The Story Behind That Picture: "Let's Work on World Peace"
By: Thorsten Overgaard
Can you think of when was the last time you heard about someone who worked on creating world peace? Well, today I have a small story to share with you about someone who does.
Just a couple of days into 2013 I went to Athens in Greece to do a story about the economical crisis, the Greek Tragedy of our time.
Akropolis, "The Highest City", Athens, Greece.
It's not a crisis I have spent much time on understanding, not really an area of interest as my last contact with Greece was visiting Rhodos as a tourist when I was 13 years old. But when you arrive in Athens you realize from what you see and what you are told that a financial crisis is in overdrive. This is how the crisis in Greece has been reported in the media, it has many other consequences than just how much money you do not have in your bank account.
It's easily forgotten in all the controversy that we are in fact talking about the foundation for our modern civilization and thinking, not just any country. It is the one with the oldest city in the world, Acropolis, from where civilization developed to new heights in science, art and culture.
For example the Greeks also founded Akraga in Sicily, Italy from where they made their innovative influence felt throughout the world.
To see one's country illustrated in international news as a "down-and-out" culture must negatively influence one's self esteen and livingness as a Greek.
People reading The Way to Happiness in the streets of Athens
Doing something about crisis
When Nelson Mandela was released from prison and everyone was expecting a massive blood bath of revenge, a small group distributed a free booklet in massive numbers in South Africa. And miracolously nothing really happened in South Africa, except a change of government and a springtime for real justice and South Africa.
A woman reading the booklet on the street outside the train station in Athens.
When the tides went really high in Israel, a small group distributed massive numbers of the same free booklet.
And in areas with high crime in LA small groups of private security guards have been distributing a free booklet in massive numbers for a couple of years, and the crime rate has been dropping dramatically and seemingly unexplainably.
Can a simple booklet do all that? Hard to tell, isn't it? None of us have that much experience in how to create world peace. It's not an area much effort has been invested in lately. No matter if one believes that a booklet can change things, at least we can possiblly agree that the idea that one can do something about things by doing something about them, is a good thing.
Christos Kalderima, a local restaurant owner with his copy of The Way to Happiness that he gives to his customers.
The booklet The Way to Happiness was written in 1980 by L Ron Hubbard as a non-religious guide to the moral decay of the world at large. As a contribution to world peace without expecting anything in return. The book is not sold but given away. Nobody benefits from it financially. It's simply meant as a help for those who will take the time to read it and who might find applicable advice on how to improve conditions in life.
Athens seen from Acropolis. Leica M9 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95
But few are unhappier than those who lead a purposeless, idle and bored existence: children gloom to their mother when they have nothing to do; the low-mindedness of the unemployed, even when they are on “relief” or the “dole” (government relief) is legendary; the retired man, with nothing further to accomplish in life, perishes from inactivity, as shown by statistics.
Even the tourist, lured by a travel agency’s call to leisure, gives a tour conductor a bad time if he has nothing for them to do.
Sorrow itself can be eased by simply getting busy at something.
Morale is boosted to high highs by accomplishment. In fact, it can be demonstrated that production is the basis of morale.
People who are not industrious dump the workload on those around them. They tend to burden one.
It is hard to get along with idle people. Aside from depressing one, they can also be a bit dangerous.
A workable answer is to persuade such to decide on some activity and get them busy with it. The most lasting benefit will be found to arise from work that leads to actual production.
The way to happiness is a high road when it includes industriousness that leads to tangible production.
Acropolis as it looks in 2013. Just imagine what a happening place it was two thousand years ago. Leica m9 with Leica 21mm Super-Elmarit-M ASPH f/3.4
The IMPACT magazine is published in 17 languagges.
Photographing around the world The story I was doing in Athens was not the usual one you see in the media. On the contrary, I was sent out to document how a group of citizens are working hard to change the mood and the direction of Greece. A story for the magazine IMPACT that is sent out in 17 languages worldwide.
What are the odds for two kids in too large t-shirts handing out free booklets in front of the Greek parliament, determined to change the future of Greece to the better? Leica M9 with Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0.
A quarter of a million booklets in the first weeks
What do you do if you see your countrymen in apathy and have stoped believeing in themself? These citizens decided to spend a day or two a week handing out The Way to Happiness in the streets of Greece. The very busy square in front of the Greek parliament being one of the locations.
Joy Villa and Florita Gerasimidou Chatting with the police in Athens.
The booklet being distributed with the business newspaper.
Hundreds of stores in Athens have adopted the good news and now distribute the booklet to their customers. The police have them. A music school uses the booklet and the accompanying music videos with illustrated texts in their school - both because of the music scores made by a famous Italian composer and of course for the content of the booklet. The booklet has been distributed several times with the largest business paper in Greece.
"SUPPORT A GOVERNMENT DESIGNED AND RUN FOR ALL THE PEOPLE"
Unscrupulous and evil men and groups can usurp the power of government and use it to their own ends.
Government organized and conducted solely for self-interested individuals and groups gives the society a short life span. This imperils the survival of everyone in the land; it even imperils those who attempt it. History is full of such governmental deaths.
Opposition to such governments usually just brings on more violence.
But one can raise his voice in caution when such abuses are abroad. And one need not actively support such a government; doing nothing illegal, it is yet possible, by simply withdrawing one’s cooperation, to bring about an eventual reform. Even as this is being written, there are several governments in the world that are failing only because their people express their silent disagreement by simply not cooperating. These governments are at risk: any untimely wind of mischance could blow them over.
On the other hand, where a government is obviously working hard for ALL its people, rather than for some special interest group or insane dictator, one should support it to the limit.
There is a subject called “government.” In schools, they mostly teach “civics” which is merely how the current organization is put together. The real subject, “government” goes under various headings: political economy, political philosophy, political power, etc. The whole subject of “government” and how to govern can be quite precise, almost a technical science. If one is interested in having a better government, one that does not cause trouble, one should suggest it be taught at earlier ages in schools; one can also read up on it: it is not a very difficult subject if you look up the big words.
It is, after all, the people and their own opinion leaders who sweat and fight and bleed for their country. A government cannot bleed, it cannot even smile: it is just an idea men have. It is the individual person who is alive — you.
The way to happiness is hard to travel when shadowed with the oppression of tyranny. A benign government, designed and run for ALL the people, has been known to smooth the way: when such
occurs, it deserves support.
Video interviews for web and YouTube
Often when I photograph features I do video interviews so the editor and writer at the magazine get the story of the people I portray. This is for internal use, makes it easier to get the facts straight and saves time by not having to chase the people down twice to get both image and story. For the Greece story we bought the Leica D-Lux 6 camera that also does excellent video. To our surprisee we found that the video footage done with the small Leica D-Lux 6 camera (instead of an iPhone) could also be used for YouTube and web videos. Here is an episode of ON THE ROAD made from the footage:
Florita Gerasimidou is one of the leaders of The Way to Happiness campaign in Greece.
Visiting Greece was an eye-opener and a reminder that things are never as black and white as described in the media. It is a rich culture and a caring population. The streets are clean and the new businesses, hotels and restaurants are trendy and forward-thinking. Worth a visit. Florita Gerasimidou and her team definitely are determined to do something to change the state of the nation and the world. And if Greece has been able to influence the world once, then why not again?
The Way to Happiness
If you are an educator or community leader you can request a free information kit from The Way to Happiness Foundation and learn the simple steps to spread the message of this common sense guide to better living.
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish writer and photographer, specializing in portrait photography and documentary photography, known for writings about photography and as an educator.
Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.
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