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Opinion: The Nobel Peace Prize, The E.U., And The Marketing Department

Posted November 13, 2012 by Ramp.ie in Ramp Specials
Nobel Peace Prize

On October 12th, the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 was awarded to the European Union in recognition of ‘over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.’

October 12th was a Friday. Everything in the news was horrible aside from that bizarre EU/Nobel Peace Prize story. I watched YouTube footage of a bus driver in the United States stopping his bus and landing a ferocious standing uppercut on a woman who was giving him sass, and considered the alternative outcome: ‘If only the European Union had been there.’ I then watched a 5-minute documentary on a makeshift hospital in a Syrian war zone of Al-Qusayr, where a doctor named Qasim tended to masses of horrifically wounded civilians (including children) and FSA fighters as the building was rocked by incessant explosions. Dr. Qasim expressed the unimportance of his own safety. As long as there were people in Al-Qusayr that needed medical attention, that’s where he was compelled to remain, because that was all he could do.

We’re comfortable, fat and shallow. We have iPhones and we don’t care that our groceries are overpriced.

If the prize is as an award for all peaceful, democratic EU citizens, then as a European, I have to decline my share because I feel like I’ve stolen Dr. Qasim’s desserts. I don’t daily lay my life on the line in the face of terrifying mortal oppression. None of us do; we’re comfortable, fat and shallow. We have iPhones and we don’t care that our groceries are overpriced.


How can the EU be a deserving winner?

The most basic aspect of peaceful living is to be able to rise above everyday hate and anger, no matter what the circumstance. To many Europeans, the Union has come to symbolise feelings of anger and frustration. So much so, that on November 14th Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece will join together in a solidified protest against EU driven austerity.

It almost goes without saying that Greece isn’t doing so well. Many Greek people are extremely angry and scared. Neo-Nazism is on the rise, with upwards of 14% of Greek voters supporting the Golden Dawn. Large sections of the electorate in France are turning to the fascist far right (almost 20% in the last Presidential election). Both Spain and Italy are starting to find that austerity is both (for want of better expressions) harsh balls and super lame titties.

Taking these observances into a historical context, The Nobel Prize can possibly be viewed as a headstone for The EU. The concept of European Union that rose from the rubble of World War II has long since peaked, and is now dithering in an old folks’ home, cohabiting with its selective memories of past glories and failed intentions. There is a new form of political victimization in Europe and this time, it’s not based on racial supremacy. It’s financial supremacy, and the European Union is perceived by some to be waging this war on its poorest citizens for the preservation of powerful institutions and the established wealthy.


The business of philanthropy…

The EU is the 25th institution to receive the Nobel Peace Prize since its creation in 1901. Other notable institutional recipients include the United Nations, Amnesty International and Médecins Sans Frontières.

©2006 World Economic Forum

Let’s look at international humanitarian brands in terms of celebrity representation. Angelina Jolie circumnavigates the globe under the United Nations brand, raising awareness about issues that nobody remembers by the time she removes her Louis Vuitton headscarf and reapplies her Max Factor make up. Her colleague Whoopi Goldberg is a UNICEF children’s ambassador, who in her spare time defends admitted child rapist Roman Polanski, stating that when he raped a minor in the ‘70s, it wasn’t in fact ‘rape rape’ so he shouldn’t be held accountable today. She has managed to keep her UN role despite her skewed, dangerous views.

Jennifer Aniston, surprisingly, has put her money where her mouth is in this game of Celebrity Philanthropist Top Trumps, and has given upwards of $500,000 of her personal wealth to Médecins Sans Frontières. Aniston donated this large sum in order to help the organisation carry out disaster relief in the form of ground level, direct medical aid in the aftermath of the Haitian Earthquake. She has thus far refrained from collecting international orphans as if they were Pokémon, and spends the majority of her time on what she does best: romantic comedies and getting sold out to The National Enquirer by ‘sources close to her.’

Symbolism in humanitarian and philanthropic work is rife, and marketing personnel for peace businesses are handsomely paid.

