Monday, October 15, 2012

Hello, Oslo? You There?

Last week the Nobel Prize Foundation awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union.

The European Union. The EU.

My take on this:

"Norway sends the EU $1.2 million and a small amount of gold. Every little bit helps."

Can we have a few ground rules on this darn medal, such as no politicians or career bureaucrats or large international organizations? Giving out prizes to folks for doing their jobs is...stupid. Steady incomes and the admiration of their co-workers are reward enough, as they are for every other working stiff on the planet.

Japan has its own Peace Prize winner, Prime Minister Sato Eisaku, granted his gong for espousing Japan's Three Non-Nuclear Principles (hikaku sangensoku) -- that Japan will not possess, build or accept the introduction of nuclear weapons -- a 1967 statement to the Diet which, thanks to U.S. and Ministry of Foreign Affairs archives, we now know he repeatedly promised the U.S. government to not enforce. (Link - J)

While not the most embarrassing of the awards (Frank Kellogg? "That one" in the 1970s? The United Nations and Kofi Annan? Barack Obama?) the weakness of Sato's selection is evident from his biographical page at Nobel Foundation (Link). While not the only one page to feature a less-than-flattering portrayal of the winner's credentials and purported achievements (Kellogg gets it in the keister for Kellogg-Briand) the Sato page is appalling when compared to that of his co-winner that year, Seán MacBride. (Link)

If and when the Nobel Peace Prize Committee stops trying to use the prize as message of encouragement, as it has done since 2009, and instead restricts itself to recognizing extraordinary effort and achievement, giving the prize to Dr. Nakamura Tetsu will go a long way to making up for the Sato award, at least on the Japanese line in the ledger (Cool it on the handing out the prize to Americans for the few next decades, OK?).

Who is Nakamura Tetsu? Do not ask Wikipedia: all it knows is that he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Prize (no small potatoes, to be sure) in 2003, for work with refugeees in the Afghanistan/Pakistan borderlands. (Link)


The English language page of the Peshawar Association, his non-governmental organization, is a little better (Link) but seems of have not been updated in 8 years.


Dr. Nakamura Tetsu is a complete nut. Like really, really nuts. An absolute wacko.

He has, for some strange reason, a love of humankind and a total lack of a sense of self-preservation. For the last 28 years he has been practicing medicine in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Provinces and inside Afghanistan, starting as a leprosy specialist but branching out, as he saw the need, to treating all patients for all needs. With his NGO the Peshawar Association he has overseen the digging of over 600 wells in Afghanistan, both for irrigation and to cut the diarrhea deaths of children. He and the association have dug irrigation canals by hand to reestablish farmlands abandoned by war and drought. He has brought Japanese colleagues to help serve in his hospitals and clinics in the NWFP and Afghanistan.

His is a shoestring operation. It receives some funding from the Japan international Cooperation Agency (JICA) (Link - J) but lives mostly off of private donations, Dr. Nakamura's speaking engagements and the monetary awards attached to the awards Dr. Nakamura has received for humanitarian action.

Dear Nobel Committee, $1.2 million to Dr. Nakamura and the Peshawar Association would buy a lot of peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is a pittance in comparison to the costs financial, political and human, of a single U.S. drone missile attack.

And be expeditious, damn you. Dr. Nakamura works in some of the most dangerous places in the world. In 2008, Ito Kazuya, one of the Peshawar Association's Afgahnistan workers, was kidnapped. He died during a rescue attempt.

Here is the video news report of Dr. Nakamura and his work, produced on the one year anniversary of Ito's death. (Link - J)


* That the the Peshawar Association puts more energy into action than public relations is apparent from the Japanese language page too (Link - J) as well. One of the proud announcements in September is that Association has just posted Dr. Nakamura's field operations notes from...April.


Simon Cozens said...

Giving out prizes to folks for doing their jobs is...stupid.

Isn't that, in a sense, what all the science prizes ever have been?

MTC said...

Mr. Cozens -

A fair point in the general case. I was, however, restricting my discussion to the Peace Prize.

Then again, on the science side, Nakamura Shuji, the inventor of the blue LED, has received an armload of prizes -- albeit not a Nobel -- and made a mint for his former employer because he refused to do his job.

Martin J Frid said...

At least, and I mean that literally speaking, the Nobel Peace Prize should never be awarded to someone or some organization (or someone that represents such organization) that exports arms. Now the EU... joining Kissinger, Carter, Arafat, Peres, Rabin, Begin, Sato, even Gore should never have been awarded if that simple rule was applied. A disgrace. Also, people like Mohandas Gandhi never got it...

Bryce said...

What? They didn't give the economics prize to the United States?

MTC said...

Bryce -

Next year's Peace Prize winner:
Earth -- for its continued efforts to support life.

You can go to Ladbrokes with that one.