15 May 2012

Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent

Here is a link to the newly established Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent including notice of the three inaugural winners of the prize - Ai Weiwei, Manal al-Sharif, and Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with giving prizes to courageous people and the three winners clearly are impressive. That said, I wonder if the foundations might've stuck out their necks just the slightest bit and bestowed the award on people who do not already occupy a prominent place in the western media. They might, in other words not just rewarded courage but exhibited it too. 

Moreover, while I agree that dissent often requires tremendous creativity - more so than most of what passes for "entrepreneurship" - how about those engaging in pedestrian resistance to oppressive regimes? Read Disturbing the Peace. In it Havel describes the Plastic People of the Universe - the group of musical misfits and hangers on whose persecution offered the reason for Charter 77. These were not glamorous "dissidents" or "artists" who received big commissions or traveled to this or that Biennale around the world. They were a bunch of "kids" who were being harassed and badgered by the Czechoslovak police because they wanted to play rock and roll. That was dangerous business. But they were not in the headlines. In other words, in addition to being a bit courageous the award committee and its funders might also work some at being creative themselves. 

The Prize committee might look for incipient dissent, the political opposition that might not be recognized as especially creative as it stands but that is no less crucial for that.

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