Monday, 12 October 2009

I was delighted when Nelson Mandela

and Aung San Suu Kyi won Nobel Prizes. I am sorry that Gandhi never won one. Winston Churchill may have deserved one too. All of them made mistakes but they achieved things that most of us can only wonder at.
Nelson Mandela's prize has not solved all the problems in South Africa and Aung San Suu Kyi's prize has done little to solve the problems of the Burmese people. Some might say that the problems in the latter country have only increased in recent years. Without those prizes however the world would be much less aware of the problems facing those people. I am however puzzled by the latest choice. I have been pondering it since the award was announced and I am disturbed by it.
Please do not misunderstand me. Mr Obama has potential - but that is what it is, potential. He has not yet achieved for others what he has achieved for himself. The Nobel Peace Prize should be about achievement not potential. Accepting the award will make it more difficult to do the job. It may even make Mr Obama a one term, rather than a two term, President. It will place pressure on him with respect to troop numbers in Afghanistan. He will be under more pressure from other interest groups in the United States and elsewhere. He would have been wise to decline the honour - and would almost certainly have been reconsidered later - but he has chosen to accept it and will now have to live with the consequences.
Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, chosen by academics, this Nobel Prize is chosen by politicians and it shows. This is a political choice, not a peace choice. It is chosen, from among the nominations made, by five Norwegian politicians. (Nobel considered Norwegian politicans to be less corruptible than Swedish politicians.) By this present choice I feel the Nobel Peace Prize has lost its true value.
The same can also be said of our own 'honours' system. We removed the old Imperial honours system some time ago and replaced it with a much more political "Australian" system. People are now honoured for doing their job, winning at sport and only occasionally for genuine service.
It helps to be a member of a particular political party. I am not being cynical. An analysis of those given awards has been undertaken by others.
All this makes me wonder about the way in which we say "thankyou" to those who do the most to help. Some of them never get thanked at all.


Rachel Fenton said...

We seldom hear about the people who do most good deeds because they are altruistic. It is the people who sing their own praises who are often remembered.

I think there is a danger that Obama may be revered more as a demi-god than as a real man and therefore his achievements will not stand as a lesson to others to aim higher but will seem all the more unattainable.

He needs to show that he still has his critical faculties in no-nonsense working order or, as you say, he will not make a second term - he will be an Icarus.

However, NPP aside, I still believe he can deliver peace.

But he is just a man and however fast his optimism for change ran into the Whitehouse it could not run fast enough through the treacle of the system to make a difference so soon.

I'll keep hoping.

Holly said...

I am not sure that it is possible to turn down a peace prize.

I fully agree that this "idea" on the part of the Nobel Committee to vote their idea of the future may well have a serious backlash.

Of course, even without it, there are already those who are blaming him for all the ills of the last nine year.

Now, I ask, how can you hold him responsible for everything that happened prior to his taking office?

I think the answer is "rationality is not required." And so, just the same with the Peace Prizz