Why Nobel Peace Prize is not just some honorary title

Politically alert folks could have guessed that I was going to talk about the recently knighted Al Gore amongst the Nobelities. We all know that Al Gore is a classical Jersey type middle aged white Christian gracefully overweight teddy bear daddy guy. He is not so much into making wars as Bill Clinton or George Bush simply because he is too preoccupied with other more basic functions of life (e.g. food). There is no doubt if anyone qualifies for the prize, Mr. Gore does. The only hanging thought that might occur to a conscious citizen is the fact that Gore doesn’t appear to have done a whole lot either. Indeed a great deal of his brilliance was deeply imbedded within the Clinton administration and his post-election career has largely been confined to the academia and occasional public rallying such as the global warming initiative, which at least from the surface had little to do with peacemaking. Nonetheless what I want to stress here is that the Peace Prize must be judged from a drastically different perspective than the other Nobel entries.

   Going back two decades, we run into the more kosher laureate of the prize, James Carter. A name that has been well remembered in the generation above myself, Carter generated perhaps surprisingly little steroidal actions to the nation as a whole, be it economic policy or political maneuver, which at the time would be most suitably targeted at the Cold war. Nonetheless elders from Eastern Europe did remember him well, possibly due to his compliant stance towards their ideology and concussion with the western world. While it was said during the obituary of Gerald Ford that Ford would go down the history with the name Watergate attached to his collar, one can easily stretch the imagination to say that at least among the Americans, Carter’s most memorable political moment is the Iran hostage crisis, rather than the more glorious negotiation with the middle east leaders and the resolution of the oil crisis earlier on. After all, people are much more willing to remember the bad things, which as always provide comic relief.  But Carter certainly deserved the Nobel Prize better than any other president: his lack of contentious spirit is evident, and even if one accredits the lack of action to lack of opportunity, his apparently incapable handling of the Iran crisis clearly suggests otherwise. The Bush father-son alliance has been much more brutal in repelling foreign recalcitrant coming from the middle-east, and so was Clinton who learned to use his war-waging power only in the later part of his career, and was totally thrilled by that. Carter was too Southern and too home-made to think military legacy.

   Same goes with Al Gore. A scholar like him tends to be humbled by the sheer weight of textbook knowledge and become socially numbed. So did he appear in the public eyes: a mere shadow of the Clintonian grandeur, perhaps too heavily built to be a sidekick of sorts. Certainly he is supportive of all the goodness that came out of that last eight years of the past millennium. One is tickled to wonder what could become of the political scene today had Clinton chosen someone different for vice presidency. Mario Cuermo had the decency to call Clinton the Messiah of the new generation (or something like that), but would he go a step further to dub Gore the Baptist? The Nobel peace prize is therefore better described as a personality award, rather than a life time achievement symbol like the other establishments. Its sole purpose is to encourage peacemaking effort among the top political leaders, so in a sense it is discriminating against the millions of ordinary men and women who have not attained the status of political celebration. It thus should be placed in a completely different category, something reserved for the house of lords.

   My vision for the future of this pathological yet practical award is two fold. First, partly inspired by the two recent laureates chosen among the US presidents (if we count Gore in for 2000), the prize will serve as a great defensive line against the increasingly popular notion among recent commander in chief that waging war is the best, if not the only, way to attract public attention, and 99% of the time, in a favorable way. This satanic reasoning dates back to the days of Franklin Roosevelt, who arguably harnessed it with pious motives. But through decades of snowballing and tug of war between the two major parties, presidents of either side started to realize how much easier their job will be if the stimulant of iron and blood is injected into the national collective consciousness. After all these inaugurated folks are best known for their polemic skill, which in its most aboriginal form is physical incursion. Nothing, not even caffeine, spurts their age-worn soul better than the prospect of bloodshed and crisis evasion. So the establishment of the Peace Prize forms an effective buffer to this catastrophic line of thinking: if nothing spectacular happens during your administration, you might well still qualify for some well coveted Nobel Prize. A second purpose of the award could be based on the first one, in the following way. Once people start to notice how the Peace prize laureates constitute a distinct league from the rest of the politicians, they might start to understand the importance of this holding back from political excitement at the cost of human casualties and capital loss, because hopefully any reasonably educated person will come to the same conclusion as I did just now, and embrace the idea that inaction or dormancy can be thought of as a sign of blessing. It is often believed that education is much more effective under the right setting; I believe ‘tis is especially true in matters regarding political destiny, and more importantly the destiny of mankind as a whole.

About aquazorcarson

math PhD at Stanford, studying probability
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