Barack Obama, The Nobel Peace Prize and the Wrong discussion
Date: Saturday, October 10 @ 01:18:02 UTC
Topic: Barack Obama
By Iniko Ujaama
October 10, 2009
I realise the discussion is out of focus and they have us debating about the wrong things. Perhaps the more peripheral issue is whether Obama deserves their prize (assuming it is worth anything). Had we not had so much respect and admiration for such awards we would not be having the same discussion.
Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I think many factors would influence our response to this occurrence. Many people are debating whether he 'deserves' the award and I for some time today engaged in this debate also. But upon reflection, much is overlooked which forms the bases for even having such a discussion. First, I think this discussion presumes a certain meaning and significance to the award which must be clarified (or at least a common ground established) before the discussion could be engaged productively.
Most people are going on the assumption and expectation that such 'honours' from Europe represent some kind of Universal Collective standard (suitable and applicable to all) concerning the definition of and the prerequisites to peace. (Justice has rarely been part of the deal and it has rarely been the case that peace has meant anything but adequate peace to the achievement of Euro-American agendas.) As such, we hold it to that standard. Similarly, we hold the West to their word when they speak of things such as democracy, justice and various other notions which, if we are to be honest and circumspect, we would realize that we have no business putting our trust in their integrity and commitment to such aims. As such, some of us argue that Obama does not deserve it; others engage in neck-breaking acrobatics to suggest that he deserves it or "he has good intentions" etc.
On either side (specifically with Africans the world over) there is, to some extent, an identification with Obama whether one is among the sheeple who have fully drunk the Obama kool-aid or those who hold justified suspicions of or dismissal of him as white power in black face or some variation of the same. One thing which is achieved by this either way is that he is placed as a major distraction from African Liberation and the end of Western Imperialism.
If one were to accept that there is a genuine commitment to holistic peace (implicit in which would be justice and equal rights), I can go with those who say that Obama does not deserve the award. A country at war, as one commentator put it, is not a good contender for such an award. I would add to that, a country which stood by and permitted the decimation of a thousand plus of Palestinians by Israel while continuing to support this country economically and militarily; a country which tacitly supports the coup in Honduras by refusing to make any real steps to show objection to the actions of the coup-folks etc. is not in a position to receive such an award. But I also do not think that this award merits my confidence where that is concerned. I do not believe Euro-America merits my confidence where such things as Peace, Justice, International Morality and such are concerned. Tonnes of papers, agreements, treaties and International organizations (the League of Nations, UN) has been their legacy and yet their actions historically, and continuing today in the service of greed and arrogance, have been the greatest threats to peace in the world. Whether by overt support or through silence, all are complicit. So based on my assessment of President Obama and of the award and its source, I think they deserve each other. My issues are focused elsewhere.
The Nobel Prize is one such award but I am too familiar with such things as the knighthood and others like the Order of the British Empire granted by the Queen of England which we continue to honour. Are such people worthy to honour others and are such honours really honours? Who wants to share a knighthood which was granted to such rogues as Francis Drake and John Hawkins and who knows the countless other criminals who have been given such awards? Their perceived right and legitimacy in giving such awards only feeds their arrogance. Our admiration for such awards feeds it even more. But it has a further and more dangerous implication or rather brings forward a more serious issue. Who are we allowing to name our heroes and leaders for us? Are they worthy? Is it in the interest of any people to have others select their leaders or objects of admiration and pre-occupations? Barack Obama has been selected and elected by a white majority in White America on the basis of their agendas and interests and many Africans have drunk the kool-aid. He has been awarded by another group representing white power and arrogance in the world and again our people gulp. Is Derek Walcott a more important or better writer to Caribbean people than Earle Lovelace because the latter has not been and will probably never be awarded by the Nobel Committee? Is Ngugi Wa Thiongo less accomplished and less significant than Wole Soyinka? Was Robert Mugabe a better leader before or after he his knighthood was revoked?
These are just some of my thoughts on this issue of this Nobel Peace Prize business where President Barack Obama is concerned and perhaps the more salient issues which go beyond this little amusing episode. I will end here with a dialogue with one of my favourite characters (Benn) in a book by one of my favourite Caribbean Writers, Earle Lovelace.
Pg 77-78 "The Schoolmaster" by Earle Lovelace:
Journeying. The priest and Benn not speaking, only the acolytes behind them jabbering in whispers. Birds whistling. The sound of wind through the cool forest.
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'We will be in time, priest,' Benn said.
Father Vincent has been looking at his watch.
'And now that there is a house for the schoolmaster, you could sleep if you care to. The sunshine is pretty in the morning here, and the birds are all singing. You will like that, Father,' Benn said.
'I will like it, yes. But I will like it better to get back tonight.'
'You will get back.'
'Tell me, have you met the schoolmaster?' Father Vincent asked.
'I seen him plenty times.'
The priest did not say anything.
'Always in his tie and jacket,' Benn said.
'You do not like him, Benn,' the priest said.
'I do not say that at all.'
'There is something in your voice,' said the priest.
'I do not have anything against the man. They all like him in Kumaca. Everything he is in it. Everything. Sometimes I think they even want him to take these donkeys over the hills.'
'Oh he is very popular. It is good.'
'He is popular, priest. He writes letters for the people. He is doing great work in the village, and is organizing things. He organize the village council and the singing choir. And he writes to the government to build a well for the people to get water. And since he is there now, there is always talk of the building of a road through from Valencia. He write many letters about it already.'
'Good,' the priest said. 'And the school? The children?'
'The children go to the school and they learn to read and to write.'
'But still you are not very enthusiastic over him. You are a cautious man.'
'Look at the grey hairs in my head priest. And always I think of Captain grant, and my horse that he shoot.'
'But this schoolmaster is your own. Your own people.'
'He is black, yes. But not my people. Priest, he is closer to your people. I think he is your people. He learned in your schools, and he wear the clothes the way you wear them, and he talks the way you talk, and his thinking is that of your people. He is yours, priest. He is not mine.'
'But he had to learn somewhere,' Father Vincent said.
'I do not say no, priest. But you say he is our people, when he is yours. I know he had to learn somewhere.'
Father Vincent said, 'Benn, you are a difficult man.' (underline mine)