At first glance, the Eurocentrism surrounding European Union winning the Nobel Peace Prize is probably not as alarming, considering that of all the 124 awarded individuals and organizations till date, 48 laureates have been from Western Europe alone. Matter of concern is a growing acceptance in our times that militarism is the new peace – a belief system made credible through this annual farce, coveted and venerable.
Nobel Peace Prize committee has invariably rewarded imperialists, militarists and anticommunists. But it used to be a surreptitious affair. If the segregationist FW de Clarke needed to be rewarded, Nelson Mandela was invited to share the stage for his anti-colonial struggles. If the warmongering Kissinger was recognized for his brutality, at least Le Duc Tho was hesitatingly informed as a winner. When Mother Teresa was awarded the prize, she was not really projected as an anticommunist Albanian although it was clearly evident. Or the last time there were debates around the Peace Prize, Barack Obama had not yet unleashed his imperialistic tactics. In a way, Nobel Peace Prize committee had treaded a careful, diplomatic path.
This venerability – and vulnerability – might have finally ended with this year’s award for the European Union. A recognition for the EU is inevitably a recognition for its actual peacekeeping wing, the NATO. Of the 28 member states of NATO, 21 hail from the European Union. Glowing in its expanding presence over civilian zones and converting them into military battlegrounds, NATO is the most vicious manifestation of war theatrics of our times, ably funded and furthered by the European Union and the United States. A Nobel Peace Prize for the bullies of the world is thus a testament to the extent the committee has shed its cloaked cunningness.
The deceptiveness associated with Nobel Prize is hardly new. Inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel made himself rich and “peaceful” through inventing ways to “kill more people faster than ever before”, as an untimely obituary described him. In a tradition to masquerade the killers as peaceniks while relegating peaceniks to dustbins of history, it was not merely incidental that despite being nominated five times (1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and 1948), Mahatma Gandhi was denied the Prize, or that Joseph Stalin who was nominated twice (1945, 1948) for his efforts to end World War II was to be denied on both occasions.
The truth is Nobel Peace Prize legacies have little to do with recognizing peace among peoples and nations, and they have nothing to offer of value promoting disarmament. Ending of any war has never been an idealism associated with the Prize. Rather, the Nobel Peace Prize has merely been employed as a tool to validate a model of economy that has well suited Eurocentric interests. It has always played into the logic of capitalistic economies, states of growing imperialism and neocolonial power structures. As a result, during the Cold War, it rivaled Stalin/Lenin Peace Prize in ideological preferences. For instance, whereas in 1952, Stalin Peace Prize went to a socialist Christian missionary James Gareth Endicott who arduously challenged the racist Korean war, Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a venomously racist missionary Albert Schweitzer who called upon the “white men from anywhere in the world” to “never accept the Africans as equals or they will devour you”. Whereas Endicott called for an end to a racist war, Schweitzer expanded the scope of an ideology based on military-industrial complex of the West. Nobel Peace Prize committee carefully chose the latter.
Seven decades since, criteria have remained the same. What European Union signifies is not a coalition of peaceful actors, but one whose otherwise warring factions share common economic aspirations. In the most violent continent on this planet, EU has emerged as the most powerful economic force successful at bringing the traditional foes together. As the last bastion of Eurocentrism, the Union has managed to make racism relevant, militarism omnipresent and capitalism the panacea for its recurrent crisis. In fact, owing to its money-lending practices as a legalized way to dictate sovereignty status for lesser countries, the European Union has validated the laws of imperialism in a ‘civilized’ manner, characteristically.
The EU has been magnanimous towards Greece, but in lieu of silencing Syriza and virtually owning Samaras’ priorities. Its influence is palpable in the way Alexis Tsipras fell out of favor with the Greeks after proposing his country would be better off without eurozone. Likewise indebted will remain Spain to the EU for its tumbled economy that can only be revived with loans from Brussels. And just as Greece, Spain too is led by a right-wing ideology today that has crushed the socialist politics of Zapatero into oblivion. European Union has earned its dues for successfully promoting pro-American leaders such as Mariano Rajoy to negotiate on behalf of Spain. A virulently anticommunist Rajoy has even frozen minimum wage and halted public sector works in Spain with an effort to glorify the viability of Euro.
To circulate a tone of invincibility around the Euro, to emphasize a formidable future for capitalism and to reinvigorate Eurocentrism as a cultural hegemonic tool for the nostalgic master class may appear to be an impossible task. But for the European Union, it is the retention of this ideology that has earned for itself the grandest of prizes of our times. In a way, one illusion has harbored another. Although, it is difficult to articulate if the Nobel Peace Prize is protecting capitalism through its selective narrations of achievements, or capitalism is furthering the legacies of Nobel Peace Prize through conflating war with peace, recessions with free markets, and a dying theory of contradictions with a promise for economic prosperities. Either way, unsurprisingly then, both the Nobel and its awardees have enough shared values to meritoriously deserve each other.
(Saswat Pattanayak, 2012; First published in Kindle Magazine)