NRC Handelsblad, Design Special

They knew they weren’t in it for the money and they were born as simple symbols for peace. They were silly birds, moving their heads in a way we would never do since it would blur our vision even more. They laid their eggs and shared their food until their baby birds would be so grown up their weight would push them out of the nest. They flew to the sky with a branch in their beaks and were spotted to become eternal icons for something human beings strived for but could never quite grasp, like flying home with a compass in a brain as big as a walnut. They were turned into myths and religious icons and superstitious symbols and brands. But before they knew they were in it for the money when the cities took them over and in, as rats that needed to be taken away, as creatures that ought to be shipped to the other side of the world for a small price – only to fly right back. Because unlike other birds, they couldn’t care less about the shiny surface of the coins or the reflection on the credit card. They just wanted to live peacefully and live up to that name but their name had changed so they could do no good. They started taking in the same trash as we did and their bright eyes turned dull. They pecked at the French fries and were overwhelmed with the endless choices all around and were tempted by the easiness of consumption. And so the pigeon as a symbol for impossible peace gradually changed along with humans into a symbol of something that guides us in the way their internal compass did: greed. And we are well-fed. 

There are moments where you cannot and should not speak up. We’ve all been there: you just attacked that fresh piece of pizza enthusiastically, but ended up with your mouth hanging wide open, big eyes and ‘ah ah ah’ sounds coming from your throat, waving with your hand at your tongue that had been burnt unexpectedly (especially baby tomatoes are a real threat on pizza). As mum always said, don’t speak up with your mouth full. I would like to make an exception this rule. Firstly, do always speak when any kind of sexism enters the conversation. Do always speak up when someone is idealizing tyrannic behavior, when someone is disrespected, bullied or left out on purpose, or when anyone is pleading for the greatness of the meat industry. Well, that is what I would drop my food for in an instant. When would you break your mom’s rule and spit out that hot potato or baby tomato?

And all guns turned into little candy ball machines, shooting fifteen cent bullets at enemies they had never shaken hands with. Soldiers were disarmed and surprised to see candyfloss pop out of their riffle –bright pink and sparkly from all the sugar. Some gumballs still gave little bruises, but the biggest pain was to remove it from their hair and uniforms. Peanut butter, they said, should do the trick. And so thousands of men stumbled around, slightly upset yet relieved but all lost; some with gum on their hearts but no gun in their hands. Others had a lick of peanut butter on their head. The hand grenades had turned into potatoes and they were thrown onto the soil, right where they belonged. The pin had vanished, since there was no need for potatoes to explode. “What do we do when we don’t fight? What do we sing about when we cannot lose and our bodies don’t break?” They went home with no letter to write for they couldn’t explain that the world had shown them her sweet side and it tasted bitter. Their revolting tools had proven passiveness could win from the urge to act and destroy. Some asked if they were forced to shoot. “We could not.” They said. “So what did you do?” “We shook hands.”

Elevated high above all of us, yet treated as the lowest in rank. They were praised in the Bible and played a heroic role in the World Wars. How did they end up being despised and put aside as filthy rats with wings? This is a campaign to give the pigeon the podium it deserves. Or is it?

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