Friday, October 11, 2013

Malala Won Anyway

Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for wanting to go to school around this time last year but who managed to live and who is now attending school in England, has gotten more buzz and more public campaigning for the Nobel Peace Prize- she is the youngest-ever nominee- than anyone else I can remember. Far more. She's the first one in my frame of memory that's engendered a bona fide movement to encourage that she be given the prize. She's been doing the media rounds lately, and everywhere she's gone, she has charmed the pants off just about everyone she's met, with some very well-connected people, who meet with powerful and influential people all the time, feeling honored to be in her presence.

It's not as if she's been nominated for simply surviving. Malala would be a richly deserving winner. She's pounded the pavement becoming an advocate for women's education. She runs an organization in that vein, the Malala Fund. And the attitude she has taken towards those who shot her has been nothing short of astonishing. Her appearance on The Daily Show has been particularly notable, as when Jon Stewart asked her what she did when she realized the Taliban had made her a target, this was her response:

"I started thinking about that the Talib would come and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do, Malala? Then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him. But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib.' You must not treat others with cruelty and that harshly; you must fight others through peace and through dialogue and through education. Then I said, ‘I'll tell him how important education is and that I even want education for your children as well. And I would tell him, ‘That's what I want to tell you, now do what you want.'"
And the camera cut back to Jon, who was visibly shocked.

However, the Nobel committee opted to go in a different direction, instead awarding the prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is currently operating in Syria. It is, to be sure, disappointing to not see Malala win. Anyone that wasn't Malala would have been a bit of a letdown after the worldwide cheerleading she got. But if Malala couldn't be the winner, you could really do far worse than the OPCW. For several years now, the world has been wringing its hands trying to figure out what to do about the place, ultimately doing nothing but recoiling in horror every once in a while. It does make sense to award the people who finally went in with the intent of helping put a stop to the most terrible of the acts committed. Have they actually removed the chemical weapons yet? No. Will it stop the war even if they do? Goodness no. But are we talking about Syria and chemical weapons again? Oh yes. Does the Peace Prize force spotlights like that? Yes. Might that have been the idea? Perhaps.

And meanwhile, Malala has hit a point where, even without winning the prize in title, she's already won it in spirit. She has achieved global adoration (aside from the Taliban, but nobody asked them). She has proven to be just the most peaceful, graceful soul. She has legions hanging on her every word. She knows that regardless of the actual winner, she went into the announcement with the world rooting for her. She has, ironically, been given access to a far better education than the one the Taliban originally attempted to deny her; a better one, in fact, than that which anyone on Earth, male or female, could purchase with money. She has won everything that matters in the end. She has everything except the little hunk of metal, and besides, she's half the age of the youngest peace laureate so far. She's got plenty of time to get the hunk of metal too. Someone is certain to nominate her again next year; maybe she'll get it then.

In the meantime, the cash prize attached to the Nobel is about $1.2 million. If you think Malala got jobbed, there is always the option of heading over to the Malala Fund and kicking in towards that amount of your own accord.

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