Monday, October 12, 2009

At War Over A Peace Prize

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for October 12, 09

I don’t understand all the furor over President Obama being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. I think some of the confusion comes from the title of the award – Peace Prize. Maybe if they renamed it the “Nobel We Keep Hoping For Some Peace Prize,” people wouldn’t be so touchy.

But let’s face it, that award has always stirred people up. I mean, every year the Committee seems to award the Prize in Literature to some obscure writer named WhoThe Hell? that nobody’s ever heard of, so in the international literary salons eyes roll and peer down sniffing noses, sneers slide onto faces and sotto-voce mutters are heard – This is an outrage! Whoever heard of WhoTheHell?’s book? It sold 40 copies, 39 to his Mom, and he gets the Nobel, while my books are international best sellers and I get bupkis?

So, this year’s Outrage du jour is no different, except it does have a couple of extra wrinkles. First, of course, is our country’s poisonous political climate. Since Obama is a Democrat, the Republicans felt they had to knee-jerk damn with faint praise as Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee Chairman sniffed, “The real question Americans are asking is, ‘What has President Obama actually accomplished?’” Which is a hilarious question coming from somebody who would qualify as a Nobel WhoTheHell?? himself. Of course, so much of what’s left of the Republican party has gone so far to the right that they’re now stuck with the likes of Bill Kristol and Rush Limbaugh, that gang of Right Wing No-Nothings who were all cheering when the U.S. lost the bid for the Olympics, which means that Republican Conservatives now Hate America And Want The Terrorists To Win.

The second wrinkle is that Obama is Commander in Chief and is heading up a country still actively mired in two wars, so a “peace” prize carries its own curious cognitive dissonance. And, since he was only in office a very short time before he was nominated and selected, the prize seems to be an a priori award, which is like giving the prize in literature to an author for a work-in-progress: A sort of Nobel Prize for First Draft Literature.

True, the historical list of Nobel Peace Prize winners doesn’t include many people who actually secured some kind of “official peace,” i.e. single-handedly negotiated a treaty or cease fire that stopped a war. And despite the best efforts of many noble people over the years toiling in the vineyards of peace, their harvests have too often been fleeting and thin, even though they got the Prize for At Least Trying. Or they got the award because their efforts on other fronts were focused on creating system changes that could help avert future wars, such as Al Gore’s work on global warning, a climate disaster that, if not mediated, will indeed lead to resource wars on an unimaginable scale.

In Obama’s case, what I find so fascinating, is that the Committee seems to be acutely aware of the old saying, “appearance is reality.” Indeed, our modern viral communications often turns appearance into actual reality in a trice. The fake can travel the world five times over before the “real” puts its shoes on, and intentions actually can shape reality. And since the Nobel Prize is powerfully about perception – the award money’s nice, but there’s nothing like having that title before your name to open doors and so move your career and hence your work forward – then an award that’s a sort of Good Job So Far, may accomplish more than an after-the-fact, Thanks for Your Past Efforts, Too Bad They Didn’t Do Much award ever could.

I mean, rewarding good effort and intentions is often a great way to get MORE good efforts. And if we want to end up with a peaceful world, we’ll need more good efforts, more good intentions, more cooperative efforts, and more world-wide problem-solving that doesn’t involve bombing people. Then, when peaceful interaction becomes the norm and not the exception, selfish, greedy, unilateral, corporate plunderers and cowboy warmongers will be considered shockingly tres gauche outliers – easier targets for the world political salons’ eyeball rolling and down-the-nose sniffing.


annerallen said...

Well put, Ann: rewarding good effort is a great way to get more good effort--or acting "as if" as the pop psych books say. I'm sure those Norwegians had that in mind. Who's gonna escalate a war when he just got a damned peace prize?

Also, I think it was about rewarding the US for standing up to the ultra-right corporate minions who brought down the world economy, murdered innocents all over the world, and threatened to destroy the planet itself. Unfortunately, fascism doesn't just destroy the country it infects--it poisons the world.

Donna said...

as a 3rd grade teacher for many years, in the inner city, i can testify to the fact that rewarding any kind of "good" behavior always produces "good" results.

AND it's contagious.

Shark Inlet said...

Any Republican who comments "what has he done to deserve it?" ought to listen to Obama's press conference after he heard about the award. Obama pretty much addressed all those issues head on before any of the nattering nabobs of negativism reared their ugly heads.

