It is impossible to see peace prize or freedom awards as anything other than fragments of an industry. In time, ideals become marketable and matters of commodity. Those who go against this market rationale face the fires of moral outrage. The business of promoting peace in the wrapping of human rights protections is its own market, with false advertising. It is merely, in many instances, the flip side of conflict.
A point often forgotten in this indulgence is that most recipients tend to be not merely the advocates of peace but previous advocates of conflict. Bloodied swords preceded ploughshares; the terrorist became, in time, a peace maker. Realising this tense, and central reality, should put any committee responsible for peace prizes or humanitarian awards out of business.
The speed at which a previously celebrated Aung San Suu Kyi has been stripped of such awards shows the frustration and rage of peace bureaucrats and the cocktail set who suddenly deigned their choice a counterfeit. Like an original hanging in a gallery, the award had to be removed, its bestowing reconsidered.
So many removals and revocations have taken place that Suu Kyi’s record now reads like a veritable Who’s Who of award deprivation. Each has been accompanied with necessary doses of hurt and cant in the face of a sanctified figure who has rusted. Stripping Suu Kyi of the Freedom of City awards figures prominently in these grand moral gestures: Edinburgh, Oxford,…