Friday, October 9, 2009

Because We Can

Well then, I guess my Thursday News In Review came a few hours before a very important and controversial story. President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (or, rather, he won the prize. He still has to go to Oslo to pick it up.)

Immediately the reactions/kneejerk opinions were flowing online and on NPR. Seeing as how haste seems to rule the day, I figured I ought to get right on a blog entry about it. One of the first opinions I got a kick out of was from Drew Carey, of all people (don't judge. I'm following him on Twitter because if he gets a million followers by the end of the year he will donate a million dollars to the Livestrong Foundation. See, now you feel all bad and you're going to go follow him now. Atta boy.) I thought Carey summed it up nicely when he said, "I can't believe I just won an OSCAR after only having a couple of pitch meetings! Thanks everyone!" I had a long moment of hesitation before quoting a game show host on this subject, but I decided that the nature of the story rather made it appropriate.

And let me just take a moment to say, "Way to go upstaging us bombing the moon, Mr. President."

Look, the Nobel Prize was not handed down from God. It's not given out by a great hoary, dry iced filled council room of The Three Most Important People In The World. It's the behest of the long dead inventor of dynamite, and a bunch of Swedish blokes decide who gets what. It's not canon. It's not a scientific equation, and if you have the money you can do whatever you want. I have every right to say that Murder of Angels by Caitlin R. Kiernan is one of the finest novels by a living author in print. I believe that to be the case. If I had a giant pool of money I might establish a literary award to slap on the cover of future editions of the book. The "Paul Mathers' Award of Literary Merit" or some such nonsense and maybe if I had enough money and I died and I left future decisions to a crusty panel of academics, people might actually start to feel that my award actually meant something aside from the personal taste of a small group. So you see, The Nobel Prize is sort of like the Oprah Book Club. A wealthy and influential name giving more money and more global prestige to slightly less wealthy and influential names. The only thing they succeed in doing by making poor choices is tarnishing their own reputation for the future.
So, that's my main reaction.

My secondary reaction is that the decision seems rather hasty (which is funny because I wrote that very line when I started writing this post this morning and as soon as I finished writing that line the power went out for three hours. It made me have to sit on the topic and think about it for a few hours before posting this.) It's not the first ghastly move made by the Nobel committee. I would remind everyone that Henry Kissinger of all people has a Nobel Peace Prize. As did Yasser Arafat. The Peace Prize!
Also, Al Gore won for his mad Powerpoint skills.

I've heard people already comment that Greg Mortenson, the Three Cups of Tea dude, was robbed. I am inclined to agree, although I would also point out that Gandhi was robbed five times. I've read several people pointing out that this announcement comes right on the heels of Obama calling for a step up of US military presence in Afghanistan. Personally, I'm a little more upset about the timing of the nomination which came right at the beginning of Obama's presidency before he'd even unpacked. The Nobel Committee, tellingly on the defensive even in announcing the winner, claims that they want to forward the mission of Obama and thank him for restoring the public face of America to the rest of the world (which is to say he wins for not being Bush.) So they straight up admit that it's based on an image and a plan rather than any actual achievement.

Again, as I've said before about Obama, I would like to believe all of the Hope hype. I would like to believe that Obama is going to usher in the Golden Age of America. I truly hope he does. I truly hope he turns out to have been the greatest president in American history. I genuinely think I would like the man in person. But here I sit almost six months after my lay-off. I've looked rabidly for work every day of those six months (except Sundays.) Really I think Job One for the president and all of America should be the creation of jobs, pressing the GDP to the metal, and replacing our current foundation on debt with a foundation on quality goods and services. The economy is so stinking bad, the jobless rate is so abysmal that it's hard to imagine the leader of a nation in such a state receiving such an award while we're still so sunk in it.
If the Nobel committee were time travelers I would feel a lot better about this but as you well know there are only 16 time travelers walking the Earth today and none of them are on the Nobel committee.

All of which is a long winded way of saying, yes, I agree with most people I've talked to, including a good portion who are otherwise Obama lovers, that the prize seems very hasty, very image based, and kind of embarrassing. That's the thing about money. When you have it, you can do whatever you want with it no matter how ill advised, tasteless or regrettable. If you don't believe me, Google Bellagio.


  1. This is pretty much how I felt about it. No, wait, actually my first thought was, "Aw, criminy, this is just going to 'prove' to those wackos that Obama is the Antichrist."

    I heard it on NPR via the BBC and at first I thought I'd heard it wrong. I was one of those independents that voted for Obama, and so far I'd say that he's done a decent job. I'm not sure I expect him to have great success in affecting change with tangible outcomes, but he brings some dignity to the White House, and is healing our international relationships. But Nobel? My wife's -- a big Obama supporter -- immediate response, "Say what?"

  2. Ha! That's almost exactly the first thing my wife said this morning about the Antichrist nut thing!

  3. I heard an interview with the head of the committee and he said it was awarded based on promise. The promise of what Obama is going to do. What???? What if he doesn't do whatever it is they think he is going to do? Does he have to give it back & the money? Sorry but I have to say if this is the way they give out the Nobel then it is now worthless!!