Friday, October 12, 2007

for fraternity between the nations, and the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today. I found it exceedingly odd. Then again, how odd is it that this prize, possibly the most well-known prize in the world, was established by the guy who invented dynamite (and apparently something called ballistite, which I don't know what that is).

I went and looked up who else had won this prize, as the only other people I knew off the top of my head were Jimmy Carter, Arafat/Peres/Rabin, Mother Teresa, Wangari Maathai, Elie Wiesel, Muhammad Yunus, John Hume, David Trimble, Medecins sans Frontieres, Aung San Suu Kyi, Desmond Tutu, Lech Walesa, Amnesty International, Mairead Corrigan, Norman Borlaug, Dag Hammarskjold, Willy Brandt, Albert Schweitzer, Cordell Hull, Linus Pauling, Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. It turns out this is a creditable list to know off the top of one's head. I either never knew or had forgotten that Henry Kissinger had won one. I had thought that Mahatma Gandhi had won one, but he did not. I had forgotten about Fridtjof Nansen. I had forgotten about Robert Cecil. I didn't know Jane Addams got one.

I had never heard of Frank Kellogg (1929), and so looked him up. He won for something called the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which I had also never heard of, and so looked that up. This is because it was more commonly called the Pact of Paris, which I had heard of but was only a distant, hazy thing, tamped down in the memory-closet alongside the Hawley-Smoot tariff act and Jack Paar and mapping polar coordinates. Apparently, at some point, nations signed a treaty agreeing that war is really no kind of useful instrument for national policy. Hm. What do you know? Seems like that would be useful, if anyone remembered that we all signed such a thing. Apparently, it is still a binding part of international law. I guess it's useful enough AFTER someone launches a war...kind of like when they throw in all kinds of arcane violations when you get pulled over by a traffic cop. "Okay, you were going 98 in a 45 mile an hour zone, so that's a pretty big fine, right there. Plus, you were not wearing a seatbelt, and your windows are tinted too dark, and you can't have more than six trolls in your back window, and your brakelights are out, and you can't drive on the Turnpike with a cracked windshield, and there was also failure to yield, and also I don't like your haircut. 2500 bucks, see ya in traffic court." I picture the World Court filling out charges against the government of Sudan this way: "Okay, you violated human rights, so that's a pretty big fine right there. You misused NGO aid; you used your military to attack your own people; oh, you violated the Kellogg-Briand Act...and your windows are tinted too dark. See ya at the Hague, or you can just pay the fine by mail."

Anyway, I suppose that any day in which I learn that someone, somewhere, actually keeps track of the idea that there is such a thing as a "crime against peace" is not a wasted day.

I also learned that the first winner of the NPP was the founder of the International Red Cross, Jean Henri Dunant. He shared it with Frederic Passy, the founder of the Societe d'arbitrage entre les Nations. This seems like a good choice, in retrospect.

Albert Gore. I'll be darned. I'm not opposed to this per se, just extremely surprised. Perhaps next year is Bob Geldof's year.

1 comment:

Amateur Reader said...

The Nobel Peace Prize Monument in Caen, Normandy is worth visiting. There is a hall of winners, one after the other. The number of prizes given to founders of pacifist organizations has preciptitously declined in recent years.

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