Nobel Prize becomes Orwellian

Posted Oct. 13, 2009, at 6:27 p.m.

In the immortal words of Eric Arthur Blair, “War is Peace.” Blair is known to most of us by his pen name, George Orwell. Blair-Orwell wrote the literary and political masterpiece “1984” from which that quote was taken.

Words are powerful; that’s why Blair changed his name. Legend has it that he chose Orwell, because it was the name of a small French town where he lived when he was abjectly poor. He allegedly felt that those days shaped his life and his writing. He chose George, because it was a common name among aristocratic Brits, and the mix of poverty and aristocracy best summed up his life.

Orwell died before he turned 50 but not until after he witnessed the 20th century’s greatest wars. He wrote books that cautioned humanity about the lust for power that motivated despotic leaders. He cautioned that power lust was only satisfied by totalitarianism and that totalitarianism was fueled by the loss of personal liberty.

Orwell knew that language was used to subjugate people and steal their freedom. He believed that any group was vulnerable no matter how much they convinced themselves that their society was founded on higher principles. Consequently, “1984” took place in England even though it was written in 1947 when most people be-lieved that all the fascists came from Germany and the Soviet Union. Excerpts of a letter Orwell wrote explaining his motives were printed in a New York Times book review: “The scene of the book is laid in Britain in order to emphasize that the English-speaking races are not innately better than anyone else and that totalitarian-ism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere.”

If there were one person in history who would not be surprised by President Barack Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize it would have been Eric Blair. Personally, I was shocked. I thought I was a cynic. But I’m not enough of a cynic to believe that the Nobel Prize would be awarded to a new world leader who is waging a war of aggression he had promised he would end.

Eric Blair was smarter than I am. War is peace after all.

Have you read “1984”? Remember when they hauled people off to torture them, it was done by the ministry of love. Like the book, all through the Iraq war our country used brutality in the name of security. But still the Nobel Peace Prize designee, President Obama, has not called the torturers up on charges. A truly great president, Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Peace and justice are opposite sides of the same coin.” Justice — not war — is the peace you should seek, President Obama.

The United States of America is engaged in its second-longest war, soon to be our longest. It’s a joke to give aggressor nations peace prizes.

But the Nobel Prize is the result of life’s cruel jokes. Alfred Nobel invented the blasting caps used to ignite nitroglycerin. Unfortunately because nitroglycerin was so volatile, it would at times ignite unintentionally. Alfred Noble then discovered that by mixing silica with the nitroglycerin he could make a stable and malleable substance which would in fact save lives.

Perhaps the biggest irony of this story is that after he invented it, dynamite was misused just like the Nobel Peace prize is being misused. Bad guys got their hands on dynamite and used it for bombs instead of mining.

Alfred Nobel ended up becoming wealthier than his wildest imaginings, mostly because he invented something that could be used in war. Although he held more than 350 patents, inventing the 19th century’s ultimate killing device would have been what folks remembered best about him, had he not left most of his immense fortune to create the Nobel Prize to recognize greatness in the sciences and in peace.

I think up until now Nobel had succeeded. He was better remembered for the peace prize than for the dynamite — for the good he tried to do instead of the bad that was done without his consent. But because war is peace and because now the leader of the world’s most powerful nation is getting the peace prize even as he wages war, Nobel’s prize has received the ultimate insult: It has become Orwellian.

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.

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