On Gene Sharp and Alfred Nobel's peace
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I know it’s just one cryptic article, but there were enough hints dropped in this Associated Press interview with the chairman of the Nobel Peace prize committee that I believe it could just wind up being one of my intellectual heroes, the nonviolence theoretician, historian and back-seat activist, Gene Sharp.
Here’s what the AP reported:
STRASBOURG, France (AP) -- This year's Nobel Peace prize winner is "obvious," the chairman of the prize committee says, and he's surprised that "commentators and experts" haven't picked up on it.
With upheaval in the Arab world and Europe's spiraling debt crisis among the top issues in a turbulent year, Thorbjoern Jagland didn't name the much-anticipated winner who will be announced Friday in Oslo.
But in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Jagland did give a few clues into the thinking of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that awards the prize.
The deadline for nominations was Feb. 1, and committee members could add their own suggestions until Feb. 28. Jagland said it was "not necessarily" too late for consideration of leaders of the Arab Spring revolutions, which toppled Tunisia's longtime autocrat in January and then spread from there.
"We saw many of the (Arab Spring) actors at the time, but that doesn't mean that the prize goes in that direction, because there are many other positive developments in the world," he said.
"The most positive development will get the prize," Jagland said. "So I'm a little bit surprised that it has not been already seen by many commentators and experts and all this because for me it's obvious."
Who the hell knows what “obvious” means. If you look at this odds chart (bless the British, that nation of degenerates) it would seem that “obvious” is Burmese opposition politician and activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who already won a Nobel in 1991. Second on the list is Sima Samar, a human rights advocate in Afghanistan. Sharp is somewhat further down the list.
From my admittedly narrow perspective, Sharp makes an ideal candidate. He refined his analysis of past nonviolent struggles into slender volumes that operate as handbooks for revolt: “From Dictatorship to Democracy” is the gold standard; the subtitle on his 2009 book is “A Guide for Strategic Planning for Action to End a Dictatorship or Other Oppression.” Translated versions of these guides have been shown to influence just about every successful nonviolent and popular uprising of the past quarter-century, at least. For a primer on Sharp, check out this Wall Street Journal profile of him from 2008 and this New York Times piece from earlier this year, when it became clear that the Arab Spring, like the Colour Revolutions before it, were following tactics and patterns described and prescribed by Sharp. A documentary on his work and the ripples it has had on this extraordinary 2011 is just out: “How to Start a Revolution,” by Ruaridh Arrow, posits that Sharp’s recipe for nonviolent revolution is now the dominant approach in overturning dictators today.
Sharp is famous for having distilled the history of nonviolence into a list of 198 discrete varieties of action (although when I met with him last year, he deflected some credit for that catalog by pointing out it’s almost certainly incomplete, now almost 40 years after its creation). That he’s an American is a relief to anyone concerned that America’s projection of power worldwide is primarily via predator drones and SEAL teams. Truly his philosophy is one America was founded upon: that all political power rests ultimately with the consent of the governed, and that dictators, of any size or stripe, can only achieve what their minions carry out. The greatest force for peace in the world may then be sheer disobedience, and in Sharp, resistance has not only its muse but its architect. I wish him luck this Friday, betting odds be damned.