Nobel Nuggets, Part V

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1994.


Friends, welcome to this final serving of nuggets — this last installment of jottings on the Nobel Peace Prize. Here are links to the previous installments: I, II, III, and IV.

What do you make of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, the 1984 peace laureate? In my view, he is a mixed bag, as mortals tend to be. Give you an example of something I don’t admire. Here’s Tutu in 2004:

“God is weeping. God is weeping. God is weeping because — one of the incredible things, I mean, is that Saddam Hussein, bin Laden, George Bush are all God’s children. And as God says, ‘What ever got into Me to create that lot?’”

First of all, to think he speaks for God. Second of all, the grouping of bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and President Bush.

And yet Tutu is a moral leader, and we must bow, right?

Elie Wiesel won the peace prize in 1986, and in his memoirs he makes a fascinating observation: “With a Nobel Prize come quite a few lessons. For one, you learn who is a friend and who is not. Contrary to popular wisdom, a friend is not one who shares your suffering, but one who knows how to share your joy. I was pleasantly surprised by some and sadly disappointed by others.”

The winning of a Nobel prize can spark huge envy and resentment.

From Henry Kissinger, Wiesel received a most pleasant message — a message tinged with poignancy: “I was not proud of my Nobel, but I am of yours.”

To me, one of the Nobel committee’s most serious errors is a total devotion — I would almost say a fanatical devotion — to the U.N. Listen to the Nobel chairman as he gives the prize to the U.N. peacekeepers in 1988:

This year’s peace prize is a recognition of and homage to one organ of the United Nations. But it ought to be understood as a serious comment on the fact that we must, united and with our whole hearts, invest in the United Nations. It becomes clearer and clearer that what has to be done to secure the future for new generations has to be done together. Our determination has to be channeled into the United Nations. This is the best hope for the future of the world — indeed its only hope!

I asked Lech Walesa about the 1990 prize to Mikhail Gorbachev. He said that the Soviet leader “had the instruments of rape, and he did not use them.” That’s to say, Gorbachev had the brute power to suppress rebellion, as his predecessors had done — in Budapest, Prague, and elsewhere. But he refrained from using this power. (He spilled some blood in Lithuania, true.)

Walesa went on, “Every male has the instrument of rape. Should we all be awarded Nobel prizes for not raping?”

Receiving the prize for 1991 was Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese heroine — then under house arrest. As she would be for years to come. The dictatorship has recently allowed her to reemerge, and she has triumphed at the polls.

To see an article I wrote about ASSK last month, go here.

Why did Rigoberta Menchú win, in 1992? How did she become a Nobel peace laureate? She was a member of a guerrilla group. And the Nobel committee, remember, was too pure to honor Gandhi — or, if you like, he wasn’t pure enough for them. Not a perfect enough pacifist, not a universal enough humanitarian.

Menchú? Note that she won in 1992 — the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America (as we used to say in the bad old days). The committee saw an opportunity to rebuke Columbus, colonization, the West, what have you. So they awarded their prize to the most famous indigene the Americas had to offer.

Why was she famous? I, Rigoberta Menchú was a runaway bestseller, a bible of the Left, imposed on countless schoolkids. The story of the writing of that book is kind of interesting.

Don’t mean to be coy (Roy), but I’m doing nuggets here, and you’ll find fuller stories in my book.