Patrick O'Hannigan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick O'Hannigan said...

I'm ordinarily in favor of rewarding good behavior, but I like to think of behavior as a synonym for action, and this wasn't even a Prize for At Least Trying -- it was a Prize for Talking About Trying. As such, it was woefully premature (don't take it from me; Lech Walesa said that).

What the president said in his press conference can hardly be held up as sufficient defense-- of course he was humble. He's not stupid. Given his thin record, he had to be humble. He would have done better to turn the prize down, as Ross Douthat of the New York Times and others have suggested.

Churadogs said...

Patrick sez Obama would have done better to turn the prize down.

Naw, that would have been churlish. Obama has better sense and better manners than that.

What tickles me about this whole Right Wing ginned up faux outrage is this: The Nobel prize is awarded by people who eat lutefisk as a national dish, fer chrissakes. And regularly twist tails by awarding prizes to people nobody has ever heard of. Nobel Prize season has ALWAYS been "The Time of Fake Outrage & Much Hopping Up And Down With Steam Coming Out of Ears."

Personally, I suspect Norwegians have a sly sense of humor and while away those long northern nights snickering up the sleeves of their beautiful wool sweaters over the outrage du jour in the days following their awards. "Sneetz, sneetz, sneetz," they say (in Norwegian) then they go stuff their faces with a table-full of those little open-faced munchies on dry brot and that awful lutefisk.

Then, to aid their digestion, they hop into their dragon boats and go invade Europe.

Chris Martin said...

How many other past winners of the peace prize were awarded for good intentions?

I think most prizes are awarded for tangible achievments. They don't award a nobel prize in physics, chemistry or medicine for someone who dreams of doing good things someday, or for making a effort.

It seems they have changed the whole basis of how prizes are awarded, which in my opinion diminishes the value of the prize.

What award gives you the most satisfaction? One that was given to you, or one that you earned?

Alon Perlman said...

Yaa Yebetche, The norgies are engaging in a little positive reinforcement wishfull thinking.
"Dynooo-mite", It's a good thing.
How about "At Peace Over A War Prize", We should recognise a Bushy former President's contributions to the Art of War, After all, I don't think the brilliance of opening a second front has been matched since Hitler went into Russia.

Word verification; Paree
As in "How can you keep the boys down on the farm, now that they've seen gay Paktika"

Paktika, Pashto speaking province of Afganistan, adjacent to Pakistan border.

Alon Perlman said...

Didn't we go through this, last year?
Anger over "politicised" Nobel Peace Award

Word verification; syche (no "P")

Churadogs said...

Alon sez:"Didn't we go through this, last year?
Anger over "politicised" Nobel Peace Award"

Don't we go through this EVERY year? Like I say, Norskies are a droll people. Must be the lye in the lutkefisk or something.

Shark Inlet said...

While I tend to agree that the award was premature if one is gonna present such awards based on accomplishments alone ... it does seem clear that O'Hannigan and Martin have not read Obama's comments when first discussing the issue with the media. Give it a whirl and let us know what you think about what he actually said.

Not2010Yet said...

I'm confused. Did the President get the "peace" prize selected by five old pols from the Norske legislature in their popularity contest, or did he get the "piece" p-i-e-c-e prize for tearing our economy and independent hard work values to "pieces".

If he was awarded the Prize also for good speech making, well good choice, Thornbjorn, the guy is the best speechmaker since Reagan. They are just from polar opposites of the political and sociological spectrum. One tore down the Berlin Wall, won (ended) the Cold War, liberated people, frightened a tin horn mullah-ship into peaceful submission never got some liberal medallion and is panned to this day, the other just gives dandy speeches and wrecks economies single handedly.

One ended double-digit unemployment and one CREATED double-digit persistent unemployment while claiming he could hold it to 8%.

So I guess I won't be bothering to re-read (I heard it on TV) his acceptance remarks. Nope, not going to read it. With respect I say, Sorry, Prof, I didn't read a single thing you(r cohorts) told me to read when I bluffed my way through Cal State in just over 3 years with a 3.4, and I'm not about to break a streak. Besides, reading Obama's transcript would just be more canned speech pablum from the most vocally-inspirational failed socialist we've ever elected.

I do however admire his promise to donate the mil-and-four-pence to some (probably Muslim or social engineering) charity.

word verification: unwarranted

Shark Inlet said...


