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Time to stop pretending that counselling is objective?

I’ve heard stories about misogynist counselors blaming the wife for a bad marriage because she looked the counselor straight in the eye. To this defensive creep, that indicated that the woman was “aggressive.”

Is it time to admit that counselling is a human enterprise unlike any other? The mask of objectivity and the associated “neutral” tones of the counselor cannot hide the fact that everyone is biased in some way.

Reputable counselors will concede this point and still try to help, acknowledging their limitations. But others, well, could we say “power trip”?

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What does it mean to be spiritual?

What does it mean to be spiritual?

File 20171115 19836 uy2yzs.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Increasingly, North American millennials identify as spiritual as opposed to religious. To them, part of this spirituality means being compassionate, empathetic and open-hearted.
(Shutterstock)

Galen Watts, Queen’s University, Ontario

Spirituality has become a kind of buzzword in today’s culture, especially for the millennial generation. Increasingly, North Americans identify as spiritual as opposed to religious.

What is behind the rising popularity of spirituality without religion? Some critics have suggested it is a byproduct of the self-obsessed culture of today, evidence of a narcissism epidemic. This criticism is similar to that launched at the millennial generation (born between 1980-2000) in general, what some scholars have called “Generation Me.

Although I don’t disagree with these characterizations, I believe there is more to the story. Since 2015 I have conducted in-depth research with Canadian millennials, interviewing 33 Canadian millennials who self-identify as spiritual but not religious — in order to better understand their beliefs and practices.

I believe when people call themselves spiritual they are basically signaling three things: first, that they believe there is more to the world than meets the eye, that is to say, more than the mere material. Second, that they try to attend to their inner life — to their mental and emotional states — in the hopes of gaining a certain kind of self-knowledge. Third, that they value the following virtues: being compassionate, empathetic and open-hearted.

Questions about meaning and value in the world

The origins of the word “spirituality,” in the context of Christian theology, lie in the Latin noun spiritualitas, which derived from the Greek noun pneuma, meaning spirit. Interestingly, “spirit” in its original context was not the opposite of the “physical” or “material,” but of “flesh,” or everything that is not of God. Therefore a “spiritual person,” in its original Christian sense, was simply a person within whom the Spirit of God dwelt.

Despite this, among the millennials I’ve interviewed, “spirituality” is generally contrasted with “materiality.” It therefore gestures towards that which we require to live, but which we cannot perceive or measure.

Religion, many conventionally think, attends to the field of human experience that concerns our most fundamental questions — questions of meaning, purpose and value. But since the Enlightenment, many individuals in North Atlantic countries have developed a self-understanding of themselves as secular, or modern.

For many, religion does not seem like a viable option. It seems outdated, or at odds with a scientific understanding of the world (or, at least parts of it do). Yet, despite this shift, questions of meaning, purpose and value remain.

Moreover, for many of my study participants, science is incapable of adequately answering some of life’s most crucial questions: What is beauty? How should I relate to the natural world? To whom (or what) should I commit my life? Why be just? What is justice?

Although science can provide answers to these questions, the answers rarely inspire my participants as they would like them to. And for many, science’s answers simply don’t suffice to help them live their lives as they experience them.

So when people speak of spirituality they are generally invoking some framework of meaning that enables them to make sense of that which, for them, science fails to address.

This is why atheists, agnostics and believers can all — and often do — identify as spiritual. One need not believe in God in order to have questions that scientific materialism cannot answer.

Western culture too focused on material success

The second aspect of spirituality involves a move inward, or an attention to one’s inner life, often as a means of honouring the immaterial dimensions of life. Most of my study participants think contemporary Western culture is far too outward focused, glorifying material success and procurement at the expense of the things that really matter.

They would agree with the famous cultural critic Erich Fromm, who in the 1970s argued modern societies emphasize having things as opposed to just being. Spirituality stresses the importance of attuning to our inner life — both as a way of resisting the constant pressure our culture exerts to value what lies outside of us, as well as a means of finding a place of refuge.

