I think the reasons suggested for the uproar over President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize miss a deeper issue. First, no one would dispute that Mr. Obama has not yet achieved the level of contribution to world peace that other honorees have. He, himself, acknowledged that. Critics of both right and left argue that the reward reflects an unhealthy cult of personality, and that his rock star status has overwhelmed better judgment. Some point to the Europeans’ apparent delight at sticking it to Dubya. And, needless to say, racism is part of the angry outbursts as well.
But there’s a missing source of the outcry. It’s probably less conscious; certainly less articulated. It’s that the award gave a new focal point for mounting fears generated by a profound shift the world is undergoing on many fronts: The economic meltdown; global dangers and threats; the impact of climate change. It’s an interlocking world, in which everyone has to figure out how to compete and collaborate with everybody else. And it’s a diverse world – not “out there,” somewhere, but right here in people’s community and workplace. Moreover, shifts in how people conduct their social, sexual and individual lives are visible all around.
In today’s new era of tumultuous change, we’re shifting from an environment of old-style “command and control,” in private relationships, careers, and organizations, to “collaborate and cooperate.”
This wave-change, this new reality that the future has arrived, is very hard to digest for some. I’m not referring, here, to the Fox crowd — the right-wing commentators and pundits. Most probably know better; and know what’s going on throughout our society and the world. They may not like the changes taking place – perhaps symbolized for them by a black man in the White House. But they’ve chosen to exploit fears among segments of the public hardest hit by these massive changes. They’re exploiting them for their own avarice and self-promotion. Continue reading