I take it you didn't study Economics.

Shark Inlet said...

On the whole political/sociological spectrum issue, I find it curious that Obama is getting attacked from the Right for attempting to do something that Nixon tried in the 1970s and that the "line in the sand" on taxes is not the line Reagan drew on the issue.

The Republican party is trying to drive out middle-of-the road people like me.

Sorry, TeaBaggers, just because you've shifted further to the right doesn't mean that Obama is a Socialist or Communist. He's still pretty much middle of the road like all the Presidents we've had since Truman (with one exception).

Churadogs said...

Not yet 2010 sez:"or did he get the "piece" p-i-e-c-e prize for tearing our economy and independent hard work values to "pieces"."

Uh, think the Rpublicans starting with Reagan and ending with Bush and his cronies did that already.

Inlet sez of 2010:"I take it you didn't study Economics."

I would also have to add, don't think 2010 read history either. Plus he's got himself stuck in phony teabagger semantics -- "socialist" haahahahah. Obama? hahahah.

Alon Perlman said...

To "Not still October 2008 now",
I'm not an MBA but I did take part of the MBA Core (Graduate ) at SJSU to learn what I already knew.

The Russkies operated on a 5 year economic plan cycle for decades.

Then Ray-Gun started Star wars, with Dr. Edward Teller "I never met a Hydrogen Bomb I didnt Love, let's use them to change the weather" Teller. The ruskies panicked, flipped the couch but could not find a kopek (or whatever the 1/00th of a rubel is),
Instead of using EMP's, The poor man's dirty bomb russian winter in Space, they tried for the very advanced laser tech they were already good at and wiped out their already stagnant economy.
Later the Berlin Wall came down because the minister of passport stamping in the eastern side did not prep the border guards, for the controlled steam letting, and when the crowds showed up for an orderly first time crossing freely, to see their long apart relatives it turned into a Happy post soccer match Affair.

Here in the land of the free it is 3 and you are out. (Used to be Years now months)
There is a significant Lag time on economic actions by the executive branch(here). I remember somewhere in mid '08 "the foundations of the economy are strong" Wow, that Obama must be a real Shining Path Mao influenced old School Trotzzkiite, to do so much damage so soon.
That's just the History as I re-wrote it.
On the "Fair and Balanced" channel the Afgan failed policies of our CURRENT Commander in Chief are being critisized "basically, He shouldn't had started that war since he clearly didn't know what he is doing"

Mike said...

Y'all might try reading an article in the Wall Street Journal By Peggy Noonan...

Alon Perlman said...

This one?
OPINION: DECLARATIONS OCTOBER 10, 2009 A Wicked and Ignorant Award- How Barack Obama could help redeem the Norwegian Nobel Committee's grievous mistake."
Actually its a good read, and even though it contains the obligatory foam finger waving "US invented Gore's internet, Polio Vaccines" etc.. ( But What about the mighty MOPAR SEMI-Hemi Combustion Chamber, Moonshine, The Kentuck Longrifle, Sweet potatoE Possum pie, Wax Vampire Lips...) It does predict what (The presidential-) HE probably will say. Aactually, myself I'm not thinking it is "Deserved" but what the hey, Spain had a regime change in response to a semi-recent terrorist attack (We are now all about negotiation, do you want the Alhambra back?).
Hey the Old Europa are trying to throw us a bone here, they would rather not hate us, but they are Bushed...
Otherwise, again, a good read, fairly well written, with a few good points.
Thanks Mike.

Mike said...

You know Alon, I've travelled a bit and have never been treated like the "ugly American"... never been subjected to anti-US protests... Maybe it was because I was with the working people and tried to learn their languages and a little of their cultures... ok, so maybe some of the food wasn't what I could keep down and some liquid (water?) was interesting... Other than when in the Army, I've been both tourist and engineering consultant, but (other than South American border crossings) never had a really bad experience...and I did get way off the tourist paths... usually just good hard working folks trying to make a living...

Guess that's why I don't understand our own political polarization here in the US... There doesn't seem to be any compromise... It's my way or the highway... We've seen that attitude right here in Los Egos and right up to the White House... Do we have it so easy here that we figure my "freedoms and rights" are more important and/or correct that yours...??? There is more true diplomacy and democracy in a mountain village in Boliva than what I've watched here in Sewerville....

