speech and action: the nobel prize for Obama

First, the rhetoric on this one has me mad.  One commentator calls the award "wicked and ignorant."  She asserts that the award is a "great and prestigious award given by liberals to liberals. NCNA--no conservatives need apply. This is the way of the world, and so what? Life isn't for prizes."

Good thing this is an Op-Ed and not on the news page--it wouldn't pass fact check.  Sure, it's okay if she doesn't like Al Gore's prize.  And we wonder too why Reagan never got awarded one.  But she doesn't mention that many of the candidates are relatively neutral in political affiliation (2006 - an economist  2004 - a zoologist ), but that recipients that are political in modern decades include iconic Republican Henry Kissinger and Conservative Party David Trimble (UK) in 1998.

More importantly:

Beyond the incivility and blithe assumptions of either corruption or idiocy (the ad hominem is always unbecoming), there is a intensely forest-for-the-trees like understanding that is missing from many of the critics.  Maybe we can understand what it is by watching the short interview of Committee Member Geir Lundestad explain the award:

Interview about the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize (8 minutes)

Lundested official's official Nobel statement includes the following:

"he has produced a new global climate"
"changing the international climate IS a concrete achievement" (emphasis his)
"we have been trying to support these ideals for 118 years"

On the objection that Obama's award is premature:

"we have gone over these arguments... they are very obvious." ... "there are the obvious counter-arguments" "but he presents this wonderful agenda and we feel we should support him." " We have been over these arguments many many times, obviously"

The reality is that discourse, covenant, promise, words with intent... *are* real action. Let's please stop saying things like "just words." Words are real action. We believe this daily in big and small things: every time we say a wedding vow or give a hug or sign a form to volunteer at a school. In systems of nations and families and trade networks, speech-acts have a multiplying real effect. The Nobel committee understands this.

What they might have missed is that there is a portion of the public that artificially separates "words" and "action." They're missing it.

The surprise at the award is entirely justified. It makes sense that some would be concerned. (Nicholas Kristof represents). Many (but not all) of the awards in the past seem to be given more as "lifetime achievement awards." But as the committee has explained, this is was not Nobel's intent for the prize. And I hope maybe their action (which, case in point: was 'no more' than words), helps us unite these ideas of communication and action in more thoughtful light.