dove taLes freedom of expression
Robin Lloyd-Jones is a member of the Dove Tales board and not just a writer and lecturer but a lifelong campaigner for human rights.
For many years Robin was chair of Scottish PEN's Writers in Prison committee and he also served as Scottish PEN's president.
We are honoured that he has chosen to share his thoughts with us.
ARTISTS FOR PEACE
Artists of all kinds can make a contribution to world peace in a variety of ways. For example (to name just a few possibilities): By exploring anti-war and anti-violence themes, or promoting conflict resolution through their work; by holding fund-raising events; lending their names and fan-base to petitions and campaigns; or providing Arts-based therapy for victims of war. In many of these interventions for peace collective action is the most effective way forward - which is why Dove Tales is such a good idea. However, this is not what I want to write about here. I would like to look at how the Arts - writing, the visual arts, the performing arts and every other kind of art not covered under these headings - are an essential ingredient of any hope we may have for achieving world peace.
The causes of war and of violence are many and diverse. One of them is fear or suspicion of foreigners, of cultures different to our own, and prejudice against other races and nations. And one of the most important things the Arts can do is to open a window onto other cultures. Through a country’s architecture, literature, music, theatre, paintings, sculptures, films and other arts we can come to know something of its history, values, attitudes and customs and move towards understanding and tolerance, towards appreciation and a desire for further contact and exchange. Art connects human beings to each other in that it allows us to share each other’s perceptions, emotions and experiences.
A great deal of violence that occurs has its roots in an inability to put oneself in somebody else’s shoes, to feel what they feel and see their point of view. Good story-telling in all its forms shows us what people other than ourselves think and feel. It teaches us understanding of our fellow human beings, tolerance, empathy and compassion.
War and violence so often stem from closed rather than open minds. The Arts open up and expand minds and endow us with emotional intelligence. They cultivate minds that are creative in dealing with problems and receptive to alternative solutions, rather than minds which are blinkered and stuck in ruts that cannot offer new ways out of age-old predicaments. The Arts teach us to embrace paradox, contradictions and differences of opinion and the wisdom of having doubts. The Arts provide a wider view of humanity and its diversity; they unify rather than divide, they make us more likely to reach out across all sorts of borders and boundaries.
When freedom of expression is denied, when peaceful means of protest are suppressed, when voices that call out against corruption, inequality and injustice are silenced, then people turn to violence to redress the abuse and wrongs they suffer. Every time we, as artists, express who we are, what we feel, what we are passionate about, we are exercising and asserting our right to freedom of expression. In doing this, whatever the form or subject of our creation, we strike a blow for and strengthen this cornerstone of a just and peaceful society.
War is destructive, Art is creative. By practicing, teaching and promoting Art we add weight to the scales in favour of peace. In joining Dove Tales and organisations like it, not only are we supporting collective action, we are also making a statement about the essential role of the Arts in fostering world peace and about our concern and our solidarity for this cause.