This is one reason why, for instance, environmentalists have often endorsed spirituality. One of the major causes of climate change and environmental destruction, these environmentalists argue, is the never-ending quest for economic growth, fuelled by a capitalist logic of acquisition and expansion.

The Dalai Lama once said, while the West was busy exploring outer space, the East was busy exploring inner space.
(Shutterstock)

The Dalai Lama once quipped, while the West was busy exploring outer space, the East was busy exploring inner space. Regardless of the veracity of this generalization, he was getting at something that many of my study participants feel: that contemporary societies in the western world are structured in such a way that silence and stillness are the exception, not the rule.

When millennials say they are seeking to become more spiritual, they are often saying that they are trying to resist this trend.

Looking inward to act more wisely

For many millennials looking inward is an ethical endeavour. Being spiritual to them implies seeking to better understand one’s inner life in order to act more wisely in the world. For many, becoming more contemplative or aware of their inner life allows them to interact with others in a way that is less reactive, less harmful and more authentic to who they think themselves to be.

Thus, there are certain virtues which have come to be associated with spirituality: compassion, empathy and open-heartedness. These virtues naturally flow out of the introspection inherent to spirituality because they ultimately require a high level of self-knowledge. That is, knowledge of why we hold the beliefs we do, knowledge of why we act in certain ways, and most importantly, knowledge of our interdependence.

This knowledge — acquired either through practices like meditation, self-reflection and (in some cases) psychotherapy — leads one to become more sensitive to the emotions of others, and even to one’s surrounding environments, both social and natural.

Many millennials believe contemporary societies in the western world are structured in such a way that silence and stillness are the exception, not the rule.
(Shutterstock)

Thus the path inward, in its best form, is not rooted in narcissism but rather based in a robust ethicality — a willingness to face one’s demons in order to better understand the human condition.

For some, this path inward is ultimately about self-transformation, or transcending one’s early childhood programming and achieving a certain kind of self-mastery. For others, it entails attuning themselves to the immaterial dimensions of life.

The framework I’ve sketched above doesn’t exhaust the full range of meanings the term spirituality invokes. Nor am I suggesting that all individuals who fit the above description are necessarily spiritual. I only mean to propose that these three characteristics cover a lot of what millennials mean when they call themselves spiritual.

What I’ve outlined should not lead readers to think that all millennials who call themselves spiritual live these ethical ideals. Our ability to realize our ethical ideals depends not only our own willingness, but also the social and economic constraints that we live within.

Thus my current research seeks to better understand lived spirituality, or, how spirituality operates in people’s everyday lives. Ultimately, more research needs to be done to better understand this emerging trend.

The ConversationAs the number of people who identify as “spiritual” continues to climb, it is likely that spirituality will come to shape North American societies in important and enduring ways.

Galen Watts, PhD Candidate in the Cultural Studies Graduate Program, Queen’s University, Ontario

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 Our Calvinism Spared Us From Modernity: (brothersjuddblog.com)

 Higher Criticism, Darwinism, & the Loss of Western Culture (patheos.com)

 The Six Commandments? Christians feel four of the ten are no longer important (telegraph.co.uk)

 Minister Fuses Yoga and Christianity (prweb.com)

 Western philosophy is racist (aeon.co)

 In Photos: Cremated Buddha Remains and Buddha Statues (livescience.com)

 Is this blasphemous? (quinersdiner.com)


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Cut toxic people out of your life

This is so true. Something I’ve been writing about for a long time. Part of the problem, I think, is that toxic people don’t know they are toxic. Just as it is perfectly natural for an animal to try to get into your garbage on a regular basis, toxic people rationalize their hypocritical activity.

Same thing with madpersons. Mad people do not know they are mad. That’s why we need a larger community to contain the disturbed ones before they do real harm to individuals or to society as a whole.

Not an easy topic but ignoring it will not make it go away.

