October 10, 2009
Awarding president Obama the Nobel Prize for peace shows how desperate the West is for leadership out of the economic, social and environmental crisis; for leadership in the times when it is worried about its decline. It demonstrates how clueless it is about matters of the future. Instead, the bubbly economy and the virtual media society could use a reminder that deeds, not words matter.
The news about Obama’s Nobel was broken to me on Friday morning via Twitter. In deep mistrust I followed the link to a page which looked quite professional, and had a link to a video from a news conference; live from Oslo, it said. An elderly man in a small room with a couple of reporters. Could be a hoax. Well done. But not impossible, given the trick they tried to pull.
Then the news started to come in from major agencies and news sites but I still could not believe it. With all due respect to the energy, passion and hope that president Obama brought into the global politics, where was the achievement worthy of a Nobel Prize? What was the deliverable? What was the results? Its impact? Some winners at least signed a peace of paper or made a good movie.
They do not give Oscars for promises of good movies or Nobel prize for physics for a promise of good research. Even president Obama’s supporters thought the award was premature. “If president Obama was half the man he made us think he is, he would have turned Nobel down” best captures my first reaction. Surely, president Obama we respect and indeed place a lot of hope into, cannot accept a prize given not for achievement, but for, apparently, good will, hope, and promises.
But there is an area of human endeavor that rewards promises.
Lately it has kept us very busy. It’s called economy. Money could be made if one is able to convince other people about the promises on good future returns. The belief in the promises is inflating the bubbles, and the reward for this bubble building, for many, have been some quite good profits. At least before the crisis when the bubbles burst. It must have been this spirit of living on the future hopes that has guided not only the bankrupt economy, but the Nobel Committee as well.
There are deep theories as to why bubbles keep appearing in the business cycles, but to make a complicated story short, bubbles are inflated because people see no better real alternative into which they would invest for the future. In the absence of investment opportunities into new products or services they invest in existing stock or real estate which is therefore getting more and more expensive. This hurts the economy, because the money poured into the bubbles is not used for other, perhaps on the long run more sensible investments.
Is there a parallel with the bubbles in economy and the Nobel Prize of Obama?
Yes there is. And it does not show a nice picture. Not of president Obama, but of the Nobel Committee and the society the committee is a part of. Nobel Prize for Obama is not so much a problem of a president that has yet to show results, it is a problem of a civilization, of the West, of Europe part of which is Norway, that lacks ideas and seeks a magic bullet to solve its mounting problems.
In choosing, that president Obama is the silver bullet, it is demonstrating a lack of self respect and total lack of confidence that the political, business and economic leaders in the West can sort out the economic, social, political and environmental mess in which we are. We invest our hopes in president Obama, because apparently we do not see any other investment opportunity. What makes matters worse is that Nobel Prize for Peace need not be about hope at all. The committee went an extra mile to make it that.
Bubbles burst, and bubbles of hope burst as well. There are no silver bullets, bubble economy is not sustainable and on the long run it is hard work and hard work alone that pays. We have plenty of hard work to do, from cleaning the environment down to improving social care for people. These are real problems that require real solutions, not good looking web-pages, blogs and nice speeches.
In our digital times, where the reflection on the internet is more important than the reality it reflects, where the image carries more weight than the real thing, and where a promise may be a substitute for delivery, the message of the Nobel Committee could not be more off the mark. This bubbly economy and this virtual media society could use a reminder that deeds, not words matter.