This year the Nobel Peace Prize has been very personal for me. I was flown to Oslo to speak at the Telenor Youth Conference, to give a keynote speech to a wonderful group of 25 social entrepreneurs under 25, to share my vision with Esplori, the startup I founded, on how to democratise the tools for teaching and learning worldwide. I told them my life story, the mission that drives me, and some life lessons that I've learned along the way, that might be useful to them in pursuing their projects.
We did this in collaboration with the Nobel Peace Centre, and we were invited to the official Nobel Ceremony, at the Oslo city hall. As I write this on my phone, I'm sitting behind the king of Norway (trying to put my thoughts into words without getting caught).
This year's prize goes to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The speech justifying this choice outlines what the OPCW has achieves in the last 15 years, with a significant reduction of chemical weapons worldwide, many countries signing the treaty, and the steps they took in making the world safer.
All this is very good, chemical weapons are a real threat and I'm sure OPCW has done excellent work in the past three lustra. However, I find myself in a state of emotional conflict. While I understand the reason for this choice, I see its merits, and I'm honoured to be here at the ceremony, I also feel that this has been a very, to use a mild term, safe choice.
What I mean by that is that there are a few elephants in the room, and this year prize seems to be ignoring them wholly. The United States is the country with the most troops deployed worldwide (1,3 million in more than 150 countries), and plays a crucial geopolitical role. The fact that Obama, a warmonger, received the prize a few years ago is a disgrace, and it undermines the credibility of the organisation as a whole. Giving the prize to OPCW is a safe choice, one that offends no one, and it could have been given any year, since they've been around for so long, and they are (luckily) likely to stay here for some more, hopefully until there are no more chemical weapons in the world.
But the political climate of 2013, I think, was not in need of a safe choice. It required a bold action, one that would send a strong message. Personally, I think it should have been given to Manning, Assange, and Snowden, for exposing war crimes, government abuse, and bringing the topic to the public spotlight, while also carefully selecting the material, ensuring that no human lives were at risk as a result of the leaks. This would have been a smack in the face of governments and agencies that are committing crimes against humanity, against millions of people every day, and would have put into question the imperialism grandiose plans that are being enacted without us knowing, without our consent, against most constitutions of civilised countries, ironically using public money to do so.
This is my two cents, and while I'm honoured and humbled to be here at the Nobel Peace Ceremony, I have a bittersweet taste in my mouth, thinking that it could have been so much more than a safe walk in the park and pats on the back.
Maybe a mid way would have been more appropriate, with a shared prize between OPWC and the whistleblowers, though I don't know if that's even allowed by the rules.
Perhaps the future will change my mind, but as of now, I think that bold actions, not safe choices, are required to restore the credibility of this ceremony. And in a perfect world, next year they would take away the prize from Obama, but maybe I'm just being delusional.
In a time of violence and bloodthirsty messages of hatred, it is difficult to find a rational yet humane approach to such events. Peter Joseph may not be a social engineer, nor a politician, but he is standing on the shoulders of the real giants. Those who, when facing the easy way to violence, choose the path of love instead. And so should we.
On May 1, 2011 Pres. Barack Obama appeared on national television with the spontaneous announcement that Osama bin Laden, the purported organizer of the tragic events of September 11th 2001, was killed by military forces in Pakistan.
Within moments, a media blitz ran across virtually all television networks in what could only be described as a grotesque celebratory display, reflective of a level of emotional immaturity that borders on cultural psychosis. Depictions of people running through the streets of New York and Washington chanting jingoistic American slogans, waving their flags like the members of some cult, praising the death of another human being, reveals yet another layer of this sickness we call modern society.
It is not the scope of this response to address the political usage of such an event or to illuminate the staged orchestration of how public perception was to be controlled by the mainstream media and the United States Government. Rather the point of this article is to express the gross irrationality apparent and how our culture becomes so easily fixed and emotionally charged with respect to surface symbology, rather than true root problems, solutions or rational considerations of circumstance.
The first and most obvious point is that the death of Osama bin Laden means nothing when it comes to the problem of international terrorism. His death simply serves as catharsis for a culture that has a neurotic fixation on revenge and retribution. The very fact that the Government which, from a psychological standpoint, has always served as a paternal figure for it citizens, reinforces the idea that murdering people is a solution to anything should be enough for most of us to take pause and consider the quality of the values coming out of the zeitgeist itself.
However, beyond the emotional distortions and tragic, vindictive pattern of rewarding the continuation of human division and violence comes a more practical consideration regarding what the problem really is and the importance of that problem with respect to priority.
The death of any human being is of an immeasurable consequence in society. It is never just the death of the individual. It is the death of relationships, companionship, support and the integrity of familial and communal environments. The unnecessary deaths of 3000 people on September 11, 2001 is no more or no less important than the deaths of those during the World Wars, via cancer and disease, accidents or anything else.
As a society, it is safe to say that we seek a world that strategically limits all such unnecessary consequences through social approaches that allow for the greatest safety our ingenuity can create. It is in this context that the neurotic obsession with the events of September 11th, 2001 become gravely insulting and detrimental to progress. An environment has now been created where outrageous amounts of money, resources and energy is spent seeking and destroying very small subcultures of human beings that pose ideological differences and act on those differences through violence.
