Make cheese, not peace

I think I know why Norway gave the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union: they are desperate for more cows.

Many are perplexed by the motivation behind this year’s award. Scholars and know-it-alls across Europe have tried guessing why politicians from a country that has rejected union membership honored the EU. Speeches at today’s award ceremony outlined historical milestones that brought 27 countries together after two world wars, while naysayers balk at the Peace Prize being given to a union with a huge military.

EU FlagBut maybe everyone is looking too hard, too deep for a reason. This year’s award could be a simple cry for help: Norway needs more butter and cheese.

I was a little hungry when I arrived at Oslo City Hall this morning for the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony. As I listened to Thorbjørn Jagland, the former Norwegian prime minster who heads the Peace Prize selection committee, my brain turned his eloquently delivered speech about EU’s accomplishments into a manifesto to solve Norway’s dairy shortage.

When Jagland spoke about how the Coal and Steel Community in 1950 planted the seed of promoting peace between nations through economic integration, I thought about how a Cow and Butter-Churning Alliance with Denmark could revolutionize trade in Norway and save us from another butter crisis.

When my stomach growled, I thought about how the lettuce-to-parmesan ratio in caesar salads across Norway will suffer next year because taxes on foreign cheeses will go up by 277%. I couldn’t help but wonder if Jagland was thinking the same thing. Before presenting the Nobel diploma he said: “What this continent has achieved is truly fantastic, from being a continent of war to being a continent of peace.”

And, maybe, of cheese.

Jagland

Perhaps the Norwegian politicians who hold the coveted seats on the Nobel Peace selection committee dream of an abundance dairy products. Maybe last year’s butter crisis and the looming hike in foreign cheese prices has finally got a few politicians rethinking Norway’s draconian protectionist policies. The rules are meant to protect local products and the jobs that they create, but the country’s determination to be self-sufficient has come with a price: poor selection at the grocery store, increasingly high food prices and an occasional famine.

Norway is not part of the EU. In fact, 75% of its electorate is against joining. One of the side effects of an EU membership is that Norway would have to change its trade policies. Maybe Jagland just wanted some cheap cheese and realized that the EU could be the secret to liberating Norway’s trade policies.

Or maybe I shouldn’t have gone to the ceremony hungry.

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The EU wins the Nobel Peace Prize and I bought a Gandhi party mask to celebrate

Norway has a few things in common with Ohio. For one thing, there are Buckeye trees here. Buckeyes on the footpath, already strewn with autumn leaves, felt like a welcome gesture meant just for me when I arrived in Oslo last fall.

The other thing is that both the Buckeye State and Norway are occasionally thrown into the media spotlight and then completely forgotten. During every US election cycle Ohio’s status as a battleground state gives its residents national importance. Political pundits, campaign staffers and election junkies become obsessed with how Ohioans will vote and what it means. And then, on the first Wednesday of November, Ohio is forgotten.

Every October, Norway makes headlines by announcing the Nobel Peace Prize winner. This year the European Union is the recipient of the $1.2 million award. Once again there is controversy, this time it’s that seemingly 500 million citizens of the EU are now Nobel laureates, including some unemployed and unhappy Greeks.

The Nobel Peace Center in Oslo.

Norway’s sacred Peace Prize cannot come up in conversation without someone remarking on the absurdity of awarding it to Barack Obama in 2009. Everyone outside the selection committee, from Norwegians to Obama himself, was perplexed. Then there was the Chinese dissident who got the prize in 2010, damaging Norway’s political ties with the whole of China.

Controversy has surrounded the prize for decades. Mahatma Gandhi was nominated five times and never won. The Nobel Foundation has said he was passed over because the selection committee felt he flip-flopped between being a freedom fighter and an ordinary politician.

Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 and since the Nobel Peace Prize cannot be awarded posthumously, the committee has lived with the regret ever since.

It seems they are trying to make up for their mistake by honoring him in an exhibit called Eye on Gandhi featuring photos from his last days. I went to the Nobel Peace Center today and found the homage a disappointment.

For one thing the gift shop took an icon who showed the world how much one can accomplish through nonviolent civil disobedience and turned him into a boorish stuffed toy.

What does one do with a Gandhi doll? Have a cuddle? Set a doilie in front of it and serve it imaginary tea?

The very first piece in the exhibit, a larger-than-life photo of the smiling Mahatma, glosses over the Nobel Committee’s previous remarks on why Gandhi never won the prize. The exhibit states that if had he not been suddenly killed, he would probably would have gotten it.

Lame excuse.

Lead the entire nation of India to liberation from the Brits and Norway will make a party mask out of your face. And then sell it to foolish tourists for a whopping $17 each.