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The Nobel committee did Malala a favor in passing her over for the peace prize

The Nobel committee did Malala a favor in passing her over for the peace prize

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In passing her over, the Nobel committee gave Malala a chance to transcend celebrity and symbolism, to be a part of demonstrable change. Decades from now, should she become Pakistani Prime Minister Yousafzai, as she says she hopes to do, the purity of symbolism she represents today would surely be complicated by the hard realities of governing, as even Mahatma Gandhi's was. But when she traveled to Oslo and accept a Nobel Peace Prize, she could point to more than her own life but to schools she'd built, the lives she'd changed and the peace she'd made
In passing her over, the Nobel committee gave Malala a chance to transcend celebrity and symbolism, to be a part of demonstrable change. Decades from now, should she become Pakistani Prime Minister Yousafzai, as she says she hopes to do, the purity of symbolism she represents today would surely be complicated by the hard realities of governing, as even Mahatma Gandhi's was. But when she traveled to Oslo and accept a Nobel Peace Prize, she could point to more than her own life but to schools she'd built, the lives she'd changed and the peace she'd made

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Published by: Joseph "Yosi" Fischer on Oct 12, 2013
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11/14/2013

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637 S. Victory Blvd.|Burbank, CA 91502|Phone:(818)567-4400 | Fax:(818)567-4401www.fhofficesystems.com
The Nobel committee did Malala a favor in passing her over for the peace prize
 By
Max Fisher
,
Published: October 11 at 1:25 pm
 
Malala Yousafzai speaks before the United Nations Youth Assembly at UN headquarters in New York. (Getty Images)
There was a moment midway through Malala Yousafzai's much-watched interview on "The Daily Show" when host Jon Stewart announced,apparently spontaneously, and in words that seemed to channel howmuch of the West feels about this young Pakistani woman, "I want toadopt you." The comment captured the growing adoration around Malala,who has become a Western media darling for her heroic work on behalf of girls' education in her country. And it foreshadowed thecrushingdisappointment  felt this morning when the Nobel Peace Prize wasawarded to someone else. Still, the Nobel Peace Prize committee may have been doing 16-year-old  Malala a favor in passing her over, at least for now. More to theorganization's purpose, it may have been doing all of us a favor. Theyoung woman's power as a symbol is undeniable. In the past months,though, the Western fawning over Malala has become less about her efforts to improve conditions for girls in Pakistan, or certainly about the
 
637 S. Victory Blvd.|Burbank, CA 91502|Phone:(818)567-4400 | Fax:(818)567-4401www.fhofficesystems.com
 
struggles of millionsof girls in Pakistan, and more about our own desireto make ourselves feel warm and fuzzy with a celebrity and an easymessage. It's a way of letting ourselves off the hook, convincing ourselvesthat it's simple matter of good guys vs. bad guys, that we'reon the right side and that everything is okay. But everything is not okay, and it's certainly not simple. The West has alot of hard questions to grapple with, particularly given our own not-insignificant hand in Pakistan's problems and the clear sense that we arenot welcome. Awarding Malala the highest honor in peace-making, at the pinnacle of the campaign to remake her into a Western celebrity, would have validated that effort, deliberately or not. It would have reaffirmed that too-common Western habitthat, by giving a powerful symbol agreater platform and lots of accolades, we'll have fulfilled our duty. Like asort of slacktivism writ large, awarding Malala the Nobel would have told us what we wanted to hear: that celebrity and "awareness" can fix eventhe worst problems.It would have made us less likely to acknowledge thetruth, which is that it takes decades of hard work, not to mention a seriousexamination of our own role in the problem, to effect meaningful change. It can sometimes feel as if the entire West were trying to co-opt Malala, asif to tell ourselves: "Look, we're with the good guys, we're on the right side. The problem is over there." Sometimes the heroes we appoint to solveour problems can say as much about us as about them. Malala's answer iscourage. Our answer is celebrity. None of this is anywhere near Malala's fault, of course. But the Nobel  Peace Prize, after all, is not purely about merit; it's also an aspirational  prize meant to itself encourage peace by conferring legitimacyand attention on an effort that needs it.This year's went to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a small agency that hasoverseen the destructionof 80 percent of the world's declared chemical weapons, including the entire South Korean and Indian stockpiles. It is dull and uninteresting and has madethe world a significantly and demonstrably better place. It is currently
 
637 S. Victory Blvd.|Burbank, CA 91502|Phone:(818)567-4400 | Fax:(818)567-4401www.fhofficesystems.com
 
 facing enormous challenges in Syria, where it's trying desperately todismantle vast stockpiles of chemical weapons. This mission is not sexyand it doesn't make people cry on daytime TV, but it's important, has theimmediate potential to save large numbers of lives, and could really usethe world's support. Given how little interest most people show in Syria'svery complicated and messy conflict, much less the humdrum institutionsworking to make it better, the Nobel might help.The OPCW cannot hold a candle to the human appeal of Malala, who istruly and accurately recognized as the personification of many of thequalities we most prize in a human being, who at an impossibly young agehas demonstrated more character and strength and couragethan most of us will ever know. She is an inspiring young woman and a powerful symbol. She has faced down some of the most daunting problems of one of the world's most troubled countries and not only survived, but come awayeven more committed to the mostcherished ideals of our world. Still, as University of North Carolina assistant professor Zeynep Tufekciwrote ina careful and thoughtful piece on the Nobel decision, Malala "isbut one courageous person." Tufekci continues: Fortunately for the world, there is no shortage of such brave, courageousindividuals. In fact, there is an abundance of them, especially in poor,authoritarian countries. If you think Malala is rare, that is probablybecause you havenot spent much time in such countries. Most Malalas,however, go nameless, and are not made into Western celebrities.Tufecki also explains why she was uncomfortable with Jon Stewart'sdeclaration that he wanted to adopt Malala: It was "a striking sentiment in which our multi-decade involvement in Pakistan is reduced to finding ayoung woman we admire that we all want to take home as if to put on ashelf to adore." We've already adopted her, in a metaphorical sense, and in so doing have asked her to implicitly absolve us of any further responsibility.The hard truth we don't want to acknowledge is that the world's most difficult and intractable problems, from gender violence in India to civil 

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