Yet, in the United States alone each year, roughly 30,000 people die from automobile accidents, the majority of which could be stopped by very simple structural changes. That's ten 9/11's each year... yet no one seems to pine over this epidemic. Likewise, over 1 million Americans die from heart disease and cancer annually - causes of which are now easily linked to environmental influences in the majority. Yet, regardless of the over 330 9/11's occurring each year in this context, the governmental budget allocations for research on these illnesses is only a fraction of the money spent on “anti-terrorism” operations.
Such a list could go on and on and with regard to the perversion of priority when it comes to what it means to truly save and protect human life and I hope many out there can recognize the severe unbalance we have at hand with respect to our values.
So, coming back to the point of revenge and retribution, I will conclude this response with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., likely the most brilliant intuitive mind when it came to conflict and the power of non-violence. On September 15, 1963 a Birmingham Alabama church was bombed, killing four little girls attending Sunday school.
In a public address, Dr. King stated:
“What murdered these four girls? Look around. You will see that many people that you never thought about participated in this evil act. So tonight all of us must leave here with a new determination to struggle. God has a job for us to do. Maybe our mission is to save the soul of America. We can't save the soul of this nation throwing bricks. We can't save the soul of this nation getting our ammunitions and going out shooting physical weapons. We must know that we have something much more powerful. Just take up the ammunition of love.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King, 1963
I've been following RapNews of the thejuicemedia for quite some time. It's the work of Hugo Farrant and Giordano Nanni. Farrant fills the role of the amiable Rap News anchorman, Robert Foster - as well as all the guests who appear on the show. Hailing from Branksome in the UK, Hugo is a prolific rhymer and orator, MC and spoken-word poet who regularly graces the stages and festivals of Melbourne. He's also a social critic with extraordinary talent.
Giordano Nanni is Rap News co-writer, composer, editor, director and researcher, whose rants and ruminations on current affairs are channeled into rhyme by Robert Foster. Hailing from Italy and South Africa, Giordano is a historian, writer, musician, indy-journalist and - in collaboration with Hugo - news writer.
Rap isn't exactly my type of music, but their videos are both intellectually compelling and musically appealing.
Here's another hilarious example of their work, at the time of the COP15 (I wish I found it for the blogging competition!)
Gotta love their lyrics. Here's an excerpt:
People will’ve heard that you were catapulted further
Into the public eye by one leak, yes collateral murder
while troops cause gore from a lurking chopper
Media whores ignore war and pour awards on the 'Hurt Locker'
Keep your wits about you: the battle lines are merging,
an information war, with an appetite for turning
The great walls of China, Palestine and Berlin
into fire walls, black lists, a wire curtain
over this small, crucial, window of opportunity:
The internet - unprecedented global community -
An epochal evolution, telepathic synapse
while all major media source have been hijacked.
Picture this as we part:
Our perception of reality expressed as a chart;
we've lost TV to Murdoch, the press to the sharks;
This internet our last channel to connect to the mark.
No rhetorical questions at last:
If we lose this frequency we’ll be left in the dark.
Despite their talent and excellent videos, their popularity is still fairly low. One of the most rated comments on their YouTube video stated:
this now has 45k+ views. Love The Way You Lie with rihanna and eminem has 56M+. The world consists of... ~99,92% retards :(
Or maybe they just need to know it exists. I'm doing my part here ;)
You can (and should) follow them on twitter.
I'm getting a little confused. Just when you thought things would eventually get better for the COP15, there it comes. First Obama warns that there will be no deal: we're out of time. Then John Prescott encourages us explaining why the Copenhagen conference will be 10 times more difficult than Kyoto, finally the consideration that the US is a dead weight on Copenhagen talks, pulling down ambition ever lower. All of this just in the last three days.
Now, we come to know that the US and China, the world's two biggest polluters with over 40% of the emissions, today said they aimed to set targets for easing greenhouse gas emissions next month, potentially breathing new life into the flagging Copenhagen climate negotiations 1.
This continuous ping pong, while expected, is making me very suspicious, as well as frustrated. But I can understand that their position is not as easy one. On my side, it's all pretty simple. Identify the problem, look for solutions, apply them. Unfortunately, when you are in politics, things are far from being this easy. Obama and Jintao had a lot to talk about: Tibet, human rights in China, internet censorship, trade, Iran. And then, of course, climate change.
Being a politician, especially at this level, is very much like being a juggler: you need to keep things in balance, you have may balls in your hands, each of which plays a role in the success of the performance, and if you don't pay enough attention, they will fall to the ground. However, there is a catch: the balls are connected with a wire. That means, if you let one down, they all fall.
We all play a role in this big game: the outraged blogger, the "evil corporation", the corrupt politician, the environmental activist... but in the end, we are all people. We all have the same final goal: preserve life on this planet, especially ours. If you have any notion of biology, however, you would know that species are inter-connected, and that we can't live by ourselves. In the face of the obliteration of the species, economic growth, profit, class, the old appeals to racial, sexual and religious chauvinism, to rabid nationalist fervor, seem utterly irrelevant. Some of us just seem to forget what's most important.
p.s. This article was crossposted on the TH!NK ABOUT IT - Climate Change blogging competition.
United Nations' General Assembly 10801 on human rights, social, humanitarian issues.