Symbols. We’re surrounded by them. Stand-ins for a word, a meaning, an expression or an emotion. Whether it was that red rose we gave or received on Valentine’s Day, the green walking man sign at the crossing, the road signs we learn at driving school, or the white dove of peace carrying its iconic green leafy twig. Symbols are a regular part of of our every waking hour. And the last time you use that ‘ZZZ’ emoji on WhatsApp..? Yeah, that’s a symbol too.
But the symbol that brought on this reflective piece is the White Flag. It’s a simple enough thing, really. Just wave a white piece of cloth, from a handkerchief to a tablecloth, anything goes. And just for a refresher, here’s what it symbolizes:
A ‘white flag’ is widely recognized as the international symbol of capitulation, an indication that a fighting force wants to call for a parley or surrender negotiations. It tells whoever is watching, that the bearer of the white flag is calling for a truce, a break in the hostilities, a chance to give up peacefully or come to an understanding.
Which, most naturally, should be the end of this discussion because everyone knows what a white flag is and what it does. But then came Dido’s 2003 release, ‘White Flag‘ and suddenly everyone was singing about not giving up or giving in in the face of overwhelming odds, and continuing the good fight. For a time of life when love and relationships were just beginning to make any sort of sense, that was an inspiring song indeed. But fast forward several years down the line and we come to today, when these words are being written in dedication to yet another inspiring track.
In early 2015, the alt-rock band NORTH, based in New Delhi, India, released their debut single video ‘White Flag‘. In the words of the band, “‘White Flag’ is a journey to surrender, to put our weapons down, to stop the fighting, the wars, to lay down our pride, our ego — and simply love” (Read the full article here). You may not know them yet, but the band and the single have since become widely popular.
Now, I’ve seen the video several times and heard the song a lot more often than that. But the meaning of the white flag that it brought home to me today never quite struck me before. So the question that has caused the writing of this post is: Why is the white flag only seen as a symbol of surrender? Because this video points to a better, more positive message and a better light for the age old white flag.
In a world that has increasingly become involved with the study of and therapy for mental stress, psychological illnesses and other similar concerns, where one wishes to figuratively bring out the white flag, in all it’s capitulating connotations, NORTH’s video shows us how the innocent white cloth, is not the symbol of surrender at all; but is instead reborn as the symbol of self-empowerment.
Through the simple desire for peace. And then making the choice to uphold it.
Choosing a white flag already means the wish for peace in the absence of conflict. Making that choice is a pro-active action in a peaceful direction, is rooted in a strong sense of self. Therefore, the choice that the individual makes for a world that they can stand strongly in, is the moment when the choice of the white flag becomes the choice for self-empowerment.
It goes without saying that such a move is a deeply personal one, made on an incredibly subjective, emotional, and introspective level. Each event being as unique as the individual that makes it. And yet, the choice to hold up the white flag, once made, is a purpose and a direction that cannot be broken in its belief, even if it is shaken by the storms of disbelief, hostility and negativity.
The white flag is a banner, a beacon, a call to all, to find within themselves the desire and courage to make the choice that brings all under its standard. There, we come together as a family, find friendship and support and true understanding. And together, under the one equalizing banner, we continue on, looking up, looking forward, in a united peace.