts in the UK, serve to reiterate one reoccurring question in my head: if peace sells, what are we fighting for? This is not to underplay the seriousness of the issues and lives at stake in all of the geopolitical arenas mentioned above, but to highlight the way the visual lexicon of war and peace, have always been part of the everyday and are often used in other settings ‘outside’ the conflict zone. The so called ‘Western-world’ continues to sell the neoliberal agenda of free-market capitalism and uncontrolled consumption; and the common-place representations of war (and peace) make ideal visual weapons capable of assaulting our senses in its name. If we are not really fighting to buy more body deodorant and processed sausages, then how do we re-imagine and communicate what peace (and war) looks and feels like in the 21st Century in order to better understand its consequences?
A recent book by Wim Wenders and Mary Zournazi entitled ‘Inventing Peace: A Dialogue on Perception’ begins to unpack this subject further through informal conversation.