Friday, October 11, 2002

How does one get on the Nobel Peace Prize committee, anyway?

The almighty Professor Reynolds comments on the Nobel Peace Prize award. Given just how utterly depressing the events of the last year and a bit have been, my preference would have been simply to not award it this year. There is plenty of precedent for this. However, they have given it to Jimmy Carter, which is a deliberate statement of disapproval of the actions of the present American administration. I don't really mind Jimmy Carter, and I am not a huge fan of President Bush. Seriously, however, there is a large hole in lower Manhattan, and 3000 people were murdered by fanatics who want to take us back to the ninth century. Do the Nobel committee really expect the Americans to do nothing and say "I feel your pain" in return. Personally I am rather glad that the Americans are really determined to wipe these fanatics out.

But that wasn't what I was intending to write about. The good professor had the following to say

Personally, I think it's just another shameful year in which Arthur C. Clarke's contribution was overlooked.

Although Dr Clarke is a personal hero of mine, I had never thought of him in the context of a Nobel Peace Prize. But when I think about it, Prof Reynolds is right. With his vision of an interconnected world, Clarke was one of the ealiest prophets of communications technology and globalisation as a way of reducing the marginalisation of much of the poor world. He has done a lot to encourage it to happen. And it has happened. Plus there is a spiritual humanism that comes through in all his work that preaches the utter opposite of the tribal and religious hatreds that we sadly see too much off. Here is someone who looks at the best of what humanity can achieve and asks us to rise to the occasion. Someone who is a professional optimist about humanity, and who is always capable of finding good reasons for being an optimist. This is something we need more than ever. Of course, I doubt the Nobel committee would deign to give such an award to a mere science fiction writer, but that is their loss. (The British government waited a scandalously long time before giving Clarke his much deserved knighthood, too. Here is the same snobbery again).

Maybe I have given a few too many platitudes without enough concrete examples. It is hard to put in words just why I think Clarke is such a great man, and such a significant man. Perhaps I will try again later.

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