The United Nations is also in Haiti, its delegates earning their salaries but doing little else. Symbolism in humanitarian and philanthropic work is rife, and marketing personnel for these peace businesses in such disaster-stricken areas are handsomely paid. The cost of raising awareness and the prioritising of administrative tasks swallows a large portion of the funds raised for the causes that these organisations set out to promote. In short, they need war and disaster in countries such as Haiti. It makes them relevant because in the business of peace, progress isn’t profitable.


What does a Nobel Prize mean in 2012?

The United Nations was last awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, a marker for the end of the relevancy of the UN as an international peacekeeping organization. Arguably, this initiated a sporadic trend for the Nobel Committee to award the prize as a swansong for institutions that have grown to eat themselves into a state of redundancy.

When President Obama won the award in 2009, there was outcry from some quarters arguing that he hadn’t actually done anything peaceful, just replaced a warmongering predecessor. Other perspectives were that he hadn’t even had the time to do anything peaceful yet, and that the prize in his case was a symbol of encouragement as opposed to recognition. Obama went against all expectations and proceeded to increase US military spending and step up the frequency of drone strikes in Middle Eastern and unstable African territories.

Has the Nobel brand been reduced to a marketing tool in the business of peace?

It has become increasingly difficult to fathom what those crazy Norwegians are thinking when they select laureates for the Nobel Peace Prize. Has the Nobel brand been reduced to a marketing tool in the business of peace? It was once used as testament to those whose heartfelt work positively impacted areas of the globe that were desperately in need of strength, bravery and single-minded commitment to the welfare of the weak and war-ravaged.

Markings is a collection of the diary entries of the late second secretary general of the UN, Dag Hammarskjöld. Devoutly religious, Hammarskjöld etched out a journal of his reflections and his struggles as a man of faith in a world of diplomatic toil before he died in a suspect plane crash in Rhodesia on the way to negotiate a ceasefire in 1961. Poems, prayers, musings and reflections make up the 20-year spanning journal that has come to confirm (personally at least) that peace comes from thoughts, feelings and plans made into action, as opposed to marketing, promotion and the offering of a positive public image and rewards to well-off people who pay for a philanthropic badge as if it was a drive thru takeaway. Hammarskjöld’s texts suggest that peacemakers or philanthropists of any magnitude should make a personal investment ahead of making a financial one.

To be involved enough to at least check back and evaluate whether your work has made a difference is arguably an elementary requirement. Can we say that about many visible global peace ambassadors today? Will we ever be able to say it about the EU?


Tomorrow, Ramp.ie brings you Seán O’Toole’s interview with Nobel Peace Prize winner, Northern Ireland’s Betty Williams.

Seán O’ Toole

Seán O’Toole is student journalist from Galway. Political views include: Bertie Ahern signing his booky wook in Easons; Mary Harney having her dinner one time in The Four Seasons; David Norris smiling and waving outside the Oireachtas; and Joan Burton giving filthy looks to young fellas in the Dáil Bar.

About the Author


  • http://twitter.com/ElleEmSee Laura

    This was a great article. The Whoopi Goldberg comment was particularly poignant.

    • http://www.ramp.ie/ Lisa McInerney


  • http://www.ramp.ie/ Lisa McInerney

    The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize has become rather head-scratching in recent years, and no more so than in the choosing of Barack Obama as a deserving recipient. I mean… what? No matter the man’s personal intent or focus, “being the world’s hardest working peacenik” is probably not in the American Commander in Chief’s professional remit.

  • http://twitter.com/notRuairi Rú Hickson

    It’s a prize where, like any other, the reality of its purpose is detached from those who determine its eventual recipient. A committee is given a list of names and they decide where it should go based on who is most popular that year, or whose name they remember from previous shortlists (see Liu Xiaobo in 2010).

    Obama winning the award isn’t all that surprising, considering that Jimmy Carter and Al Gore have both won it in the last ten years – it may become a rotational thing for American politicians now – but in an alternate universe where September 11 and the Afghanistan War had happened 8 years previous, you can be sure George W. Bush would have picked up the prize.

    • http://www.ramp.ie/ Lisa McInerney

      What a horrible thought.

      I don’t like this parallel rúniverse you’ve created.

      • http://twitter.com/notRuairi Rú Hickson

        I blame the Large Hadron Collider.

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