Slogans have long been a part of the human desire to proclaim. The best of them sum up in just a few evocative words the core ideals of social movements. Here are five well-known slogans that define the movements for social justice and sustainability. All except one of them came out of or grew to prominence in that volatile and verdant decade – the 1960s.
Make Love Not War
Perhaps one of the most enduring slogans of all time, "Make Love Not War" has it’s roots very much in the 1960s. Appealing to the free love, hippie communities of the time with their flowers and beads as well as to the anti-Vietnam war movement the slogan went on to become the most often used slogan of the peace movement. The anti-Vietnam War movement began slowly in the early 1960s but by the end of that decade millions of Americans and millions more around the globe were demonstrating against the US led war in Vietnam.
The slogan itself has two likely beginnings. In April 1965 Diane Meyer was getting ready to attend an anti-war rally at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Before she left home she wrote “Let’s Make Love, Not War” on an envelope and pinned it to her sweater. That rally was attended by 3,000 but it was the photo of Diane Meyer and her slogan that made the pages of the New York Times.
|Soolidarity Bookshop button|
Just one month earlier the Solidarity Bookshop in Chicago printed buttons with the phrase “Make Love, Not War” on them for the Mothers Day Peace March.
The slogan has also famously been used in songs by John Lennon (Mind Games) and Bob Marley (No More Trouble) demonstrating its international appeal.
The Personal Is Political
The origin of this slogan is more debatable with various possibilities existing. Arising out of the Feminist movement the most likely possibility (certainly for making the slogan widely noticed) is that it was the title of an essay by Carol Hanisch in March 1969.
Hanisch was part of the New York Radical Women group and had earlier conceived of the idea to protest the 1968 Miss America Pageant where participants crowned a live sheep as “Miss America” in dissent. She wrote the essay in defence of consciousness-raising which was being charged that it was nothing more than therapy. She was also keen to note that “political” was “having to do with power relationships not the narrow sense of electoral politics”.
Later, Hanisch attributed the actual words of the title to Shulie Firestone and Anne Koedt, the editors of the journal in which the essay appeared; “Notes from the Second Year; Women's Liberation”.
Think Global, Act Local
Most closely associated with the environmental movement, this slogan has become a slogan for many movements and causes, even used within the business world, town planning and the field of mathematics.
Again, the creator of the slogan is shrouded in uncertainty. Certainly, David Brower (the founder of Friends of the Earth) used the term in 1969, although other possible creators include Rene Dubos, Buckminster Fuller, Hazel Henderson, Saul Alinsky and Canadian futurist Frank Feather.
It’s genesis though can be traced way back to 1915 when Sir Patrick Geddes (a Scottish town planner and social activist) published the book “Cities in Evolution”. Although he didn’t use this exact phrase the idea was firmly embedded in it’s pages.
We Shall Overcome
“We Shall Overcome” is better known as a song but it is so often sung at rallies and protests the world over that it has become tantamount to a slogan. It was the folk singers Pete Seeger and Joan Baez who popularised it as a protest song in the 1960s. It’s roots go back before that though.
At the turn of the 19th/20th Centuries Charles Tindley had composed the gospel song “I’ll Overcome Someday”. Tindley’s father was a slave and Tindley was steeped in the gospel movement’s yearning for freedom.
Zaphia Horton brought the song to the Highlander Folk School and in 1947 it was transformed and re-written by Pete Seeger and Guy Carawan.
Many other musicians have gone on to use and record the song including Roger Waters (from Pink Floyd) who released a version to protest at the Israeli blockade of Gaza in 2010.
Throughout the world the song is known and has been sung by thousands in Prague in 1989 during the Velvet Revolution in both English and Czech. It was sung in English and Urdu in the film “My Name is Khan” (2010), a film espousing the struggle of Muslims in the modern US.
We Are the 99%
The slogan of the Occupy Movement refers to the concentration of wealth in the top 1% of income earners. The Occupy Movement is arguably the most significant world-wide protest movement this Century. The slogan is thought to have come from the name of a blog site put up by an anonymous New York activist who calls himself Chris.
In the same year that Pete Seeger et al were penning “We Shall Overcome” Aldous Huxley was also putting pen to paper and writing to his brother Julian (then the Director-General of UNESCO) about his thoughts on the proposed Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Huxley exhorted his brother to “think of what 99% of the human race want – food, shelter, a secure family life and to be left alone by bosses and busybodies. Unfortunately the 1% who are interested in power and ideals and ideologies are the ones that call the tune”.
Over 60 years later (in January 2011) Tahrir Square was occupied by over 50,000 people protesting the reign of President Mubarek. This occupation was just one part of the Arab Spring that shook nations in Northern Africa and the Middle East throughout 2011. From there it spread: Occupy Wall Street began in September 2011 and by early October had spread to almost 100 cities in 82 countries around the world.
A prominent Arab Spring leader, Tawakul Karman from Yemen, was named one of three recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011, becoming the first Arab woman and second Muslim woman to win the prize. In a break from tradition Time magazine failed to name an individual as its Person of the Year for 2011, preferring to name “The Protester”.
Is it all just words?
Are these all just words though? A Buddhist writing notes that our words can define our actions and that our actions can define our character. As we move through the 21st Century it will be our characters that define our movements.