The Nobel "Hope" Prize: A Peacock Or An Eagle?

Premature Adulation
Editorial - Philippine Daily Inquirer

The decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama is a reward for promise, rather than performance. Audacious, tantalizingly ambitious promise, to be sure, but promise just the same. We do not know whether the committee’s unusual but not altogether rare excursion into realpolitik will help Obama turn that promise into political reality, or hinder it.

The decision is certainly controversial (“sensational,” some news reports called it, immediately after it was announced last week). Obama took office only last January, and while he has not shirked from taking on the biggest challenges confronting the United States in a post-George W. Bush world, success or irreversible progress has not yet crowned his work. The prize, then, is a case of too much, too soon.

Indeed, the phrasing of the announcement hints as much. “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”

“Efforts,” “vision,” “work for”: these are indices of intent, not parameters of performance. In other words, the 2009 Prize seems to have been awarded for the audacity of hope its recipient inspires. Call it the Nobel Hope Prize.

Obama is certainly to be lauded, as the announcement from the committee read, for having “created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.”

This “new climate” happens to be the complete opposite of the fundamentalist positioning of the White House under Bush, in which, infamously, one was either with him or against him. The prize reflects the international community’s profound gratitude that the presidency of Obama has redirected American policy, made it more responsible, more grown-up, less shoot-from-the-hip and more come-let-us-reason-together.

But a Nobel Peace Prize? The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which administers the only Nobel prize that is not awarded in Sweden, has notoriously passed over several high-profile peacemakers. Foreign Policy magazine notes that seven age-defining individuals should have been awarded the prize, beginning with Mahatma Gandhi. (The six others include Eleanor Roosevelt and our own Cory Aquino: “Aquino’s supporters took to the streets in what became known as the People Power Revolution, a nonviolent protest that installed Aquino as the first female president of the Philippines. During her presidency, Aquino presided over the Philippines’ successful transition to democracy, retiring to private life in 1992.”) [...]

Click here to read full text.

Read also: The Nobel Committee Dishonors Itself

The peacock is not like the eagle. A peacock has a magnificent long tail feathers and beautifully colored wings for attraction and proud display. An eagle has strong tail feathers and large powerful wings built for high altitude flight. The eagle is a high-soaring expert raptor while the peacock is a land-walking fancy strutter.

Be like an eagle rather than a peacock. There are real big tasks ahead whose entire scopes can only be fully comprehended when viewed from the high altitude where only eagles can reach.

So big and challenging are these tasks that to believe in the myth called "Eagle's Rebirth" is nothing but a crippling waste of limited time and resources.