If political satire died when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, as Tom Lehrer observed, then what should be made of the movement gaining strength that Donald Trump should be a contender for the laurel wreath?
The winner of the Peace Prize is not always a universally praised decision. Kissinger, who was at the heart of US foreign policy in the seventies, was both sides of the coin, opening up channels between enemies and being labelled a war criminal.
There have, of course, been indisputable collectors of the prize: Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Elie Wiesel, Mikhail Gorbachev and Malala Yousafzai. Even organisations founded in Melbourne can win, such as the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
It’s bad luck for Trump the deadline for this year’s award was January 31. According to the Nobel Foundation, 330 candidates have been nominated for the Prize; 216 individuals, 114 organisations.
From there, it’s a lot of swotting for the Norwegian expert panel of professors, academics and sometimes foreign advisers as to the winner. By May, a short list has been worked out of usually about 30 candidates, up to August a review takes place of the list and in October, the winner is chosen. The choice is final and no correspondence is entered into. The winner gets their prize in December. Could Trump bluster his way on at this late stage? Perhaps he could threaten a missile attack on Oslo.
Alfred Nobel, he of inventing dynamite fame, more than a century ago initiated the Prize to acknowledge who had done “the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.
It is said his mind was concentrated on leaving a legacy after a French newspaper in reporting the death of his brother published Alfred’s obituary by mistake, declaring the “merchant of death is dead’’.
Of all the mistakes in the awarding of the Prize possibly the greatest is the sin of omission: Mahatma Gandhi was nominated five times, and never won.
If North Korea abandons nuclear weapons and the peninsula becomes nuclear free and there is rapprochement between North and South, Trump would be the equal, and more worthy a winner than many others.
Given that Donald Trump, a man who has a pathological hatred of the truth, who has been described by those who worked closely with him as “morally unfit” to hold office, who has been called a con man, charlatan and grifter, sees himself on the podium surely takes this tawdry reality show of a presidency into a world of surrealism Dali could never have imagined.
But, as Maureen Dowd, in The New York Times, has written, despite everything loathsome about him, if North Korea abandons nuclear weapons and the peninsula becomes nuclear free and there is rapprochement between North and South, Trump would be the equal, and more worthy a winner than many others.
As Republican senator Lindsey Graham said: “Donald Trump convinced North Korea and China he was serious about bringing about change. We’re not there yet, but if this happens, President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.”
These are, indeed, strange times.
Of course, the Norwegians would have no real idea of the level of Trump’s involvement, nor the rest of the world, apart from the tweets, if anything concrete were to happen. Would they get on the phone to the White House and conduct interviews? And given the personality of Kim Jong-un, who is happy to kill family members to maintain power, what may be said and what will be done are two entirely different things.
And as Trump is basking in his “great man in history” moment (all those fans in the Mid-West shouting to him “Nobel, Nobel, Nobel”) he is threatening to hurl destruction upon Iran. As you would expect any man of peace to do. As he equivocates on gun massacres and the NRA in his own country whenever a massacre occurs. As you would expect any man of peace to do. He has directed a massive expansion – billions of dollars – to be spent on his country’s military while impoverishing and cutting welfare and services to the nation’s most needy. As to the environment, it is invisible to him.
The Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle wrote: “The history of the world is but the biography of great men”. Trump sees himself as iconoclast par exemplar. There is no one like him. He destroys in order to create. He is a mover, a shaker and a shaper.
There is, of course, the counter argument that all men and women are shaped by the context of their times, that is, the mass movement of people and ideas has shaped history. That is not the Trumpean view of the world.
If he were to receive a Nobel calling, would that erase all else about him and his presidency? No. It would simply accentuate the buffoon in the room. It would confirm the real is now both unreal and surreal.