The Reverse Reward of 2009

Why not Mayawati be conferred upon with Bharat Ratna? Not only will it help her bring down the compass of her corruption and megalomania to a degree to which the needle of her wobbling state administration can point to without breaking completely but also make her realize her true role in ‘revolutionizing’ Dalits and identity politics provided her thick skin can let her conscience a day off. Of course Barack Obama is in altogether different league. But logic remains the same. Award as recognition off and as moral burden on. 

As the political pundits are busy justifying the abhorrent act of bestowing this year’s Noble peace award upon American President Barack Obama by citing the ways in which enormous moral burden of the prize can put some checks and balances on the working of world’s most important man. This new idea of ‘reverse reward’ as propagated by Noble Peace Committee may have got some cheers along with guaranteed jeers but it defies all the sane conclusions of utter absurditism.

Every award regardless of its stature is a byproduct of one’s stupendous work in any field emboldening one to keep going on implicitly implying the robust justification of path chosen. But it is necessary for winner to have covered some distance to be able to become worth it. But now latest justifications tell us quite contrary. Though Mr. Thorbjorn Jagland, chairperson of the Norwegian Noble Committee asserts that award is for what Obama has done in the past not what Obama can do in the future. 

If we go by this preposition then next year’s award too awaits Obama for only some major insane decision on his part can prevent him from being a Noble laureate for second time or who knows even third or fourth. He will be doing the same things in the same capacity perhaps with more success and vigor. In contrast to Mr. Jagland’s assertions pundits believe this award to be a moral police on the faculties of BlackBerry Obama. Now every step of Obama will bear the stamp of this award. The free spirited Obama stands to be smothered under a loving but disciplinarian and martinet father in the form of a prize that so ironically is called Peace Prize. Why can’t we endow our esteemed Bharat Ratna with the disposition of such a father? Who knows where our CBI and CID failed this loving but fastidious father may work! Congrats Mr. Jagland for pioneering a ‘new beginning’ in the award world. Let great deeds hatch under the weight of the egg of the award. 

While Oslo seems over enthusiastic in narrowing down the gap between Washington and the rest of the world it appears to have forgotten that the distance between itself and Stockholm is increasing. But Stockholm too is not far behind. If Oslo takes one step in east Stockholm takes two steps in west to match its facetiousness. More than the merit politics looms over at least two categories of Noble awards. I love reading Turkish author Orhan Pamuk who won the Noble award for literature in 2006 but I doubt his literary merit would have had any role to play in the consideration of award committee if it were not for Pamuk’s domestic problems and controversies. Same is true for English playwright and poet and political activist Harold Pinter and of course the latest laureate Herta Muller whose Romanian roots were watered in troubled political ground. Not to say that these authors don’t deserve the award but it was the role of politics in their life most often in its ugly form that played a crucial part in winning them their recognitions not their impeccable literary distinction. Noble peace prize too afflicts from the same endemic. 

When Gandhi ji was nominated for the fifth time and short listed for third time in 1948 the committee adviser Seip had this to say, “Gandhi, through his course of life, had put his profound mark on an ethical and political attitude which would prevail as a norm for a large number of people both inside and outside India. In this respect Gandhiji can only be compared to the founders of religions.” Unfortunately Gandhiji died two days before the nominations closed but still there were ways which could have had this Prize attached with its most deserving candidate as one of the committee’s advisors lawyer Ole Torleif Roed had suggested. But for Gandhi ji end result turned out to be same as it was on previous occasions. The then chairman Gunnar Jahn wrote in his diary: “To me it seems beyond doubt that a posthumous award would be contrary to the intentions of the testator.” No one was given Noble Peace award that for the want of suitable candidate. Is it just a coincidence that up to 1960 no Asian or African was deemed able enough to be called Noble Peace laureate? 

Coming back to 2009 its not that Obama had not been eying this award. He must have set his eyes on this prized catch to add splendor and longevity to his post presidential years some eight years after or who knows even four years as shadow of Hilary Clinton bulks large. But this soon! It was unexpected. It must have embarrassed poor President for this award being such a sweet pill that neither resisting nor gulping it will be easy since he is such a conscientious person. Giving full display of his intellect Obama has said that he would be accepting the award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century. We don’t know what this mercurial Norwegian committee factored in before arriving at such a ludicrous decision and depriving a deserving candidate or organization of its due but it seems in Obama they had a candidate who risked devaluing the award for his apparent hitherto non deservedly accomplishments wiz a wiz the prestige of Noble award but at the same time guaranteed it a super publicity. 

So what could be the consequences of the award? Will it help Mr Obama make his voice even shriller and worth hearing? I doubt it. On the contrary this burden of award has in it to bend his back for now he had been told that he is not only the president of USA and hence a world dominating figure but also an apostle of peace for whom everything contrary to ‘superficial peace’ would be blasphemous. It is not easy to cook wearing silk. If Obama ends up falling in this trap he will be doing a great disservice to his job and mankind ethically and legally. 

Our present world may not be any more violent than the times gone by but the caustic truth of present day violence being greater in range, densely dark in depth and more sophisticated than ever throws up the gauntlets that cannot be met from behind the barricades of fake peace. There are challenges and these will have to be taken head on. The dynamics of the world today are so complex that the country of Mahatma Gandhi the greatest apostle of peace in twentieth century whom Obama has hailed as his hero on countless occasions faces an almost insuperable challenge of treading on the path of non violence. As for India we will get to see the alphabets of CTBT and NPT from more closer and global warming may no longer be a foreign term. The word Peace may remind him of Kashmir even more quickly. 

This year’s Noble peace prize has mocked the very idea of awards. The concept of ‘reverse reward’ that it has espoused embeds into the spirit of recipient more fear and guilt and pressure to ‘perform’ as Obama’s predicament evinces than the sense of achievement the winner so righteously deserves. Every time a Gandhi is overlooked for being “committed to belligerent” and a newbie or… say, a Kissinger is awarded for their contribution to world peace it eats into the faiths of those for whom an award is an heartening and honest cheering for their deeds and an acknowledgement of their beliefs. 


More by :  Pramod Khilery

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