Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Nobel Nobility

We all know the story. Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. Then he suffered inventor’s remorse when he realized that his creation was employed in weapons destined to advance the efficiency of man’s inhumanity to man. To assuage his conscience he established a foundation that would use his fortune to reward the greatest advances in a wide range of fields each year with a Nobel Prize and a significant stipend. Great and truly noble of Nobel.

Over the years there have been many just awards of his prize to great scientists, doctors, researchers and even writers. There has also been one category of the award that has increasingly come to be viewed as more political than scientific, the “Peace Prize.” Who can forget the beautiful image of Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin gracing the cover of Time Magazine after receiving their award in 1978. Two terrorists, reconstituted as national leaders of two nations staunchly dedicated to the destruction of each other, paired in glory as peacemakers. Brings a tear to the eye even today.

But is the Peace Prize of ’78 simply an aberration in a sequence of otherwise significant advancements made by individuals in the quest for world peace? Not if this article in Australia is any indication: Peace Through Murder?

Betty Williams won the prize in 1976. Why? Well, according to the news article she was appalled when British soldiers shot an IRA terrorist and his vehicle then crashed and killed two innocent children nearby. She then circulated a petition urging peace in Northern Ireland. Significant achievement? Did it solve the crisis? Well, arguably not. But she got the prize anyway. And, more than her deserved fifteen minutes of fame.

So, this great peacemaker now stands before an audience of young people in Brisbane and suggests she is so appalled at the world’s state that she would murder the US President! That’s a great suggestion from a Nobel Laureate for Peace. Would we call that “role modeling” for the youth of the 21st Century? Assassination of world leaders as a solution. Not dictators, but democratically elected leaders as well!

But, read on and marvel at the intellectual capacity of this activist. Read about the visit to the children’s cancer ward in Iraq. Note the emphasis on “children”. I always warn students that when someone suggests a policy must be enacted “for the children” that they better take a firm grip on their wallet and their Constitution because their money or their rights are about to be purloined.

“Will they live,” she asks breathlessly. I flash momentarily on Scrooge and Tiny Tim. The doctor is harsher than the Christmas Spirit. “No, they will all die.” Of course, you twit…we will all die.

But, in a magnificent simplification and generalization of modern oncology, these children need five drugs to be cured. All of them? Isn’t that unusual? Yes, they need five. But they only get three because of the mean ol’ USA. Oh, and would they have gotten five under Saddam? It’s George Bush’s fault. And so, good old peacemaker Betty feels justified in suggesting assassination.

Well, just to make sure we’ve got our villains lined up properly, she also notes that the cancers themselves are the result of the US. Yes, it was in utero that the first Gulf War damaged these children and their mothers. Had the world only sat back and allowed Saddam his way with Kuwait and maybe a chunk of Saudi Arabia, these children would have been normal and live forever.

Finally, we need to note her solution. End world poverty. How? Well, like Nike says, just do it. Oh yeah, also stop global climate change, whatever that means. And, while you’re at it, cut military spending and divert all that money toward “human development”. Great ideas, Betty. Maybe disburse Nobel Peace Prizes to every poor child in the world so they can have a pot of gold and live cancer free, if only Betty can get close enough to our President to make it happen.

I think I’ve concluded that in the unlikely event that I was to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize I would decline it. I wouldn’t want to be associated with the likes of Betty Williams.

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