On October 12 it was announced that the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to the European Union …
… Road trip!
In Stockholm, all 500 million of us can collect our 8 million Swedish kronor, which must surely be worth all the euros in Europe. Claustrophobia aside there will then occur one of the most boring and unending series of laureate-delivered lectures in history as all half billion of us speak in turn.
Hold on … presumably this audacious situation is understood if we define the EU. Or maybe not.
Have the Nobel committee broken the rules in order to bail out the EU? There exists a now porous clause that Nobel prizes should only be awarded pre-post-humously (during life, before death, as it were) … not to those who might have shuffled off the coil of intellectual aspiration and determination. This cold condition for recognition of greatness is a consequence of the fact that most prizes are awarded long after initial discoveries, often when said works lay in an academic state of inertia. This in turn is because prizes are given only to people who have changed the world for the better. So it is with pride that the EU should accept the prize, but for us individuals of Europe and its union states it would appear there is no such celebration to be had.
In short, alas, there is to be no road trip.
For the record, the prize was awarded to the EU “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”. Basically the EU gets a prize for not fighting itself … I await with bated excitement my 60th birthday, for if I am still at peace with myself I might duly deserve the 2037 Nobel Peace Prize. Granted the EU has been a force for peace within Europe, but does it deserve a prize? I for one take offence, and all citizens of EU member states should be equally dissatisfied, not for our lack of prize money, but for something far more sinister, a lack of individual human recognition.
There is a chequered history of precedent in awarding the Peace prize to organisations rather than individuals or small teams of individuals. The United Nations itself won the award in 2001. But take a moment to examine the following representative list:
2001 The United Nations (U.N.) and Kofi Annan
2005 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Mohamed El Baradei
2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr.
2012 The European Union and …
Historically, when an organisation wins the prize there is parallel recognition of an individual within that organisation. These are the people who wear the medal, shake the hands, and spend the kronor. Awarding the entire organisation is, in part, recognition that Mohamed El Baradei, Al Gore, and Kofi Annan did not work in vacuums, but with countless people behind the scenes. Only this year, the Nobel committee have anthropomorphised the EU by awarding some elusive structure of the organisation, and not anybody within that structure.
Perhaps this is all semantics, but by the EU’s own definition of itself, it is a union of countries and of people, for the people. Of course somebody will collect the medal. Debate (insert fighting) within the union is now raging as to who best embodies 60 years of contribution. Is there anybody within the organisation who has been there for 60 years? Maybe a cleaner, or the gardener. We eagerly await the December ceremony.
Is this award for the EU gardener in lieu of the imminent demise of the EU, in other words, before his job expires? With the unity of Europe under constant question and scrutiny, and with anarchic rebels tearing apart the founding lands of democracy and applying toothbrush moustaches to heil Angela Merkel, it is perhaps with little surprise but a small tear that those among us who consider themselves judges of human greatness have decided they had best award this rag-tag union with a prize before we commit hari kari and spill open the belly of old Europe such that it bleeds red into the Med. Or worse yet, is the EU already dead? The Nobel committee broke the rules last year too.
Exception to the rule of pre-post-humous award occurred in 2011 when the prize for Physiology or Medicine had been announced but not yet awarded precisely as laureate Ralph Steinman parted ways with the world. Nobody would deem his award lucky, as death trumps Swedish kronor more readily than David Cameron vetoes an EU budget. The EU Nobel award though? What an odd moment of disunity within this structure, that it be recognised only now for its peaceful union! And what fortune it discovers buried treasure at the same moment it finds itself queued up at the euro soup kitchen. Let us hope the EU does not do a Ralph Steinman and shuffle precipitously off before the Nobel ceremony.
Whether pre-post-humously, post-humously, or even exactly at the terminal moment of its last gurgling gasp for blood-curdled air the real question might in fact be whether the EU deserves such an award at all. Shall there now be a prize for every coagulation of ramshackle democratic union?
As we all bask individually beneath our collective Nobel glory, take a moment to consider if this is rather an ugly precedent for the recognition not of people, or even people within organisations, but for the structure of organisation itself. Is this thereby the pinnacle of noble idea and so the death knell of the Nobel thinker? Perhaps the committee might save some of Alfred Nobel’s kronor if the winner for Peace be a unifying concept or an ideal and not something/someone with a bank account.
I suppose that in the plutocracy of the future there will be a Nobel prize for Google or for the idea of love, or perhaps the laws of physics … God Himself might even get a look in! I’ll bet the Nobel committee would love to gild His breast. Modern corporations must rate themselves a chance now that the glory has been removed from the hands and pockets of the people and instead put into the foundational coffers of the structures themselves, those structures that are supposed to be representative of us the people trapped within them.
Perhaps in the not too distant future the Nobel committee might even award the prize to themselves! Indeed, what organisation has done more for the advancement of itself than they? How much brilliance is motivated by the thought of Nobel gold around one’s neck? Eight million kronor could motivate any underpaid academic. 2037 yet beckons.
But there is not just the obvious purse to be won. Post-ceremony, laureates can be seen peacocking around the circuit of tours, book launches and business ventures, and eagerly participating in the requisite autographing of bosoms. Given the current state of affairs in Europe one can’t help but think that far from critiquing human development, the latest Prize for Peace is actually designing human development, for if the EU gains the much-needed economic benefits and bosom signings along with the Prize, well … maybe that will keep the union intact despite this lack of tact.
Whatever the cloistered thoughts that occur behind Nobel committee doors one thing is clear. Either, humanity is losing its humanity and becoming nothing more than a series of organisations, and so the Nobel prize committee are proudly reactive to this development in our evolution, or less grandly universal, the committee themselves have become corrupted by the structures within which they are organised.
Alfred Nobel just wanted to blow stuff up! Why is his explosive name now attached to political aspiration and the web of inter-nation moulding? Conspiracy theorists only snigger as they saw this begun many years ago.
For many, the Nobel Peace Prize has long been abused as a political tool. The 2010 prize to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was widely regarded as a staunch Western middle finger to the Chinese government. But then, as always, the individual was a recognised component of our collection. Recognition of individuality was integral in the context of Chinese Communism. Mandela’s prize was of course political in the sense that it was anti-apartheid … but he did spend half his life in a 4×4 jail cell in the dirt being pissed upon by the structure within which he was forced to exist. And dare we mention Obama?
Surely in a world fraught with conflict, famine, resource insufficiency and war there are more Nelson Mandelas and Liu Xiaobos worthy of a Prize. Having said that, Mohandas Ghandi was nominated four times and never won the damn thing. And consider for a moment that even Mandela had to share his prize … so why not the EU?
Paranoia aside, it’s evident the Nobel dictators have only now, after how many years of financial turmoil, realised that most of Europe is dead broke. The nasty realisation must have precipitated within them the thought that in future years Europe might secede to Asian hegemony. And with an impoverished Europe the Nobel legacy might amount to a prize with no prize, an award with no award, and so just a paedophilic pat on the back from our Chinese benefactors.
Who would want to win a crappy prize like that?
Exuent left: The Nobel Laureate and his gold
Enter right: The noble idea
The answer is, only those with no need for gold and no designs for the autographing of breasts.
Of course, the Nobel Prize committee might say they can do as they please. It is their prize to bestow as they see fit. But I say that since Alfred is long buried, and the Prize is now intertwined with global recognition of human endeavour, it is our prize, us the people. For many it is our only exposure to any definition of intellectual greatness. Please don’t instill within us a feeling that greatness derives only from collectives, corporations, from principles or ideals.
I suppose it is to be expected from a committee. But as in yesteryear, please Nobel committee, inspire us to be great by the simple act of showing it is possible to achieve personal glory. Give an individual a piece of a fighting chance at peace.
A lingering thought … According to Nobel rules, nobody can nominate themselves for a prize. So wouldn’t it be telling, hilarious and depressing, if the nominator for the EU was a citizen of an EU member state? In fact the second-time nominator was Janne Haaland Matlary of Norway. Norway is one of the few western European countries not to be an EU member, though one might argue that Norway is a rat caught in the vortex of a sinking ship called the EU …
… if one were mean and jaded.