I'm no blind fan of Obama's or of Bush, not even Arnold or Karen Bass, but I'd sure like to see them come together for more than speeches about what they will do... when actually all they are doing is campaigning for the next election... If anyone on this earth could actually solve our sewer problem or even the world economy, then we would have some one worthy of a "Peace Prize", until then, keep the prize until it is truly deserved....

Shark Inlet said...

Why polarization? Because it has been rewarded while compromise has been punished. The faithful on each side have been pretty good about making sure that those who stray are punished.

Gerrymandering, for one, definitely causes this effect.

Franklin was right when he said that people (and thus politicians) will vote themselves benefits and that will cause problem.

I understand the need to draw district boundaries ... but when they are drawn without regard to community homogeneity and without regard to natural and other political boundaries but only so that the majority party has an unassailable majority in as many districts as possible it is most definitely the politicians taking advantage of the people for the good of their individual party.

As yourself this ... do you reall want a representative who feels a greater allegiance to their party than to the district and people they represent?

Whether Republican or Democrat (I've registered in both parties since the mid 1980s), I dislike it when my representative is more clearly a party player than a real representative.

I am sure that many of Joe Wilson's constituency agrees with me.

Alon Perlman said...

Mike You Know it, I've seen more hateful Ignorance and intolerance from NY Liberals, than from any of my experiences with Israeli Arabs, Druze, Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Syrians, in Israel and since.
Lebanese Christians and Israelis get along famously.
Course, I did emigrate. Though not by my determination-Just before conscription. Intifada was yet brewing.
So-"... usually just good hard working folks trying to make a living..." Amen to that.
Greece has a serious Anti-American, undercurrent, but you are unlikely to see it,(I didn't) (Costa Gravas-the colonels ='Z')(And Anti-Israeli too). My Pops worked for OLYMPIC Air while it belonged to Onasis (Jackie's #2). Old Europe has a long memory, but the real hate is reserved for the opposite side in the Hundred Year War, the war of the roses and such. North Algiers (AKA France) has its own peculiar take on its own history and of its current non-intergrational "Liberte". Been to Mayanmar? I haven't.

In the Middle East where; Five Thousand Seven Hundred years ago...The Enemy of the enemy of the enemy of the enemy of my enemy is my...Darn lost count, need to start over....
Shark has it... Not even the Dog that pisseth on the invisible wall of the Prohibition Zone of Babylan-By-The-Sea shall escape this Judgement...
Once I was elected to Los Osos Community Advisory Council, I internalized the concept of serving the whole Community (as best I could determine that). I walked the walk...I found one "Politician" and One Voter, and they both were me. Actually I am not alone in the undefined "middle".
Hero syndrome, Martyr syndrome, living in "concepts", trapped in self declarative statements, I didn't buy into that.
Oddly the "Other side" never asked me to apologize, for anything previously said. Versus "Alon, either you or David Duggan are going to have to drop out of the race!" (In conflict with the "vote for one" Doctrine, that would ensure that even with two slots open, to ensure that one person WOULD BE ELECTED to the CSD who wasn't about to question "the Shauna Sullivan arrangement".)
Now who said that? Probably "Your" next "representative" knowing how politics of democracy are manipulated here.
trathe-second word verification,
As in "The application of trathiness in human discourse, shall unbind the shackles of lyingtitude"

Mike said...

haha... Had an exchange student living with us from Bulgaria explain why the Turks were the scum of the world... the Russias were like brothers, but damn them Ottomans.... but when we visited his parents, we found his father had a very profitable working arrangement with the Turks... however they weren't too keen on the gypsy population over some STEP sewer thing they were trying to sell to the Bulgarians...

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"As yourself this ... do you reall want a representative who feels a greater allegiance to their party than to the district and people they represent?" And "Why polarization? Because it has been rewarded while compromise has been punished. The faithful on each side have been pretty good about making sure that those who stray are punished."

We saw a perfect example of this in our own district during the lastest budget Let California Fall Off A Cliff mess: Abel Maldanado broke (a teeensy bit) with his party and was "punished" by losing his seat at the table. Blakeslee stood by his blood oath to Grover Norquist and stood against the best interests of the people who elected him and the best interests of the people of California,(let the state go off the cliff) and he was richly rewarded with a nice seat at the Big Boy table. Message sent and received.