 Evangelical quits Church of England leadership over ‘heretical’ stance on sexuality (telegraph.co.uk)


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Postmodernism – Not necessarily absurd or without wings

Inside My Secret Cloning Chamber

Inside My Secret Cloning Chamber: Stuck in Customs / Trey Ratcliff

The term postmodernism became popular in the 1970s and 80s but has roots reaching back through the centuries.

Social theorists usually try to define concepts through a key set of ideas and parameters. Postmodernism challenges conventional perceptions of “the definition” and few seem to clearly agree on its meaning. This is partly because postmoderns questions the very act of defining, labeling and signifying.

If postmodernism has a core idea, it might be that it paradoxically has no core idea upon which to stand. Some say that makes postmodernism absurd. But that stance seems intellectually childish.  Questioning something doesn’t render the process meaningless, as amorphous as outcomes may be. Truth isn’t always black and white and only conceptual control freaks reject uncertainty.

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Indigenous people invented the so-called ‘American Dream’

Lewis Borck, Leiden University and D. Shane Miller, Mississippi State University

When President Barack Obama created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the 2012 program that offered undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children a path into society, for a moment the ideals of the American Dream seemed, at least for this group, real.

We call these kids (many of whom are now adults) “Dreamers,” because they are chasing the American Dream – a national aspiration for upward economic mobility built on physical mobility. Fulfilling your dreams often means following them wherever they may lead – even into another country.

The Trump administration’s decision to cancel DACA and build a U.S.-Mexico border wall has endangered those dreams by subjecting 800,000 young people to deportation.

But the notion underlying both the DACA repeal and the wall – which is that “illegal” immigrants, most of them from Mexico, are stealing U.S. jobs and hurting society – reflects a profound misunderstanding of American history.

On Indigenous Peoples Day, it’s worth underscoring something that many archaeologists know: many of the values that inspire the American Dream – liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness – date back to well before the creation of the U.S.-Mexico border and before freedom-seeking Pilgrim immigrants arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620. They originate with native North Americans.

A Native American dream

The modern rendition of the American Dream can be traced back to 1774, when Virginia’s governor, John Murray, the fourth earl of Dunmore, wrote that even if Americans “attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west.”

The actual term “American Dream” was popularized in 1931 by the businessman and historian James Truslow Adams. For him, its realization depended on not just being able to better oneself but also, through movement and human interaction, seeing your neighbors bettered as well.

The first peoples to come to the Americas also came in search of a better life. That happened 14,000 years ago in the last Ice Age when nomadic pioneers, ancestors to modern Native Americans and First Nations, arrived from the Asian continent and roamed freely throughout what now comprises Canada, the United States and Mexico. Chasing mammoth, ancient bison and the elephant-like Gomphothere, they moved constantly to secure the health of their communities.

The indigenous communities of the Americas knew none of these modern-day national borders.
USGS

A more recent example of the power of migration reappears about 5,000 years ago, when a large group of people from what is today central Mexico spread into the American Southwest and farther north, settling as far up as western North America. With them they brought corn, which now drives a significant part of the American economy, and a way of speaking that birthed over 30 of the 169 contemporary indigenous languages still spoken in the United States today.

The Hohokam

This globalist world view was alive and well 700 years ago as well when people from what is now northern Arizona fled a decades-long drought and rising authoritarianism under religious leaders. Many migrated hundreds of miles south to southern Arizona, joining the Hohokam (ancestors to modern O’odham nations) who had long thrived in the harsh Sonoran desert by irrigating vast fields of agave, corn, squash, beans and cotton.

When the northern migrants arrived to this hot stretch of land around the then-nonexistent U.S.-Mexico frontier, Hohokam religious and political life was controlled by a handful of elites. Social mechanisms restricting the accumulation of power by individuals had slowly broken down.

For decades after their arrival, migrants and locals interacted. From that exchange, a Hohokam cultural revolution grew. Together, the two communities created a commoners’ religious social movement that archaeologists call Salado, which featured a feasting practice that invited all village members to participate.

As ever more communities adopted this equitable tradition, political power – which at the time was embedded in religious power – became more equally spread through society. Elites lost their control and, eventually, abandoned their temples.

