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Obama as Nobel Laureate?

October 9, 2009

In his 1895 will, award founder Alfred Nobel stipulated that the peace prize should go “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses”

The decision by the Nobel Committee to accord the Nobel Peace Prize is something that has been discussed unto death, argued, defended, attacked, mocked and despaired, in varying degrees by all and sundry. To write another word about this would be to do nothing but repeating something a 1000 others have already said, surely.

But one cynical viewpoint that not many have discussed and which came out of an email conversation with a Nigerian/British friend is this – isn’t it odd? In what can be considered the highest honour laid upon a black man in a while, is there also a backhanded condescension? Are the expectations from a non-white, non-mainstream politician so low that merely speaking well and not pissing people off for a few months (even while deploying troops to wage war in various places) is seen as worthy of an award which normally has to be earned over a lifetime of working towards peace and progress? Is this affirmative action – oh, he hasn’t shot or knifed anyone yet, shall we give him something nice? Patronising, much? Something like when people called Colin Powell so ‘well-spoken’?

But like I said, this is a very cynical way of looking at things – because it encourages the notion of viewing everything in black and white, which is the kind of paradigm which also allows for racism and bigotry. As much I am riled by the premature awarding of the Nobel to Obama, I am heartened to see that it has gone to a man who has done much to reverse the mainstream perception of his race in his country and around the world. May this be an award for all the wonderful things he is yet to do (ah well, one can hope!)

While it might seem like I’m giving Obama too little credit, please note that it is only because I have high expectations of the man. And, yes, do know I am the original Obama fan; I wished and hoped way back in 2004 that he would run for President in 2008 so there’s no point listing to me his myriad accomplishments, I am well aware.

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