While the passing of the war anniversary was not a happy moment, I can share better news with you. The Peace sign is 50 years old this weekend. My initial research showed muddled dates, but that was because it was actually USED for the first time in a Nuclear Disarmament march, that occurred on Easter Weekend in 1958. (a leap year at that)
The march took place across the Atlantic, in Britain. Yes, the Peace sign was birthed a good decade before its famous adoption by Vietnam War protestors. Gerald Holtom, a commercial artist, suggested that the those marching to the atomic weapons research plant in Aldermaston carry signs painted with a neat, tidy and powerful symbol.
Around 5,000 marchers were in attendance for the unveiling of the Peace sign that Easter weekend. An impressive number given the recent anniversary of our 5th year in Iraq and the small turnout for such a precipitous occasion.
Those of you who read this website know that my mission is to discover how individuals and communities define and work towards Peace. The actual significance behind the tidy, little symbol, that anyone can scribble, is pretty complex.
Gerard utilized and compacted the semaphore letters for N(uclear) and D(isarmament). Semaphore is a method of Naval signaling using two flags held in position by the signaler. Of course, its meaning was specific to the marchers cause. I’m sure that still, some protestors were boggled by it, probably picturing a dove or something more universal at the time. It is now engraved in our minds as a Universal Symbol, one that travels across borders and belief systems and serves many civil rights movements.
It did have a deeper meaning to its creator. Years later, Gerard discussed its internal, personal symbolism with Peace News, saying, “I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself, the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it.” This was a commentary 50 years ago on the power paradigms that people faced-war weary generations newly introduced to the atom bomb.
While we might not have Peace in our world, and the bomb factory in Aldermaston is still open, the symbol itself has tenure. Generation after generation are inspired by it and continue to display it, some with purpose and passion, some purely commercial. My theory is that we must decode its personal meaning, obtain inner peace, before Peace is known globally, forever.
I am very excited that my journey to create a 20,000 mile Peace sign will finish in this year that marks a major anniversary of its creation. While I will be taking some big hills, again through the Rockies, the Peace symbol is far from over the hill…..
It is a infinite brand that belongs to no corporation, although it has been heavily commercialized, and it was meant to be freely used by the people. I ask that you all think beyond the simple scribble, delve deep into your hearts, and leave your definition on the Wall of Beliefs.
National Geographic will soon release a book called Peace: The Biography of A Symbol. I recommend it to everyone.
*Thanks to Crystal Waters and Pete Selkowe because they forwarded some resources to me.*