I was at two Awards ceremonies recently – both attending by Noble Lords and Ladies from the House of Lords: the Asian Achievers Awards and the Asian Who’s Who International. But of course the most significant awards ceremony this past week has been that held by the Nobel Committee.
What purpose do Awards serve? President Obama in receiving the Peace Prize was controversial because he did not fit the profile of what we think of when we think of Awards – past achievements, a proven role model for success in the field and beacon to others to highlight past unsung work. For their abilities. Obama fits none of these in the field of peace – yet. He has not proven any abilities yet.
But of course he was given the Award for none of the conventional reasons listed above. He was given it for the scale of his ambition in peace. For potential. For what might be. For his ‘will’.
Politics and politicians are of course so powerful and able to change the world for good or evil because they stand at the pinnacle of all other disciplines and are ‘able’ to use immense resources – it’s Truman the politician using the innovations in physics who declares the bomb to be dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in World War 2; it’s Reagan the politicians using innovations in economics to unleash capitalist expansion to overwhelm the adversaries of the Cold War; it’s Gandhiji the politician using thoughts from philosophy and theology to commence the largest largely peaceful ‘war’ in human history.
And so Obama was a justified winner of the Peace Prize because it was not an Award of recognition of past achievements but because he has chosen a path different at the start of his journey to many politicians. He is willing to project aspirations and visions and scale heights.
You see when an American President seeks such lofty ideals – they have the ability to achieve them with the might of their political resources. The Award therefore reflects the desire to have the political ‘will’ and not just a recognition of political ability. It’s a different type of award – suitable only for politicians – because they do not lack the ability and resources like the rest of us – they often just lack the will. When they are Awarded for their will, they are almost publicly blackmailed into avoiding the pathetic compromises that so often dilutes political first class will in favour of political third class achievement.
To this extent, one of the most lacking of Awards in my estimation is that of the work of Parliamentarians – whether in Britain, US, India. Yes, corruption whether in the form of money in bags videod by Tehelka in India, cash-for-questions in the UK, or fraudulent use of campaign funds in the US, is rife and rightly reported.
But if we do not also shine a light on the positive work done by our public servants, then we remove from them the motivating force of recognition. The philosopher Emmanuel Kant argued that even if charitable works were done for selfish motivations of personal adulation, credit must nevertheless be given to the person undertaking the work.
How often in the past year I have heard persons sneer at tireless individuals who have organised huge charitable occasions – arguing that these individuals do it to raise their own profiles and serve their own interests – but surely better that they do it, for whatever motives, than that they are one of the miserable sneerers on the sidelines full only of bile and venom – lacking will even if more than able. They shall be awarded their own special awards in hell surely.