Tuesday, January 17

In the Future Everyone Will Be Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize

In the Future, Everyone Will Be Famous for Fifteen Minutes
Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol & Tookie Williams & Alfred Nobel
This will all make sense in a moment ...


Wikipedia is usually a good source of information and this article on the Nobel Prize is no exception. The Nobel Prize Site itself rounds out a decent introduction to the subject matter quite nicely.

Needless to say, getting a prize is rather a big deal and awards are often quite controversial and certainly competitive. To say that the awards are political is certainly an understatement. Perhaps less so in Physics than Economics - but as you can imagine the awarding of awards is a complex business.

Alfred Nobel himself took the very unstable explosive nitroglycerin and combining it with various substances like diatomaceous earth (the skeletons of millions of millions year old sea creatures) created the stable explosive dynamite. It was of course famous for peaceful uses in man's conquest of the earth and infamous for war in man's conquest of other men.

He went on to pioneer work in other forms of explosives and smokeless gunpowder. Along with investments in oil, all this made Alfred a very wealthy man indeed.After premature rumours of his death led to him reading his own obituary, he decided to make himself remembered for something more pleasant by leaving his estate to the establishment of the Nobel Prizes.

That purpose has largely been met. Now let us take a step back several paragraphs to the issue of controversy and the prize. Obviously, the most subjective one of all is the Nobel Peace Prize
Aside from humanitarian work and peace movements, the Prize has been awarded to a wide field of work including advocacy of human rights, mediation of international conflicts and arms control and disarmament.
There are often disagreements on the awarding of this prize and its evolving political meaning over time. All are free to take or leave their estimation of the Peace Prize and its value - however, the whole process of being Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize is ridiculous .

Way too often, in our opinions, we are all subjected to the rationalization that someone who was so nominated is suddenly to be accorded the status of at least a middle weight Martin Luther King Jr or a featherweight Lech Walesa. So sorry but there is a whole lot of difference between being nominated and winning.

Here is, according to the Nobel Site, a description of how the Prize is awarded. Hidden towards the bottom of the page is a list of who can nominate someone for the Prize.
The following are entitled to nominate candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize:

1. Present and past members of the Nobel Committee and the advisers at the Nobel Institute.
2. Members of national assemblies and governments, and members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
3. Members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
4. Members of the Commission of the Permanent International Peace Bureau.
5. Members of the Institut de Droit International.
6. Present university professors of law, political science, history and philosophy.
7. Holders of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Observing the rules given in the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, the Committee does not publish the names of candidates.
This sounds perfectly reasonable on first reading but check out numbers 2 & 6 again. These two constitute loopholes that the Titanic could easily fit through along with several aircraft carriers. Perhaps that is why the names of candidates are secret?

Certainly there have been enough pseudo-legislatures and even real legislators in the past century who have nominated more than their fair share of frogs rather than princes. Strangely enough there is a nomination database associated with the Nobel Site. But ... it only goes up to 1951. It is our opinion that sometime in the latter 20th Century the list become rather silly and long.

What legislature would not nominate its own dictator for a prize? Mussolini, Mengistu and Meles were certainly potential nominees albeit unsavory ones. Should they and their ilk then go about parading their nominations before the world like they mean something? Tookie Williams received six nominations from Swiss legislators and California academics who were oddly far from the nominee and his shotgun at the time they nominated him.

An even greater level of absurdity is reached in the ability of basically any "law, political science, history and philosophy" to nominate folks. This sounds suspiciously like almost anyone who teaches above the high school level can send in a nomination and the nominee can then forever affix to his name of have affixed for him the term "nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize" as though that actually means anything.

That leaves probably several hundred thousand people, not all of them rational or nobly motivated, who can go around nominating as many people as they want to. This is beyond the level of a kid wanting to be the first Nobel Peace Prize Nominee on his block but rather rises to the level that we should all ask ourselves why we personally have yet to be nominated.

So next time you hear the "nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize" mantra about anyone, just smile and go get one for yourself. It doesn't seem to be that difficult.

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