FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Nobel Rot

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Melbourne.

One wonders whether having a peace prize makes an assumption about redundancy and diminishment in advance. Ever year, the arguments seem to mount.  This year, the choice of the European Union being the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize struck many as daft, dangerous and redolent with black humour.  In a more distinct sense, it suggested that Alfred Nobel would turn in his grave.  When you start considering that the man who fronted the cash and the name for the award was a dynamite fiend and pioneer, very little will be making him stir.  From the start, the prize has been something of a running joke, an award susceptible to manipulation.

What has struck some critics as peculiar is that of awarding an entity rather than an individual.  Not only that, it is an entity that does work other than peace building.  “The EU,” claimed a puzzled editorial of The Bangkok Post (Oct 14), “is involved in so many different areas not related to peace building, and frankly, some probably at odds with peace building, that trying to justify awarding it the Nobel Peace Prize becomes an argument in the abstract.”  The editors feel that the worthier choice would be Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was gravely wounded by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ rights to an education.

This is a good argument, till you realize that many “peace” prize recipients have been dealing with peace in the abstract for years.  Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger must surely rank up there as being the most conspicuous example of this, when he accepted the prize at a time, as was noted then by his sparring partner Le Duc Tho, when there was no peace to be awarded over.  Vietnam was still, and would continue to be involved in conflict for a few more years.  It might be argued, as in fact has been by such groups as the anti-austerity Syriza party that peace is a dream at the moment in various parts of Europe.  “In many parts of Europe, but especially in Greece,” argues Syriza spokesman Panos Skourletis, “we are experiencing what really is a war situation on a daily basis albeit a war that has not been formally declared.  There is nothing peaceful about it.”

The critical view is on better ground in terms of reading Nobel’s will, which does specific an award to a “person”.  Again, this has been interpreted in most broad terms. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (1954) and Amnesty International (1977), have received the award, amongst other specialized agencies.  The irritation, at the end of the day, seems to be with the EU more than anything else.

Take the ill considered remarks of entrenched EU critics like Ukip leader Nigel Farage.  “This goes to show that the Norwegians really do have a sense of humour. The EU may be getting the booby prize for peace because it hasn’t created prosperity.  The EU has created poverty and unemployment for millions.”  Former UK chancellor Lord Lamont, found it “ridiculous, preposterous and absurd” that the EU get the prize at a time when individuals were prancing up and down the streets of Athens “dressing up as Nazis” (Guardian, Oct 12). “What next?” inquired Dutch Euroskeptic Geert Wilders, “An Oscar for Van Rompuy?”

The union is certainly under threat, facing ruinous debt and a debate over austerity, and the viability of its institutional (mis)arrangements.  Could the prize be seen as a fillip?  “It was a cheer for an entity tackling the continent’s economic misery – particularly in debt-ridden Greece, Spain, and Portugal – as some member countries might be faced with dropping the euro, the EU currency” (CNN, Oct 12).  Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland and committee members wanted “to remind all Europeans about what we have achieved on this continent and that we should not let it start disintegrating again and getting nationalism and extremism (to) grow on this continent, because we know what that leads to.”

The report card of the EU is more impressive than depressing.  In the grim world of conflict resolution, it succeeded in bringing stability to a continent periodically ravaged by wars.  In the words of the Nobel Committee, the EU “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”  But the entity is uneven, misshaped, complex. It has reached its natural breaking point after the seeds of the project – peaceful cooperation between France and Germany – took root and flourished.  To award such a prize on the hope that it provides some band aid is wishful thinking.  But to criticize it merely for being an imperfect institution is an argument that doesn’t, at the end of the day, hold much water.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
THE ARAB SPRING AT A CROSSROADS — Esam Al-Amin surveys the new Middle East, from the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, to the aftermath of the overthrow of Qaddafi and the civil war in Syria, and outlines the economic and political challenges facing the fledgling Arab democracies; THE BI-PARTISAN PLAN TO GUT MEDICARE: Dave Lindorff digs beneath the rhetoric to expose the grim similarities in both Obama and Romney’s schemes to degrade Medicare by cutting spending, reducing eligibility and privatizing services. KAFKA IN SEATTLE: Kristian Williams details the surreal ordeal of Matthew Duran, thrown into federal prison even though prosecutors admit he committed no crime.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 26, 2017
Richard Moser
Empire Abroad, Empire At Home
Stan Cox
For Climate Justice, It’s the 33 Percent Who’ll Have to Pick Up the Tab
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Machine Called Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
The Dilemma for Intelligence Agencies
Christy Rodgers
Remaining Animal
Joseph Natoli
Facts, Opinions, Tweets, Words
Mel Gurtov
No Exit? The NY Times and North Korea
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Women on the Move: Can Three Women and a Truck Quell the Tide of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse?
Michael J. Sainato
Trump’s Wikileaks Flip-Flop
Manuel E. Yepe
North Korea’s Antidote to the US
Kim C. Domenico
‘Courting Failure:’ the Key to Resistance is Ending Animacide
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer
Andrew Stewart
The People vs. Bernie Sanders
Daniel Warner
“Vive La France, Vive La République” vs. “God Bless America”
April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail