Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


The Malala Dilemma: Nobel Prizes and Noble Sinners

The Malala Dilemma: Nobel Prizes and Noble Sinners

by Dr. Binoy Kampmark
October 14, 2013

Prizes can be disabilities, impediments on future progress. “Inscribe all human effort with one word,” claims Robert Browning on creative achievement, “Artistry’s haunting curse, the Incomplete!” Awards have the habit of distorting the perspective of achievement, labours complete when there is much to be done. Greatest is the curse to have reached to mountain and find yourself unable to climb another. On the PBS Newshour, Nobel Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai claimed that it was good not to win it – she had a lot of work to do. Success, after all, can breed sloth.

The language used by some press vultures was that of deprivation. She was “denied” the Nobel Peace Prize. The Taliban were “delighted” that she was so denied. Certainly, according to their spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, “She did nothing big so it’s good that she didn’t get it.”

In any case, the Nobel committee has fallen into the business of coercing its awardees into success. According to Marc Champion (Chicago Tribune, Oct 14), it has developed a “habit of offering the peace prize as a kind of advance payment on great deeds to come, which in such cases tells us more about the priorities of the committees members than the actions of the winners.”

President Barack Obama is the perfect case in point. Awarded the prize ahead of time, he was saddled with expectations he could not deliver. An imperial consul can rarely qualify for peace when a state of permanent war exists. But the peace game, like the war game, are seen as part of the same board, the pieces of the same strategic puzzle. The Nobel Peace Prize committee has shown time and again that it does not see them as mutually exclusive. It demands flawed candidates, a dirtied slate.

The prize itself is a poisoned chalice. It has been given to war mongers. It has been given to those as an incentive. The case of disbanding the weapons on the part of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons continues the legacy. Criticism was bound to issue against the OPCW – first, it being bloodless, an entity, rather than a personal face, and second, that the prize brings with it a somewhat slimy hue. The OPCW is deemed to be in bed with the UN, while it is properly more appropriate to see it as a brief visitor.

That would be to ignore that body’s efforts at verifying the destruction of 82 percent of chemical weapons stocks states have declared. But here, the Nobel committee demonstrates again that it is second-guessing an effort, calculating success ahead of time, an achievement before it has been bagged. Serious work has yet to begin in Syria, the groups appointed and seemingly colossal task.

What of Yousafzai’s own credentials? How does the resume rank in terms of the award? It was obvious that her fan club would feel snubbed by the decision. Nayeem Akhtar, a political figure in Kashmir, “was looking forward for her and [was] disappointed.” Comedian and talk show host Jon Stewart wanted to adopt her. She has certainly started to get a collection of trophies and prizes, the most recent being the European Union’s Sakharov human rights award.

Yousafzai’s own weapon is that of education, a traditional view that the more one learns, the less ignorant one is. (Not in itself accurate – great crimes are often created by the learned.) One teacher, one student one pen, one book – these are the properties that will propel prejudice to the outer. She is becoming the global iconoclast, the embedded symbol of rights for female education.

But the seemingly invincible moral credentials of Yousafzai present her with a fundamental problem. She risks succumbing, or at the very least becoming, the cult figure of interests, a weapon of their podiums. Her potency where it counts may be her Achilles heel – that she is a mere 16 but a global celebrity; that she was near death because of the bullet she took to her head from the Taliban. That she flirts with politics as an activist when she risks becoming a politician who flirts with activism.

There is already a sense that this point is being made. Muhammed Ayaz, a trader who operates his business beside Yousafzai’s old school in Mingora makes the point that, while Yousafzai might be “a heroine of the West,” her record on achievement in the Swat valley is scant (New York Times, Oct 11). This is the battle all historical agents face, and in this case, it is particularly acute.

In time, it may well be that this young woman will earn her stripes for the prize. By then, virtue might have been blunted, and principle stained by experience. The Nobel Prize Committee tends to only acknowledge experienced sinners.

*************

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Daphne Lawless: The Whale Oil Leaks: Anti-Politics From Above

As we go to press, the election campaign has been turned upside down by a new book by investigative journalist Nicky Hager. Dirty Politics is based mainly on a leak of 2 gigabytes of emails and Facebook messages from “Whale Oil”, the vicious ... More>>

ALSO:

Branko Marcetic: When John Key Was Concerned About Dirty Politics

If Nicky Hager needs some support in the midst of a whirlwind of government criticism for his allegations of “dirty tricks” by the National Party, he may find one unlikely ally – John Key, six years ago. More>>

Jim Miles: Israeli War Crimes In Gaza

Israel reveals its true colours and true aspirations every time it attacks Gaza (or any other self-perceived enemy) as being the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, even to the degree - as the references above indicate - to the act of genocide. More>>

David Swanson: Top 9 Reasons To Stop Bombing Iraq

1. It's not a rescue mission. The U.S. personnel could be evacuated without the 500-pound bombs. The persecuted minorities could be supplied, moved, or their enemy dissuaded, or all three, without the 500-pound bombs or the hundreds of 'advisors' (trained ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Comedian’s Death: Robin Williams And The Virtues Of Suicide

The Grim Reaper never runs out of converts. Put another way, death never gets his full due. Comedians do not figure well in this – they are particularly attractive targets in the business of death. More>>

Suzan Mazur: "Oomph" & Origin Of Life At Hydrothermal Vents

The notion that life originated in hydrothermal vents was for a long time a sleepy area of scientific inquiry because the vents first found, known as 'black smokers,' were way too hot and acidic. But in 1989, Michael Russell, a British geochemist who ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The US Rescue Mission In Iraq

It isn’t often that unilateral US bombing raids within a foreign country can be supported, but the current US bombing campaign in northern Iraq is one such case. The fighters of the Islamic State (IS) appear to be intent on committing genocide against the Yezidis, Christians, Turkmen, Kurds and every other non-Sunni community in the region… More>>

ALSO:

Stuart Littlewood: What More Horrors Are In Store For Gaza?

I wonder what Hamas and Israeli leaders are thinking as they survey the devastation in Gaza and review the death-toll and casualty figures? Or course, neither has to live among the ruins and clamber over the devastation. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
TEDxAuckland
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news