America’s egalitarian mound-builders

The Hohokam tale unearths another vaunted American ideal that originates in indigenous history: equality. Long before it was codified in the Declaration of Independence,, equality was enacted through the building of large mounds.

Massive earthen structures like these are often acts of highly hierarchical societies – think of the pyramids of the ancient Egyptians, constructed by masses of laborers as the final resting place of powerful pharaohs, or those of the rigid, empire-building Aztecs.

But great power isn’t always top-down. Poverty Point, in the lower Mississippi River Valley of what’s now Louisiana, is a good example. This massive site, which consists of five mounds, six concentric semi-elliptical ridges and a central plaza, was built some 4,000 years ago by hunter-fisher-gatherers with little entrenched hierarchy.

Poverty Point: a city built on cooperation.
Herb Roe/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Originally, archaeologists believed that such societies without the inequality and authoritarianism that defined the ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Aztec empires could not have constructed something so significant – and, if so, only over decades or centuries.

But excavations in the last 20 years have revealed that large sections of Poverty Point were actually constructed in only a few months. These Native Americans organized in groups to undertake massive projects as a communal cooperative, leaving a built legacy of equality across America’s landscape.

Haudenosaunee

The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, offer a more modern example of such consensus-based decision-making practices.

These peoples – who’ve lived on both sides of the St. Lawrence river in modern-day Ontario and the U.S. Great Lakes states for hundreds, if not thousands, of years – built their society on collective labor arrangements.

They ostracized people who exhibited “selfish” behavior, and women and men often worked together in large groups. Everyone lived together in communal longhouses. Power was also shifted constantly to prevent hierarchy from forming, and decisions were made by coalitions of kin groups and communities. Many of these participatory political practices continue to this day.

The Haudenosaunee sided with the British during the 1776 American Revolution and were largely driven off their land after the war. Like many native populations, the Haudenosaunee Dream turned into a nightmare of invasion, plague and genocide as European migrants pursued their American Dream that excluded others.

Native Americans at Standing Rock

The long indigenous history of rejecting authoritarianism continues today, including the 2016 battle for environmental justice at Standing Rock, South Dakota.

There, a resistance movement coalesced around a horizontally organized youth group that rejected the planned Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Native American pioneers continue to fight for the same ideals that inspire the American Dream, including equality and freedom.
John Duffy/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

The movement centered on an environmental cause in part because nature is sacred to the Lakota (and many other indigenous communities), but also because communities of color often bear the brunt of economic and urban development decisions. This was the indigenous fight against repression and for the American Dream, gone 21st century.

Redefining the North American dream

Anthropologists and historians haven’t always recognized the quintessentially Native American ideals present in the American Dream.

In the early 19th century, the prominent social philosopher Lewis Henry Morgan called the Native Americans he studied “savages.” And for centuries, America’s native peoples have seen their cultural heritage attributed to seemingly everyone but their ancestors – even to an invented “lost” white race.

America’s indigenous past was not romantic. There were petty disputes, bloody intergroup conflicts and slavery (namely along the Northwest Coast and American Southeast).

But the ideals of freedom and equality – and the right that Americans can move across this vast continent to seek it out – survive through the millennia. Societies based on those values have prospered here.

The ConversationSo the next time a politician invokes American values to promote a policy of closed borders or selfish individualism, remember who originally espoused the American Dream – and first sought to live it, too.

Lewis Borck, Archaeologist, Leiden University and D. Shane Miller, Prehistoric Archeologist, Mississippi State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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Why the world needs more global citizens

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Former U.S. President Barack Obama and Prince Harry watch wheelchair basketball at the Invictus Games in Toronto on Friday, Sept. 29. Obama spoke earlier in Toronto about the importance of global citizenship. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Donovan

Paul Sherman, University of Guelph-Humber

Global citizenship is trending upward.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei received a global citizenship award in Toronto this week, and on Friday, former U.S. President Barack Obama spoke in the Canadian city about the importance of global citizenship.

