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Duly Noted George Handlery
Awards and Their Politics.
Honors for good behavior.
Without intending to do so, real life produces more absurdities than the fantasy of the talented creators of fiction could conjure up. Alas, most of these abnormalities are as entertaining as they are ultimately harmful to those involved. Especially disturbing is that the clowns that cause these slip-ups are not in the humor business full time. That makes the jest, if you can discover it, unintended. That also means that no praise is due for the amusement provided. The chuckles provoked are unintended byproducts. They reflect bias, incompetence, and lack of realism.
Not only individuals but also institutions can have failure built into them by the personnel they recruit or due to their mandated duty. Selected nincompoops in charge of ridiculous assignments are prone to cause the slips that inadvertently amuse us. However, even organizations of good reputation can fall victim to actions that elicit ridicule or incredulous head shaking.
Time magazine’s recent “Man of the Year” choice is apt to make one ask “what did they think when they did that?” This is especially the case if the bypassed alternatives are considered. Then there is the Nobel Committee. That body enjoys an earned claim to a rating above “Time”. Even so, in the soft categories, the choice can discredit that venerable institution. If you are an American, regardless of party affiliation or sympathy, the nomination of Obama for the Peace Prize on the heels of his election, elicits recognition as a fitting example for doubtful judgments. Kudos is due, but not for the convincing nature of the choice. From a safe distance, it rewarded BHO generously on a pre-paid basis. The jury’s blue-eyed anticipation projected a hope bolstered by a campaign promise upon their nominee. The selection had little to do with the weighting of results following the calm evaluation of the record. In some ways the judgment of the Committee is water tight; there was no record yet when the award was made. Perhaps for the better. The facts would have messed up the picture adjusted to mesh with imagination that was projected upon a yet-unpainted and thereby unspoiled canvas.
Let us first deal with the Obama story in “Time.” To proclaim someone the Man-of-the-Year does not imply approval. Hitler and Stalin are among the many villains that “made it”. All that the title tells is that the “nominee” has played a significant role. Regarding the “approval” part, there is hardly any doubt that, the pack that produces Time approves of Obama regardless of what his actions might be.
If that sounds like an accidental definition of “prejudice”, then so be it. Decisive are leftist policies, near and dear to the heart of the editors. The favorable tilt in this case is enhanced by the compulsive effort not to appear to be racist. Skepticism regarding the President, who is to be approached formally in a color-blind manner, is tainted with the suspicion of soft-pedaled race-based motivations. However, the opposite, namely giving credit automatically and engaging in anticipatory acclaim, is also a form of racism even if it is tagged as bad manners to call it that. Racial prejudice is more than an inclination to downgrade or upgrade the merit of future actions because of a person’s background. It is also present if one judges future and current policies by first counting pigments and not the to-be-expected or actual benefits of actions.
Now, to Obama’s “significance.” In his case we have the admittedly notable achievement of won elections. Beyond that, even using magnifying glasses and after the rhetoric is peeled off, little of consequence shows up on the monitor. “Man of the Year” for surviving a rocky first term? We seem to be left here with a new standard for assigning the honor. However, in the case of future Presidents from the “other party”, the norm of “honors in advance” that approvingly acknowledge as a fact a verbal down payment of good intentions is unlikely to be upheld.
Newly, the theory that no award and honor is too significant so as not to be wasted in the support of approved causes has again been confirmed. This time not “Time”, but the Nobel Committee has acted in a way that supports the nasty allegation.
Obama got the Peace Price before he could do anything presidential either to save the world as insinuated, or to toss it into an Armageddon. We might call this to be the equivalent of the prize for literature handed out for a bundle of blank sheets. The potential of the paper happens to be unlimited and confirms that, there is nothing compromising on it that would taint its pristine condition.
The recent Peace prize awarded to the European Union is a reward for pious hopes left intact thanks to hither inaction and cover-ups. In the EU’s case, the recognition represents the appreciation of an imagined quality regardless of the institution’s record. The equivalent would have been to assign the prize for economics to Gosplan (the Central Planning Committee) of the USSR. The medal would have recognized the anticipated contribution of the “Plan” to the Soviet Union’s scarcity-dominated development. The money from Scandinavia would also have been the only profit that the “5-Year-Plans” and their planners have ever produced. Overwhelmed by the record, one wonders whether “Stockholm” accepts belated nominations for the terminated institutions of defunct systems.
As with the entertainment industry’s awards, – the Oscar’s and the lesser imitations of that original come to mind- pompously displayed recognition can pervert the official purpose. Prizes are supposed to acknowledge high quality performance in some field of endeavor. In practice, the committees that award the prizes tend to represent the interests and views of selected categories of people. Most of them have the same axe to grind and they form a homogenous group reflecting comparable backgrounds and shared world-views. This will mean that, on occasion, not past performance, but a correct attitude projected into the future will be rewarded and advertized. In doing so, the award becomes an instrument to call attention to a product, an issue or a person and it drums up support. With the publicity, an approved legitimized cause is to be furthered not for its achieved merits but for its promises to insiders. That tells more about the persons that make the award than about the quality of the feature that is handed formal recognition. For these reasons, honors for good behavior will continue as a means to recruit the approval of the impressionable among the politically innocent.