Friday, October 12, 2007

Nobel Peace Prize

Al Gore shares the Peace Nobel Prize with UN's pannel on climate change. How strange a choice! I am not sure that I agree with the judgement of the Norwegian academy. Gore is already so famous so he does not need more publicity, and on top of everything he only made a movie, and a movie that can be criticized from many points of view! But I guess it's a way to bring to world's attention the importance of climate change and its relevance for peace. It may though thin out the meaningfullness of the Peace prize.
Nevertheless, this decision is in agreement with some recent studies on the impact of environmental damage and resource scarcity on conflict levels. Clearly when a region decays environmentally both migration to other, livable, places and strong competition for remaining resources occur. Migration may lead to conflicts between the local and the refugee populations, and the resource competition may grow into war.
Therefore I see the argument in favor of ICCC and Gore, but at the same time cannot help but deplore that it is just the Peace prize that must draw attention to climate. Maybe there were some other, better, choices this year, including a 97 year old Polish woman who saved the lives of Jewish children during WWII. Or maybe I am too traditionalist in my definition of peace.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Political leaders

In her third volume of memoirs[1], Simone de Beauvoir writes about the war in Algeria and about the referendum held to allow General de Gaulle to return temporarily to power in order to restore French domination in Maghreb. When she discusses the results of the popular consultation (around 80% in favor of the general), she says: The heart of the matter is that they [the people] don’t want to be governed by their equals; they have too low an opinion of them, because they have too low an opinion of themselves and of their next-door neighbors. It’s ‘human’ to like money and watch out for one’s own interests. But if one is human like everybody else, then one is not capable of governing everyone else. So people demand the non human, the superhuman, the Great Man who will be ‘honest’ because he’s ‘above that sort of thing’. (p. 171)

This speaks millions about the attraction of populism and of the amazing opportunities that providential leaders can exploit to take themselves in the vicinity of absolute power, carried on the shoulders of a cheering crowd. Just watch what is going on right now in Venezuela – Chavez is to be admired for his audacity and for his brazen use of people’s feelings (incl. government by television, a new expression!) to justify his take-over of the country’s government.

[1] Simone de Beauvoir ([1963] 1992). Hard Times. Force of Circumstance, II 1952 – 1962. With a new introduction by Toril Moi. New York: Paragon House