Sunday, November 13, 2011

Looking Backward

My visit to Watching America was a bit of a mixed bag this weekend. Oh, there were several articles that looked promising, but they just didn't grab me. The one that did was seriously flawed: it stated that the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize went to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Libya. Ms. Sirleaf is from and is now president of Liberia. Either the translator of the article from Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau screwed up the translation or completely missed the mistake made by the original author. Either way, the mistake points out the dangers of translation.

In any event, the article deals with awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to politicians still active on the world front. The author uses two examples, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf and Barack Obama, of why this isn't such a good idea. I was particularly interested by the comments on Obama's award.

The 2008 Nobel Peace laureate Obama became a war president in 2009 and this year's winner allows the police to beat demonstrators with billy clubs. It would be best to give the peace award only to retired politicians when they can do no further harm. ...

Now they're left with someone between Martin Luther King and Albert Schweitzer who has thousands of terrorists shot to death from the air; sometimes they hit the bad guys and sometimes they hit their women and children. It's all justified by the principle that politicians sometimes must do terrible things to prevent even worse things from happening.

But that shouldn't apply to the Nobel Peace Prize because it exists to honor those people with the highest moral principles. When good wartime presidents get on that list, it reduces the principle of a peace prize to the ad absurdum level.

When Barack Obama was awarded this most prestigious of international honors, he had done absolutely nothing to earn it beyond making pretty campaign speeches promising hope and change. And the hope was soon dashed as the changes never came. Policies he promised would end didn't. Some were even expanded.

We were all taken aback by the award, but many of us also felt a little queasy by the unfounded prediction of a great and glorious new administration, one worthy of this great prize. I would imagine that these days members of that Nobel committee are also feeling a little queasy, as well they should.



Anonymous Marcellina said...

I checked the Frankfurter Rundschau article and it clearly begins with "Liberia". So the fault lies with the translation.

If you ever have any questions about odd translations from German, feel free to ask, btw.

8:02 AM  

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