The Nobel Peace Prize Isn't About Peace: It's a Way for Westerners to Pat Ourselves on the Back and Change Nothing
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It’s hard to believe, but there have been sillier moments in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize than this recent fiasco involving Barack Obama — it’s just so hard to remember them when you’re rolling around on the ground and spitting up greenish foam in a state of shock, as most of us were this past weekend as the news of Obama’s amazing award rolled over the airwaves.
The Nobel Peace Prize long ago ceased to be an award given to people who really spend their whole careers agitating for peace. Like most awards the Prize has evolved into a kind of maraschino cherry for hardcore careerists to place atop their resumes, a reward not for dissidence but on the contrary for gamely upholding the values of Western society as it perceives itself, for putting a good face on things (in Obama’s place, literally so).
Even when the award is given to a genuine dissident, it tends to be a dissident hailing from a country we consider outside the fold of Western civilization, a rogue state, "not one of us" -- South Africa from the apartheid days, for instance, or the regime occupying East Timor.
You never, ever get a true dissident from a prominent Western country winning the award, despite the obvious appropriateness such a choice would represent. Our Western society quite openly embraces war as a means of solving problems and for quite some time now has fashioned its entire social and economic structure around the preparation for war.
Most of our important scientific innovations come, either directly or indirectly, through research into the creation of new weapons. Our media relentlessly praises and cartoonizes war and violence, blithely indoctrinates millions of children a day into the possibilities of military combat with video games and toy guns. We house an utterly insane percentage of nonviolent criminals in jails. And when a fringe presidential candidate named Dennis Kucinich announced plans to create a "Department of Peace," he was almost literally laughed off the campaign trail.
We’re a society that believes powerfully in the divine right of force, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like to think of ourselves as being peaceful. And indeed, there are times when we actually do turn to peace and diplomacy to solve our problems. Usually this is because all other avenues of action have been exhausted first, or because it just happens to be the right logistical move at that particular moment.
Like for instance, we invade Iraq for whatever asinine reason was actually behind that decision, we stay there for, oh, seven years or whatever, and eventually it starts to occur to us that this is an extraordinarily expensive activity, pisses off everyone involved, destabilizes a whole region, and to boot puts the lives of countless innocent Iraqis and young Americans at risk, though of course this is the last consideration. Moreover the plan to gain permanent access to Iraqi oil reserves through the establishment of a friendly "democratic" regime with (let’s say) a "flexible" attitude toward foreign investment is turning out to be problematic at best.
So eventually someone will make the decision that this whole Iraq war thing is stupid, benefits no one, not even politically in the short term, and moves will be made to wrap up this idiotic business and bring everyone home. At which point someone making this dreary logistical decision will get nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and that someone will probably win it, allowing us all to bask in the glow of our "peace-loving" values which prevailed in the end over hate and violence.