The interactive website www.peacefulcountries.com which has just been nominated for a prestigious Webby Award, aims to show viewers how “peaceful” countries help arm “dangerous” ones.
But if the idea is to challenge stereotypes, setting up a stark visual contrast between the black-and-white scary places (above) and colorful, lush and verdant ones (below) may be doing more harm than good.
How do we define “peaceful”?
Can we call countries that send their young people every year to foreign lands to engage in coups and violence that kills civilians every day– ‘peaceful’?
How do we define “dangerous”?
The United Kingdom, listed here as ‘peaceful’, actually has one of the highest violent crime rates, according to the Daily Mail. Meanwhile other ‘peaceful’ states such as Canada and France have recorded over 300,000 violent crimes per year.
In fact, more than half of the ‘peaceful country’ finalists have made the Mail’s list for most violent:
Lebanon, naturally, has been listed as one of the world’s 10 ‘least peaceful’ states:
Again, I’m not sure about the statistics here.
The site suggests military conflict has been ongoing in Lebanon since 1982. But the Lebanese civil war ended in 1991. Recent years have seen sporadic clashes in Tripoli, but how can these be linked seamlessly to the full scale military conflict that ended decades ago?
In terms of danger levels, Lebanon’s per capita homicide rate is less than half that of the United States. The number of violent assaults recorded in Lebanon is at least 30 times less than the US rate, according to estimates.
Highlighting the global weapons industry is a hugely important task and the creators of “Peaceful Countries” should be lauded for that. But equally important is how global citizens view one another.
The fear that drives our perception of where danger lies– and thus where intervention is needed– can help sustain the weapons industry and silence criticism of it.