Friday, October 13, 2006

Good on Them: Nobel Committee Recognizes Role of Poverty in Violence

... in their nomination of Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, the so-called "Banker to the Poor," for the Peace Prize.

"Asle Sveen, a Norwegian historian who closely follows the Nobel Prize, told AFP: 'It is the first time that the fight against poverty has been rewarded in itself.

'There were enough good nominations in the area of conflict resolution in the strictest sense but the Nobel Committee is increasingly taking the fight to the fundamental reasons for which war is waged.

'It is not enough to make peace, this peace must be a just peace and the causes of war, such as hunger and poverty, must be treated at their roots.'"

The selection of Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk for the Lit prize is also controversial and has been criticized as being political, since Pamuk is a moderate voice in Turkey who has urged his country to own up to the Armenian genocide.

That criticism may be valid, assuming one can separate politics from literature, but how could the committee possibly separate politics from the international selection process? By choosing "mainstream," "apolitical" (read "Western") writers only, and shying away from any, like Harold Pinter, last year's choice, who are critical of American foreign policy?

In some parts of the world, where writers are either mouthpieces of the state or literally prosecuted for their views, as Pamuk was, it's pretty much impossible not to be political.

If either of these selections were political choices, I think the committee could have done worse. And maybe, just maybe, the work of each laureate, if examined on its own terms, outside a Western context, would speak for itself.

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