Untimely Observations

Triumph of the Towelheads

There's no getting away from it. Whiteys strive for importance on a non-stop, seven-days-a-week, bending-over-backwards, sell-their-own-grandmother basis. I say this having spent much of my life in Africa, Asia, and London, so I have 'control groups,' as the scientists say, to help me measure tendencies like this.

Not every Whitey of course, but enough of them in contrast to other groups for it to be a general characteristic. But even in cases where they don't appear to be striving, I think a lot of them really are. Take Andy Nowicki's recent article on über-slacker Kurt Cobain. What was that thing with a shotgun if it wasn't an attempt to out-nihil all the other gurning grungers?

Now we get the latest Nobel Peace Prize, which, as far as I can be bothered to find out, is decided by yet another clique of self-important Whiteys in some Scandinavian country. What is it with us Whiteys that we want to make up dumb, self-important prizes and drop them from the sky on their baffled recipients? You definitely won't catch the Africans, Arabs, Indians, or Chinese playing this game.

Anyway, my ever-helpful friend Mr. G. Oogle has just informed me that the Prize is actually awarded by a Committee of Norwegians, or Vikings as we used to call them in my native Scotland. Back in 1263, a fleet of them descended on my home area till they received something of a setback at the Battle of Largs and had to forfeit the peat-rich Hebrides as a result.

Coincidentally, just a few miles down the coast, there is the vast, post-industrial, toxic wasteland of Ardeer, where Mr. Nobel established what became the largest explosives factory in the world, by which he amassed the financial wherewithal to pump out posthumous prizes on an annual basis.

The right of a bunch of ex-Vikings with the fortune of a dead explosives maker to dispense peace prizes has always struck me as a little odd, but now I know it's just another manifestation of the great White urge to be overly important.

The Scandinavian countries are demographically small and of limited economic importance. They realized long ago that they didn’t have the manpower or money to compete on the wider geopolitical stage and after the adventures of Charles XII retreated into their natural status as European backwaters. But they were cursed with the curse of all White men: they wanted to be more important than they are, even if it worked to their ultimate detriment. Their natural insignificance rankled within their lilywhite breasts. Unfortunately the legacy of a dead explosives maker came along and gave them the chance to puff up their chest again.

Since its inception in 1901, when Mr. Nobel's ignoble armaments were being used to blast the plucky little Boers into surrender, the Nobel Peace Prize has slowly gained status by its association with the science prizes, which tapped directly into the glory of the great secular religion of the 20th century. But such passive importance was not enough. The Norwegians wanted more; they wanted active importance to offset the centuries of political and cultural sidelining. Increasingly and inevitably the kudos won from the science prizes was channeled into, then through, the Peace Prize.

The importance-greedy elites of America and the larger European powers could use economic, military, and cultural power to strut around the world and stick their oar in where they wanted. But the lowly Nordics now found that they too could start to enjoy a little taste of this power with their Peace Prize.

Unable to send task forces or gunboats around the world, or to impose economic sanctions that mattered, they nevertheless managed to get a toehold on the world stage. At first they did this cautiously by chiming in with the peace efforts of countries actually influential enough to make peace.

Almost all the pre-WWII prize winners fit into this pattern, mainly diplomats from the internationally significant nations. But in the post-WII years, the Prize has slowly mutated into the moral equivalent of US multi-theatre military power projection, able to descend without warning on any country in any continent. For all we know, the committee's Oslo HQ probably has maps of the world with pins in it!

The Prize has also evolved from being something like a lifetime achievement award that was given to hard-working peacemongers into something that is in lock-step with Twitter and rolling news. In recent years the Prize has largely been given to people who are still smouldering under the media spotlight: Mohamed El Baradei just after he had been at the forefront of criticism of the US invasion of Iraq; Muhammad Yunus for his 'microcredit' to people some might describe as "subprime" not long before the Lehman Shock; Al Gore while his green propaganda film An Inconvenient Truth was getting a kicking from critics.

But staying mixed in with the news is not enough. To max up their power the committee of self-important Nords in Oslo, know they have to create news as well as follow it. This possibly explains the insanity of 2009's award to the man whose administration has overseen military surges, a vast increase in drone plane assassinations, and unyielding support for the Middle East's most militarily aggressive nation.

While such cognitive dissonance helps place the Nobel Peace Prize at the center of debate and can raise its profile, it is a risky strategy. The year following Obama’s award, they went conservative, opting for Liu Xiaobo, a rather run-of-the-mill, meat-and-potatoes human rights campaigner.

No doubt irked that their dull but worthy choice was only given token space by the media, the significance junkies in Oslo have decided to raise the bar this year with three cloth-headed women: a Yemeni with Arab Spring kudos and two turbaned Liberians. If military powers like America can intervene in two countries at once, why not the peace hawks of Oslo?

There is nothing intrinsically prize-worthy about the winners, so the reason for the choice has to be sought elsewhere in the evolving nature of the Peace Prize as an institution and the importance-seeking Whiteys on the Committee. Probably the key factor in this year's choice is the fact that all are ethnic women with what the rude, ignorant, or dismissive among us would call "towels" on their heads.

These may seem trivial points, but they are vital. The "towels" denote exoticism and therefore Imperium, which is what the egoists in Oslo vicariously crave. But they also imply harmony and cooperation with the traditional cultures of the faraway lands that Oslo hopes to bring over to its liberal, feminist agenda. This is important because soft power of the kind that the Committee seeks to exert year after year can't work without such cooperation.

For the Committee to believe in its own potency, its members have to believe that societies like Yemen and Liberia—and all the other liberal-deficient societies that they hope to morally lord it over—are malleable and tractable through the gentle pressure exerted by Norwegian approval and the pomp of the prize-giving ceremony. In this scenario, a towel-headed woman with a Nobel Peace Prize under her voluminous ethnic dress is the Trojan horse of those world-ranging moralists set on remaking the globe in their own ego-amplifying image.

But the real problem for Norway is that this unfortunate tendency to morally project also makes it liable to demographically inject. A country that gets its sense of global importance from being a liberal beacon to the world finds it extremely difficult to turn away those attracted to its shores by that light.