JEREMY GILLEY is a British director and actor who founded the non-profit organization Peace One Day in 1999. Jeremy’s creativity was sparked early in life, and he has spent over twenty years passionately committed to peace, sustainability, equality, justice, diversity, inclusion, climate action, and the mobilization of youth. He is the producer and director of four annual global digital experiences – Anti-Racism Live, Climate Action Live, Peace Day Live, and Space Transformers Live, an experience for young changemakers. With his signature enthusiasm and humor, in part 2 of this interview, shares his vision for enabling young people with JUDITH NELSON of the Heartfulness Institute.
Q: Jeremy, you’ve mentioned that you’re keen to help and empower young people in light of the problems we currently face. Do you think that young people today face more challenges than previous generations and perhaps need more support? If so, what kind of support?
JG: Yes, young people today definitely face more challenges than we faced. I have a ten-year-old daughter and she just spent two years in a house. That’s different. Now we’re queuing for fuel and people are panicking. If I were a young person seeing the way we’re running out of resources, we’re heating up, the icecaps are melting, and there’s disease, I’d be looking around going, “What a very strange place I live in.”
I want to make it not so frightening. We can inform, inspire, and engage. Content and storytelling throughout history is crucial to change. Everything that’s on the periphery, on the edges, eventually becomes mainstream; and it becomes mainstream because people on the edges shout about it. I want to be a part of that edge, to help it move into the center.
When I went on my journey around the world, the first people I spoke to were young. I went into schools talking about this stuff. I’ve been on the road speaking to hundreds of thousands of young people, so I probably hold one of the largest archives of young people’s thoughts in the world. I’ve been immensely committed to this and I like the idea that we provide educational materials for them to be the driving force behind the vision of a united and sustainable world. Peace One Day has provided those materials for twenty-two years; and I think we’ve really got to equip young people with the necessary information and tools to take on the great challenges around diversity, inclusion, equality, justice, climate action, and peace. We’ve had hundreds of thousands of young people using those tools – I think there are 33,000 teachers currently using them, they are in schools all over the place. I’d really like to provide tools, inspire, and inform. That’s it.
Q: What kind of qualities do you think young people need in today’s world?
JG: I think they need a lot of courage. There was a good interview with Steve Jobs where he was asked, “Why did you make it when others didn’t?” He said, “One word – passion.” Just look at those who excel. It’s because they fell in love with something, and the passion drove them through. Steve Jobs is right. It’s all about finding your passion.
I think the quality of “looking at failure as success” is also pretty important. The idea of celebrating falling down, of knowing that you learn most about yourself when you fall down, is something that we can appreciate more. When it gets dark it gets interesting. When it gets dark, if you can find the light it’s a really great thing, because it makes you who you are. In every moment of now, I’m only here because of the darkness, not the light. Success is okay, and everybody saying “yes” is okay, but when it’s really dark and you’re getting “no,” that’s when it’s most interesting.
I think you need a lot of courage, determination, tenacity, and passion. You’ve got to be respectful, you’ve got to be loving, you’ve got to be peaceful, you’ve got to be willing to reconcile your differences, to forgive. I’m not sure intelligence really comes into it [laughs]. No, intelligence does come into it, but qualifications don’t. If you’ve got the love, the passion, and the drive, then come and sail with me. I don’t need to know that you went on some course to know how to sail. Let’s get on a boat and let’s get it moving.
Q: What about awareness? Do you think awareness comes into this as well?
JG: Yes, I think you’ve got to be aware of where the holes are. You’ve got to know where the cliff edge is, otherwise you’re going to walk over it because you don’t know. That’s a waste. Know where the edge is.
I think the quality of “looking at failure as success”
is also pretty important. The idea of celebrating falling down,
of knowing that you learn most about yourself
when you fall down, is something that we can appreciate more.
When it gets dark it gets interesting. When it gets dark,
if you can find the light it’s a really great thing,
because it makes you who you are. In every moment of now,
I’m only here because of the darkness,
not the light. Success is okay,
and everybody saying “yes” is okay,
but when it’s really dark and you’re getting “no,”
that’s when it’s most interesting.
Q: Do you have any sense of how we can help young people deal with the fear many of them are feeling?