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And recently, tens of thousands of New Yorkers attended the annual Global Citizen Festival in Central Park.

Now, before you react to this article’s headline and rail against yet another apparent plea for the creation of an elitist one-world government, give your typing fingers a rest.

I will state at the onset that this piece neither advocates for an elitist perspective, nor a single planetary authority. What it does argue for is the cultivation of a global citizenship sensibility, particularly in the education of our university and college students.

Internationalization in higher education

Internationalization policies and practices within the higher education sector have ostensibly been fuelled by pressures on colleges and universities to better prepare students for the effects of globalization.

Recent research suggests that university graduates are increasingly required by prospective employers to have the so-called soft skills necessary for working in global environments.

A university education offers an important pathway that hopefully leads to gainful employment after graduation. But including global citizenship within educational curricula is an investment that can produce dividends far greater than simply securing a job.

Global citizenship: What it is and what it isn’t

Global citizenship is a concept that has produced varied and contested understandings, not the least of which is the argument that the privilege of legal status inherently associated with national citizenship is not a feature of global citizenship.

British Prime Minister Theresa May recently opined: “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.”

Notwithstanding this sort of misguided criticism, there’s a general consensus that the term orients towards recognizing the interconnectedness of life, respecting cultural diversity and human rights, advocating global social justice, empathizing with suffering people around the world, seeing the world as others see it and feeling a sense of moral responsibility for planet Earth.

Musician Ai Weiwei recently received a global citizenship award in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Global citizenship usually involves three dimensions — awareness (of self and others), responsibility and participation. The enlightened global citizen understands that there doesn’t have to be a tension between a nationalistic sense of duty and a moral obligations to the rest of the world.

Global leaders who state otherwise are mired in old and tired ways of competing for the planet’s resources and securing the welfare of its inhabitants and ecosystems. Global citizenship offers hope for embracing a mindset that can ensure the future sustainability of our planet, and all of its living forms.

Global citizenship and Soka education

Soka, or value-creating, education was formulated in the 1930s, against a backdrop of Japanese industrialization, expansionism and increased militarism.

Founder Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944) vehemently opposed the aims of Japanese nationalist education at that time, which was ostensibly used as a platform for political indoctrination and support of Japan’s war efforts.

Makiguchi believed that education was the key to ultimately securing individual and societal wellbeing, or happiness. And that happiness was discovered through a transformational process of creating value through one’s everyday interactions in society.

Makiguchi’s vision was advanced in succession by his protégé, Josei Toda (1900-1958), and Toda’s protégé, Daisaku Ikeda.

Ikeda is president of the lay-Buddhist global peace movement, Soka Gakkai International. He founded the Soka Education network of schools around the world. Ikeda’s vision for these schools is deeply connected to global citizenship, aiming to nurture global citizens who will contribute to society and help strengthen the foundations of peace.

My case study research of Soka University Japan (SUJ) reveals an educational environment that cultivates global awareness, global citizenship identity and pro-social values.

Big Sean performs at the 2017 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in New York. The festival aims to end extreme poverty through the collective actions of global citizens. (AP Photo/Michael Noble Jr.)

Two interview participants’ quotes from my research highlight the synergies created at SUJ between education for global citizenship and the prospect of societal wellbeing:

  1. “Cultivating a feeling of concern for the welfare of others is considered an extremely important part of Soka education, of humanism. I think the otherness, of connecting one’s happiness with the happiness of others, is a part of it.”
  2. “The wellbeing, happiness and betterment of society are possible when you can think from the perspective of not just yourself but you as a member of this world. In other words, society doesn’t become happy on its own.”

Humanitarian competition

Makiguchi’s Soka education principles for promoting a peaceful and harmonious world are well-aligned with a global citizenship perspective. Although never stepping foot off his native Japanese soil, Makiguchi was deeply concerned for the well-being of all people and for future generations. His insightful treatise on how countries should best cooperate for the collective good of humankind gives a clear sense of the promise and virtues of global citizenship.

