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www.orld peace?

india Updated: Mar 19, 2010 00:37 IST
Rajiv Arora

Peacenik-ing seems to be all the rage once again. How else can one explain the longest-ever list of Nobel Peace Prize nominees — 237 to be precise — this year? The tally apparently includes minerals, vegetables and animals, apart from the usual individuals and organisations. Perhaps every Tom, Dick and veggie now considers himself/herself/itself to be as deserving of the gong as past recipients.

But nothing can beat the nomination of the internet. Quietly pushed into the nomination list by the Italian edition of Wired, the — what else? — internet is abuzz with supporters and detractors. (Using the internet to counter the internet’s nomination — oh how delightfully post-modern!) They’re all arguing over whether a repository of adult content, which triples as a hub of piracy and a virtual haven for very real criminals, really deserves the 2010 Nobel Prize for Peace.

Meanwhile, the bigshot cheerleaders — which include peace-messiah Shirin Ebadi and fashion guru Giorgio Armani — are trying hard to convince the naysayers why the Net shouldn’t lose out on the prize. A website (of course!) with the manifesto of the ‘Internet for Peace’ movement is up and running. An extract: “We have finally realised that the Internet is much more than a network of computers… Digital culture has laid the foundations for a new kind of society… Democracy has always flourished where there is openness, acceptance, discussion and participation.” At the risk of irking the Chinese and sounding like a voiceover from the next episode of the Matrix franchise, it makes a compelling pitch.

This must be the first time an entity has made it to the Nobel Peace nomination. It’s almost like World Peace getting the Nobel Peace Prize. I can already see cloud-computing pushing to be included in the Nobel list and the Kindle demanding a Literature Nobel, or at least a Booker.

In today’s age of hyper-connectivity, when speculations about the next big war being waged in cyberspace are rife, the “Nobel as a precautionary measure” — or as a nudge in the right direction similar to the encouragement given to last year’s laureate Barack Obama for potentially bringing peace — could be the real motive behind the internet being on the list.

My concern, however, is not so much about who out of the 1.7-billion Net users will get to keep the $1.4 million prize money if the momentous moment does arrive. What worries me is the assumption that if I do not subscribe to war and am your next-door pacifist, I may be automatically bundled into the same category as a ‘peace-lover’, a Sri Sri Ravi Shankar devotee, each time I go online.

The Net works on the principle that there is no one guiding it and that it forges ahead in no one particular direction. It’s a replication of real life where all kinds of personalities make up the online universe. An attempt to tag the Net as a peacemaker... now that restricts things for me.

Which makes me wonder why the telephone, with its much longer stint, hasn’t been nominated for the Nobel yet.