23 Mar Nobel Not Noble
It’s common knowledge that Alfred Nobel invented, patented and made a motza out of dynamite in the late 19th century. He followed in his father’s footsteps and manufactured the product for the military then quickly became one of the richest war machine tycoons on the planet. (Sounds familiar…)
This same guy started the Nobel Prize for excellence in various disciplines but most famously for peace.
The Nobel Peace Prize.
I feel slapped by the blatant irony.
The Nobel Prize is given to us by – and named after – the man who gave us the most powerful tool of death that really came into its own in the 20th century.
In the late 1800s, dynamite and gunpowder became so affordable and available, explosions – and some assassination attempts – were happening every day. An early form of terrorism perhaps? Or just power put into the palms of the people who could really punctuate their opinion with a loud KABOOM!
Nothing says ‘fuck you!’ like detonating a bomb.
Then in Alfred’s lifetime, along comes Bertha von Suttner – definitely a prototype hippie activist but with the intellect of Naomi Klein.
She and her peers saw gunpowder as the greatest threat to world peace.
Intriguingly, Alfred Nobel saw himself as a peace-loving war manufacturer and if pro-Nobel literature is taken at face value, he was tortured by the death-inducing use of dynamite especially in terms of war.
Anyway, way back in his day, he rocks up to one of Bertha’s gatherings – in disguise. Reports say they had much in common. Both believed in peace – just different ways to achieve it.
And, according to reports, he believed in her.
She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905. Her slogan ‘down with arms’ was ridiculed at the time but taken somewhat seriously due to her noble birth. She believed prevailing peace would ultimately lead to the success of the women’s cause.
Yeah – there’s only one good use of gunpowder that I’ve ever seen – it gets humanity united in a giant sigh, marvelling at the celebration of colour set against a night sky – and that’s fireworks.
Imagine going to war armed with a Roman Candle, a Catherine Wheel and half a dozen Sparklers.
'Imagine all the people…'