In 1903, Makiguchi published his book, The Geography of Human Life, which contains his ideas on the nature of competition. He suggested that competition for survival is common to all species, and that major forms of competition have changed over time in line with changes to natural and social environments.

Makiguchi argued that nations have variously used strategies of economic, military, and political competition to maintain control of society.

He speculated that a fourth type of competition — in the arena of moral character — would evolve to guide international relations in the other three realms.

Labelling this form of competition as “humanitarian,” Makiguchi states that it aspires to: “…a goal of wellbeing and protection of all people, including oneself but not at the increase of self interest alone. In other words, the aim is the betterment of others and in doing so, one chooses ways that will yield personal benefit as well as benefit to others.”

He adds: “It is a conscious effort to create a more harmonious community life, and it will take considerable time for us to achieve.”

Competition that is based on humanitarian principles and practices fits with a global citizenship perspective.

The ConversationI believe there’s an important place for these principles in the curricula of higher education as we look to cultivate future generations of global citizens who can ensure the harmonious survival of planet Earth.

Paul Sherman, Program Head, Family & Community Social Services, University of Guelph-Humber

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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Why the Nobel Peace Prize brings little peace

Ronald R. Krebs, University of Minnesota

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an advocacy group that has worked to draw attention to their “catastrophic humanitarian consequences.”

Every year, the winners of the Nobel Prizes are announced to great fanfare. And none receives more scrutiny than the Nobel Peace Prize.

With good reason. The other Nobel Prizes are given to people who have already changed our world – for their remarkable accomplishments. But, in the case of the Nobel Peace Prize, the hope of the Nobel Committee is to change the world through its very conferral. It, therefore, rewards aspiration more than achievement.

Francis Sejersted, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee from 1991-1999, once noted with pride the Nobel Peace Prize’s political ambitions:

“The Committee also takes the possible positive effects of its choices into account [because] … Nobel wanted the Prize to have political effects. Awarding a Peace Prize is, to put it bluntly, a political act.”

So, has the Nobel Peace Prize changed the world?

Expecting the prize to bring world peace would be an unfair standard to apply. However, my research shows that the winners and their causes have rarely profited from the award. Even worse, the prize has at times made it harder from them to make the leap from aspiration to achievement.

History of the peace award

The Nobel Peace Prize was first awarded in 1901, five years after Alfred Nobel’s death. Nobel’s will defined peace narrowly and focused on candidates’ accomplishments: The prize was to be awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The committee initially remained true to Nobel’s charge. Between 1901 and 1945, over three-quarters of the prizes (33 of 43) went to those who promoted interstate peace and disarmament.

Since the Second World War, however, less than one-quarter of the prizes have gone to promoting interstate peace and disarmament. Just seven of the 37 winners since 1989 fall into this category. Another 11 awards have sought to encourage ongoing peace processes.

But many of these processes had borne little fruit at the time or still had a long road ahead. Consider that three of the most prominent winners in this category were then Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Nonetheless, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is today in a coma.

Perhaps for this reason, in the last decade, the committee has given just two awards to encourage peace processes. In 2008 Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his various achievements in Namibia, Kosovo and Aceh. In 2016, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos was honored with the Nobel in the hope that the prize would help push through his peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, even though a popular referendum had just rejected it, and thereby end his country’s half-century-long civil war.

The striking change since the 1970s, and especially since the end of the Cold War, has been the Nobel Peace Prize’s growing focus on promoting domestic political change.

Albert Luthuli, winner of the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize. AP Photo

Between 1946 and 1970, the prize was awarded just twice to dissidents and activists like the South African leader Albert Luthuli, who led a nonviolent struggle against apartheid in the 1960s, and the American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.. Between 1971 and 1988, such figures received the prize five times. Between 1989 and 2016, more than 40 percent of all winners fell into this category.

The rate has been even higher in the last decade: 57 percent of Nobel Peace Prize laureates since 2007 have been activists and advocates for equality, liberty and human development like educating women and stopping child labor.

