Here’s the equation many in the world are trying to grapple with:
Obama + Nobel Peace Prize = ?
Of course, there’s no wrong answer, and don’t worry, you can’t get any points off for coming to your own conclusions. (In fact, well-though opinions on news items are often encourage.) Whether it’s celebration, outrage or confusion, there’s plenty of commentary to be had.
I won’t discuss Obama’s Nobel much longer – I’m sure most readers have formed their own opinion by now. Instead, I’d like to focus on the “why not,” as in “why was (name of your favorite world leader) not given the award?” I’m thinking of one case in particular, brought up by Irish Central’s Niall O’Dowd:
Or think of Bono the global crusader for Africa who like Clinton on Africa has raised hundreds of millions for the cause and energized millions of young people to think beyond themselves and give back to the world.
Yes, why not Bono?
Well, simply put, he doesn’t deserve the prize. Period.
As much as I appreciate and recognize the fact that pop musicians are role models, Bono isn’t the archetype of unity-in-action as his ego would make it seem. Yes, the man raises awareness and money for people in impoverished areas. But under what capacity?
Something as prestigious as the Nobel Peace Prize should be given to individuals whose line of work has them focusing on issues immediately affecting people across the world. Bono is, first and foremost, a pop singer. And not a particularly good one. If I’m ever in need of someone to fill a recycled instrumental with “yeah yeah yeah yeah,” I’ll turn to Bono, not, say, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winners Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank.
If someone like Bono wants to use their hand in life to make some real change, they should address their concerns in the manner with which people know them. Yet, instead of intelligently-written lyrics that open people to create conversations about social problems, we get some guy instructing us to put on some fashionable footwear. Is putting on boots some sort of metaphor for raising millions of dollars to combat AIDS in Africa? Because I certainly didn’t get that.
Perhaps I’m ragging on Bono a little too much. But, the Nobel Peace Prize is given to people whose actions are helping people around the globe. Actions are something that is seen, and in this case, seen by a majority of individuals. How many people (especially “young people”) know Bono from his public service record, versus how many people know him as some old dude who’s songwriting spark fizzled out decades ago?
Sure, Bono will toss out the spare anecdote along the lines of “give peace a chance” from his $40 million, 360 degree stage: But what pop musician in the limelight hasn’t littered their stage banter with “help save the whales” without explaining why people should do that? This isn’t the case of a band playing a $5 show filled with politically-enraptured lyrics at a venue in a disenfranchised area (Fugazi), or the case of a group staging a performance protesting the political powers that be (Rage Against the Machine) or a musician eloquently questioning the state of healthcare via song (Ted Leo’s “Heart Problems”). This is the case of an old band playing for yuppies who can afford a $200+ concert ticket and want to hear pretty songs about love.
Bono’s 2006 Nobel Peace Prize nomination speaks more to the power of celebrity than the man’s actual humanitarian work. As a public figure, there (sadly) aren’t many that really hold the weight of international popularity like Bono today. Except for Barack Obama. Obama’s work and experience aside, his international celebrity and historical ascendancy are the kind of action that, in and of itself, define what the Nobel committee look for. And when it comes down to it, I’d much rather listen to Obama discuss his recommitment to fighting international injustice in Stockholm than hear Bono sing “Vertigo” any day of the week.