I’m a fan of peace. Who isn’t? (Unfortunately I happen to know someone who isn’t, but I am not naming anyone – today, anyway.) “Peace” as a concept, however, is somewhat fuzzy. Which is why it is so fortunate that I am able to be fan of a peace institution. On Facebook I am, along with 362 others, a fan of the Nobel Peace Center. This is a museum and activity center which focuses on the Nobel Peace Prize, its laureates, and peace in general. It is fitting to have an institution like this in Oslo, the capital of a country that likes to characterize itself as “the peace nation”.
One of the attractions in the Peace Center is the Children’s Peace Club. The mascot of the club is a giraffe, and his name is Fred. If your smile muscles aren’t twitching, it’s because you don’t speak Norwegian. You see, the Norwegian word for peace is fred. So it’s a clever name indeed.
You have to be between the ages of 3 and 12 to be a member of the club. It’s been a while since I was able to convince anyone I was younger than 12 (since I was about 10, actually), so I won’t be able to become a member, but I thought I might blog about it nevertheless. After all, I do like giraffes, and as mentioned, I do like peace. The combination strikes me as very appropriate.
I read something a while ago (unfortunately I have forgotten where): Since the giraffe has excellent eyesight and very long necks, they are able to see danger a lot earlier than smaller animals. Therefore it is wise for small animals to stay close to giraffes, and to start running when the giraffe does.
This can be used metaphorically as well. A friend of mine attended a conflict mediation course where they were told to think giraffe. In addition to the above mentioned long necks which ensures control over most situations and a wide perspective; a giraffe has big ears, so it is an excellent listener. My friend also told me that the giraffe has the biggest heart of all animals (which I did not know, but it makes sense seeing as this heart will have to pump blood all the way up that looong neck). Thus the giraffe is a symbol of emotions and compassion.
I can see why the giraffe is an appropriate mascot for a Peace Center!
I only wish that the implication of this was that more people would “think giraffe”. Imagine what a difference one could make in persistent conflicts around the world if more of us were better at listening to what others had to say; that we viewed the world in a wider perspective and that we allowed compassion for others to guide our choices. And that everyone had a giraffe to stick close to, so that if danger did approach, we would know when to flee.
I think that would make the world a better place to live.
*Kôlo is the word for giraffe in the Sango/Sangho language (sängö), which is spoken in the Central African Republic. While it probably is far more useful to know the word for giraffe in the Central African Republic than, say, on the Isle of Man, it is worth noting that the population of giraffes is decreasing even in its native countries. It is not yet on a list of endangered species, but the stability of the total population of African giraffes is dependent on restriction in habitat destruction and hunting. Just thought I'd point out that we shouldn't take giraffes for granted.
Like many other African countries, the Central African Republic has a complex and brutal history, and there are still massive problems such as poverty, high HIV/AIDS rates, illiteracy, low life expectancy, and so on. Therefore I thought it especially nice to be able to use the Sango word for giraffe as the title of a post about peace. It won’t change anything, but it is nice to associate a troubled country with something positive for once.