Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Nobel Peace Prize 2014. For the Sake of Children.

Probably everybody knows who the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize are this year:

Malala Yousafzai, who is seventeen years old, and Kailash Satyarthi, who is sixty, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday morning—for, in the committee’s words, “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
Satyarthi, who is Indian, is a man who has fought for children for decades; Malala, who is Pakistani, is a child, and a fighter herself.
Both recipients are clearly worth the prize (though perhaps not all prior recipients look quite so worthy now coughObamacough), and I'm happy about this year's decision.  At the same time, this particular Prize always wears an activist or political dress.  This year:
The committee said, in its announcement, that it “regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.” If the committee had bypassed Malala, as it did last year, one suspicion would have been that it was afraid of positioning the Nobel as a rebuke to the Islamic world alone. Perhaps some element of that was at work, but if so, the solution is a valuable one. Here, again, complexity adds strength to the committee’s message.
I'm not sure what the committee's views of the danger of bypassing Malala Yousafzai might have been, but she is not celebrated by all Pakistanis*.  Some regard her as playing the Western tune in the current dance macabre between "religious extremists" and "Western colonizers", to use the labels the opposition tags on each group,  and her focus on the education of girls matters in this context,  because the extreme Islamists are not at all keen on Western education or the education of girls.

I support education for everybody.  It just might be the secret weapon which will make this world better:  Empowering all individuals to read widely, to think widely and to develop the tools to affect their own lives.  It works, and that's why those in power so often wish either to steer education into purely crafts directions (cut here, screw there) for the benefit of corporations or ban certain groups from getting it altogether.
*I should note that the article I link to doesn't give us any real ideas about how common those attitudes are.  They might be quite common are quite rare, based on a few tweets.