These are admirable values. But their connection to interstate, and intrastate, conflict is indirect at best and tenuous at worst.

Does it bring global attention to issues?

The Nobel Peace Prize’s defenders insist that the prize works in subtle but perceptible ways to advance the winners’ causes. They say it attracts media attention, bolsters the winners and their supporters, and even focuses international pressure.

But there’s little evidence that the Nobel Peace Prize brings sustained global attention.

First of all, in many instances it is hard to tell whether the prize has made any difference, because the media glare was already intense. For example, in 2005, when the committee honored the International Atomic Energy Agency and its director general, Mohammed El Baradei, nuclear proliferation was already of great concern. In other cases – such as South Africa’s transition from apartheid, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the troubles in Northern Ireland – the prize made little noticeable difference to international media coverage.

It is true that in those few cases where coverage was not already strong, there have been occasional successes. For instance, I found that the committee’s decision to hand the award to Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991 did draw attention to the plight of Myanmar.

But, in general, my research found little evidence that winning the Nobel Peace Prize boosts international media coverage of the winner’s cause beyond the short run.

Putting activists in peril

Of greater concern is that, when the Nobel Peace Prize goes to promote political and social change – as it has so often in recent decades – it can have very real and detrimental effects on the movements and causes it celebrates.

Powerful authoritarian regimes will not liberalize just because the Nobel Committee has chosen to honor a dissident. This is not because regimes dismiss it as a silly award given out by international do-gooders. In fact, they take it very seriously. Fearing that domestic activists would take heart, they have ramped up repression, shrunk the space for political opposition and cracked down harder than ever.

This is what happened in Tibet and Myanmar after the Dalai Lama and after Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and 1991, respectively. Similarly, the Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi has been forced to lived in exile in Britain since 2009. In China, the peace award did not make the release of the dissident Liu Xiaobo from prison more likely.

The same is true when it comes to social change. Patriarchal societies, with their deeply entrenched gender roles, will not change just because some people in the West think they should and to that end name a women’s rights activist a Nobel laureate.

What’s at stake?

The Nobel Committee’s intentions are honorable, but the results, I argue, can be tragic. The award raises the spirits of reformers, but it also mobilizes forces that are far greater in opposition.

Every October, many the world over hail the Nobel Committee for its brave and inspired choice. But it is the truly brave activists on the ground who are left to bear the consequences when anxious leaders bring the state’s terrible power down on them.

And what happens when the Nobel Peace Prize actually helps to promote political change? As state counsellor (prime minister) of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has presided over the bloody persecution of the Rohingya and a swiftly mounting international refugee crisis. The admired dissident has, in power, turned out not to be so great a promoter of peace and tolerance.

The ConversationThe Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s choices have been noble – but, as my research suggests, also sometimes naïve.

Ronald R. Krebs, Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in the Liberal Arts and Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to anti-nuclear campaign group (wbrz.com)

 Rohingya crisis: 365,000 sign petition calling for Aung San Suu Kyi to be stripped of Nobel Peace Prize (telegraph.co.uk)

 The Iran nuclear deal has been slammed by Trump but the people behind it could win a Nobel Peace Prize (nationalpost.com)

 Here’s everything you need to know about ‪‪Kazuo Ishiguro,‬ who just won the ‪Nobel Prize in Literature (businessinsider.com)

 ‘Liquid’ Cats and Old Men’s Big Ears: Humorous Research Abounds at the Ig Nobels (livescience.com)

 Nobel in physiology, medicine awarded to three Americans for discovery of ‘clock genes’ (thegazette.com)

 Scientists won the Nobel Prize for detecting gravitational waves – here’s why that matters (businessinsider.com)

 U.S. astrophysicists win 2017 Nobel Physics Prize for gravitational waves (rappler.com)

 The anti-nuclear campaign group ICAN has won the Nobel Peace Prize (fastcompany.com)

 Brandeis duo part of U.S. trio awarded Nobel Prize (bostonherald.com)