Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Liu Xiaobo Wins Nobel Peace Prize

with 6 comments

If the gentle reader wants to read a fawning endorsement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize choice, pretty much any western mainstream media has it covered in spades. Fortunately my readers don’t come here for fawning endorsements of anything. I am troubled on a  number of levels by the Nobel committee’s choice, especially on the heels of last year’s winner, the distinguished Mr Obama, who apparently got the prize based on Aquavit fuelled speculation that he would be a voice for world peace? My first problem is based on just that combination, sure as hell seems like these last two Nobel Peace Prizes were exactly what the US White House wanted. If I didn’t know better, I’d wonder if the Nobel committee was packed by USA supporters? First Obama gets a prize that no one on Earth thinks he earned, did they? And then a prominent Chinese dissident gets named, very obviously a major blow to China’s up and coming status on the world stage.

And to add insult to injury, when the Chinese complained to the Norwegian government, the Norwegians bluntly claimed they had no say in the Nobel Committee’s decision.  In other words, the Norwegians response to the Chinese was pretty much an upraised finger, because the Nobel Peace Prize committee is appointed by the Norwegian government, the idea that the Norwegian government has no influence on the decisions of a committee they appoint is prima facie absurd. If the awarding of the prize wasn’t an attempt to make China look bad, the Norwegian government sure wants to make sure the Chinese get that impression. Yeah, nothing political going on here, move along. Snort.

Granted the Nobel Prizes have been accused of regionalism and favouritism since the beginning. An extraordinary number of Scandinavians have won prizes for example, and it goes on. And the Peace Prize has an especially checkered record. Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger have won the peace prize, yet Mahatma Gandhi didn’t? In any event, this is not meant as a broad criticism of the Nobel Peace Prize, even the fact that we have a Peace Prize has to have some value in these war torn days. And if I was just annoyed by the obviously political implications of the prize, the blog post would end here and I’d dump it in my ever growing slush pile of blog posts that didn’t quite pan out, dammit.

No, there’s another aspect of the particular prize that I find fault with. This prize wasn’t so much given as a recognition of someone who was working for peace, it was very much stated that this was given in recognition of Liu Xiabobo’s work promoting constitutional government, human rights, and democracy. In his own words even:

“the Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these years [of Communist rule], now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.”

I have some serious problems with the idea that democracy and constitutional government are somehow the fundamental framework for defending these values, nor do I see them as particularly a framework for peace either. Europe’s constitutional republics had no trouble conquering the world, and to this day, two of the world’s greatest democratic constitutional republics, the USA and Britain, are the two most militarized war like countries on the planet. The USA in particular has engaged in a staggering number of wars and interventions over the past century, and to this day is actively trying to impose its values at the point of a gun in numerous countries around the world.

In other words, I’d be a lot happier if the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize was someone who was actively working for peace, and not someone who sounds like an apologist for American and European colonialism and it’s modern day global interventionism. I’m even half convinced that it works the other way, first peace, and then democracy and human rights will find fertile ground. The longer the War on Terror goes on, the less democratic and constitutionally governed the USA seems like to me.

In any event this is no big deal. I’m not criticizing Liu Xiabobo’s efforts, just trying to point out that the Chinese government has a point, and issues of peace and human rights are a bit more complicated that “you’ve got the vote and a constitution, what’s the problem?” Real democracy is a wonderful thing, fake democracy may be one of the most tyrannical warlike forms of government ever devised. The jury is still out on how this century is going to turn out, but I suspect a lot of the things we think we learnt from the horrors of the 20th century are going to seem as quaint as the God and Country nonsense that motivated millions of Europeans to march into machine gun fire in World War One.

In summation, it looks to me like the Nobel Peace Prize committee, like the UN and so many other organizations ostensibly promoting world peace, is actually just another organ promoting Euro-American domination of the world. More on this in an upcoming post.

(The image above is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is one of the most historically important images of the 20th century. Credit and copyright:  Jeff Widener (Associated Press). It’s tank man, an unknown protester who halted a column of tanks during the Chinese crackdown at Tiananmen Square in 1989. He may have been secretly executed or imprisoned, or he may be in hiding. Gotta admire someone who can stand up for their beliefs like that.)


Written by unitedcats

October 11, 2010 at 7:15 am

6 Responses

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  1. Why project such invective at an institution that is– and always has been- the academic equivilent of pro wrestling? The list of Nobel “Lauriates” reads like a rogue’s gallery of true scoundrels– it would takeup too much space to list the number of liars, theives, racists, war criminals etc…
    The element of satire begins with Alfred Nobel– dynamite inventor and arms dealer to a grateful world– who only became concerned with his ‘legacy’ after his obituary was printed in error. Apparently it was neither complementary no inaccurate. Nobel foundation was created upon his death and the silly prize is believed to be the high-water mark of civilization. Please… egads if that were so much of our language and culture would be of Scandanavian origin due to the disproportionate number of prizes they’ve received…
    In any event its not even worth paying any attention to.

    Capacity gear

    October 11, 2010 at 9:50 am

  2. good post, thought provoking to say the least. but i do believe it has one small error. isnt the nobel peace prize presented in stockholm? making it swedish rather than norwegian, just wanted to notify you of that. otherwise keep up the great reading material.


    October 11, 2010 at 10:00 am

  3. My good friend Ryan here has a point although he does the same thing so many of us do– which is to assume Alfred Nobel was Norwegian– He was actually Scandanavian, as Sweden & Norway were united until beginning of 20th century.
    The Swedish Academy (no, not affiliated with Ikea…) was given the responsibility for all Nobels save for the Peace Prize– that heavy burden was given to a board of Norwegians…
    By the way they wouldn’t rescind the prize once it was given– that happened only once in 1944 when they rescinded the Peace Prize they gave to Hitler in 1938,,,

    No of course Hitler didn’t get a Nobel Prize… He was Time Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ for 1938 though… Imagine THEIR embarrassment about that one!

    Capacity gear

    October 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    • Thanks Capicity gear for the tidbit about hilter being times man of the year, 1938. I googled it, what a creepy cover. But in the times article it states the man of the year is the most influential person, for better or worse, so I don’t think they were enbaresed. Its an interesting article if anyone wants to read it, writen while the events leading up to WWII were unfolding.

      FYI orson wells was the radio man of the year for his broadcast of war of the worlds.

      Josh V.

      October 12, 2010 at 3:51 pm

  4. The prizes may be awarded in Stockholm, but for whatever reason the Norwegian Parliament selects the Nobel Peace Prize committee:

    “The Norwegian Parliament appoints the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which selects the laureate for the Peace Prize.”

    From Wikipedia. I was confused at first, why did the Chinese complain to Norway? That’s why. :)

    As always thanks for the thoughtful comments.
    — Doug


    October 11, 2010 at 5:46 pm

  5. ) Add your voice to the millions calling for Suu Kyi’s immediate release – sign the petition here and urge the U. He approached them through what he liked to call “preventive diplomacy” and while doing so sought to establish more independence and effectiveness in the post of Secretary-General itself. Receiving fifty-seven votes out of sixty, Hammarskj.

    nobel peace prize

    November 14, 2012 at 6:51 am

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