JG: I think we can give constructive programming and narrative to the world. Currently we have the concept of “If it bleeds, it leads” when you turn on the news. The number one story is really horrible. They love it. But look at what we’ve manifested – look at the weapons, look at the starving people, look at the poverty, look at the way we’ve treated this place with a total lack of care and love of Nature. It’s disgusting. Let’s try to inform, inspire, and engage young people. Let’s put very constructive well-thought-through information that really empowers them rather than disempowers and frightens them. Because that’s what the media on the whole do.
You can test it easily. When you say to a big media company, “It’s the day for the elimination of racial discrimination, it’s voted by every country as a day of diversity, inclusion, equality, and justice, will you cover this story?” they say, “No.” “It’s a day of peace voted by every country of the world, it’s a day of ceasefire and non-violence, and if more people who find out about it they will actually end up changing their behavior, will you cover it?” they say, “No.”
So, there lies the essence of what’s going on. But will you choose to be disempowered by the fact that the media don’t want to cover constructive days that can have an impact on their own children? You have to think, “That’s the way the world is, selling arms, looting fossil fuels, treating animals badly – things that our very nature and our very existence depend on.” To think that certain sectors would behave any differently is a bit silly, really. This is how we are; this is what we are. And we must deal with it. It’s tough.
Actually, I don’t think humans really want to accept it. We want to think we’re something different; otherwise, how do we function? How do you talk to a young person about why nuclear weapons exist? How do you explain why they dropped a bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? How do you explain it? It’s disgusting. Tough stuff this.
Q: You really put your heart into this work, and when you put your heart into something, it’s incredible what can be achieved.
JG: Yes, it is quite amazing when you see beautiful things happening, when people are very determined, climbing the mountain. Especially if you love the mountain so much that you’re just never going to stop climbing, irrespective of whether you get to the top or not. That’s amazing, being in the grip rather than the view; every grip is exciting. And the falls are amazing, like “I now know that I can’t operate in that way. I have to find another way. Okay, let’s go a bit higher tomorrow.” Then your wisdom comes. You can see a mountain and can almost see the right route, because you’ve climbed so many and fallen so many times that you get better at spotting the route, even from the ground.
I quite like the journey, and life, and how it teaches you certain things that make it a little more interesting. And what makes the difference between somebody who gives up and somebody who doesn’t? As Steve Jobs said, it’s passion.
Look at what Ury and Fisher said in the book Getting to Yes: Don’t worry about the yes, look at the no, and when you get a no, turn it into a yes. And love the no. That’s very cool. They spoke about BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement). Go into every meeting thinking that you’re going to get a no, so what’s the alternative? As soon as a no comes, what are you going to ask for? Have it ready. These are not my thoughts; they are Ury and Fisher’s thoughts. They are legends.
It is quite amazing when you see beautiful things happening,
when people are very determined, climbing the mountain.
Especially if you love the mountain so much that
you’re just never going to stop climbing,
irrespective of whether you get to the top or not.
In the early days, I’d almost tempt a no, because having said no once, they would feel a bit difficult about saying no twice, so I would aim to get a yes for the second request! [laughs] Everything’s a negotiation, isn’t it? And it’s fun! That sounds manipulative, but I don’t think Ury and Fisher were suggesting manipulation. They were simply saying: If you’re going to do something good, get it done! Don’t worry about whatever comes your way. That’s just how it is. And what makes the difference between somebody who gives up and somebody who doesn’t? Again, passion.
Q: Is there any message you would like to give young people?
JG: I hope that what I’ve said during our conversation will be positive to young people. The future is clearly in their hands. They are charged with an incredible job and obviously we wish them well on that journey. And if we can be there to assist in any way, inform them, inspire them, and engage them, then that’s what we’re going to do. We will do that every single day.
People can find more information at peaceoneday.org. They can meditate and do all sorts of things to equip themselves for the challenges they’re going to face. It has been lovely to connect with Heartfulness for Peace Day and Space Transformers Live, and I’m really grateful.
After a successful career as an actor and filmmaker, Jeremy founded the non-profit organization Peace One Day. Because of his efforts, in 2001 a UN General Assembly resolution was unanimously adopted establishing September 21 as an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence. Today, billions of people have been exposed to the peace message, resulting... Read more