This Week (1): If you are Chinese today, can you win a Nobel Peace Prize?

… and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

Alfred Nobel, 1895, defining the scope of the Nobel Peace Prize

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A book  – What Nobel really wanted – was

the elephant in the room that official Norway – politicians, most media, academics – are adamant not to see,

Fredrik S. Heffermehl, a humanist and lawyer, wrote in 2010. His campaign probably gained traction in 2010, given that the 2010 winner of the Prize was Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who reportedly, to this day, this day remains in custody, either in prison, or in a labor camp, and given that China’s authorities have taken a great interest in anything that helps to question the legitimacy of the prize. The book became available in Chinese in 2011, published by the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing.

Publicity helps – even if it comes from a totalitarian regime. When European institutions become unable to perform their acutal duties, any help should be welcome, CCP support included. But it’s a fine line, and a reasonable citizen should try to weigh and understand the factors in power games as carefully and comprehensively as he can.

Kristian Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) (and not directly associated with the committee itself) made a pretty candid statement in an al-Jazeera discussion published on youtube last Wednesday, highlighting Beijing’s influence in Norwegian politics and on the Nobel Committee’s decisions.

Moderator: Do you think if you are Chinese today, you have a chance of winning a Nobel Peace Prize?

Harpviken: Yes, but I think there is one thing that [not readable] against any non-Chinese candidacy at the moment, and that is that the 2010 prize to Liu Xiaobo was so deeply contested by the Chinese government that for the Nobel committee, it is virtually unthinkable to give a prize that would be consistent with the government’s plans and politics, but it is equally inconceivable to give a prize to another dissident in this particular situation …

[Remaining answer unreadable, as it was cut short by moderator]

That, and what follows in a European context, makes it clear that the image of an independent committee, carrying out Alfred Nobel‘s will, is a pretty shaky and highly theoretical concept.

But a list of alternative Nobel Peace laureates, as published by the Nobel Peace Prize Watch, looks no less shaky. For one, it mainly lauds activists who target Western militarism or Western secrecy. The real world isn’t quite that uni-polar.

And there’s another problem. The list explained by its authors, at the bottom of the page, and along with several entries:

Above is the list – based on extensive research – of those who are nominated AND qualified, 
either 1) by direct work for the global disarmament plan Nobel had in mind, or (under a wide understanding of the purpose of Nobel)
 2) by peace work with high utility and relevance to realizing the “fraternity of (disarmed) nations,” or
 3) by new ideas and research, developing new methods for civilized, non-violent interrelation between peoples that enables a demilitarization of international relations.

Heffermehl’s point – as I understand it – has so far been that the committee deviates from Alfred Nobel’s will. But then, someone who wants to provide an alternative to the current committee’s practice, should interpret Nobel closely, not with a wide understanding of the purpose of Nobel. Edward Snowden would be a particular case in point. The desire to support and encourage him is a good thing. But Snowden is hardly a pacifist, or a peace activist, if you go by this Guardian account of February 2014. Even if we take into account that Snowden, under huge US prosecution (or persecution, for that matter), can’t speak his mind openly enough to convey a full picture of his views and intentions, he should rather be in the alternative list’s waiting list for now.

You can’t have your cake and eat it. It’s either a choice in accordance with Nobel’s will, or it’s an interpretation. If it’s an interpretation, the acting Nobel committee can’t be as wrong as first reported.

Once again: trying to turn public attention to an elephant – even if already in the room – is a difficult undertaking, when deemed undesirable by the establishment. It is also a fine line in terms of ethical standards, and I’m beginning to believe that it is an impossible mission, if undertaken without compromising.

Besides, there’s a predicament any institution – and opposing movement – will face: a too narrow choice of candidates, (nearly) unknown to the public, may not achieve much publicity. But without publicity, even the most sincere political plans and objectives are doomed.

Even if biased, a public list of Nobel Peace Prize candidates as published by Heffermehl and Magnusson, that provides a platform for public debate about possible Nobel Peace Prize candidates, is a good step. One can only hope that – better sooner than later – the acting committee in Oslo will understand this, and follow the example.

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Related

» National Dialogue Quartet, BBC, Oct 9, 2015
» Appeasing China, May 1, 2014
» A Panda is no Polar Bear, June 6, 2012
» Liu Xiaobo, Dec 28, 2010

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One Comment to “This Week (1): If you are Chinese today, can you win a Nobel Peace Prize?”

  1. Thanks for this very good comment. It is also right that several names in the list of 25 qualified candidates are not at the core of the type of peace work Nobel had in mind. Yet it would be possible to argue that by exposure of the futility and dangers of the military power approach to security these persons have given a forceful contribution to understanding the need for the peace and disarmament plan/ideas that Nobel wished to support. It is important that the Norwegian Nobel Committee must give reasons showing loyalty to the visionary idea of Nobel, says Nobel Peace Prize Watch / nobelwill.org

    Like

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