It was that time of year again, when we broke out the pumpkins, the costumes, that oh-so-delicious candy. So if you weren’t too busy looking for your Bed Intruder costume, you might have noticed that it’s also that time when a fresh batch of controversy gets unloaded on the world courtesy of Stockholm in the form of the Nobel Prizes.
Some Nobel awardees, such as the one in physics for the discovery of graphene, are unquestioned by the international community. Then again, you don’t get much debate over physics unless you’re dealing with students who lost points on physics midterms. We thought the spotlight this year would stay on the Vatican and in vitro fertilization, but along came the Nobel Peace Prize for Liu Xiaobo.
Living in a democratic country, there seem to be few who deserve the Nobel more than Liu. He’s an upstander who has made personal sacrifices to better the lives of those around him, always thinking about the good of the people over the self. To China, however, the decision is the equivalent of immortalizing a Tibetian protester in the middle of the Forbidden City. They saw it as a sign of disrespect, a cheap shot at China in the midst of their rise to economic power. The government responded by censoring all mention of the award from the Chinese public, placing Liu’s wife under house arrest and then proceeding to accuse the Nobel committee of disrespect for their laws. Even Liu didn’t know until China let his wife tell him about the prize.
China needs to recognize that it has a serious problem on hand. It’s the elephant in the room that seems to have been shunted into a corner, placed as a second priority in China’s rise to global domination. There’s no getting around the human rights issue anymore, especially considering the negative publicity their response has generated among the international community. If anything, it serves as a reminder to the world that the remnants of Tiananmen are still around and cannot be avoided.
The problem with the Nobel Prize committee is that in more and more cases (cough Obama), the prize, which is supposed to primarily honor the accomplishments of an individual or group of people, is instead being used to send extremely pointed political messages that are clearly meant to provoke. Although we can all agree that awarding a Nobel peace prize to a controversial figure raises awareness of global issues, we have to question whether or not it is the best way to deal with world problems. Every time a Nobel Peace prize is awarded, more conflict and strife is created rather than the harmony for which the Peace prize was intended.
Alfred Nobel created the prizes to recognize cultural and scientific advances in the world we live in. Turning it into a pawn for a political game defies his intent to reward outstanding accomplishments in a way that can be seen and recognized by all members of the international community.