There’s a lot to be sceptical of when it comes to awards. It almost always feels nice to be recognised for something, but it’s important to remember what being recognised, or getting an award can really mean.
Some people win awards that, looking back, perhaps shouldn’t have. Did you know Hitler won TIME’s person of the year in 1938? His economic policies were benefitting the German economy, and his populism was bringing (particular) demographics together. The anti-Jewish rhetoric? Oh, everyone’s a little bit racist and no one’s perfect!
Milton Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for his advocacy and government consultation of free market economics. Our globalised, privatised economic system with its unfathomable wealth disparity and ecological-limit breaking ruthless focus on growth (neo-liberalism) can be argued to have stemmed directly from Friedman and the influence of his Chicago School. We may have given our civilisation’s most prized awards to one of it’s forerunning horsemen.
Hell, there might come a point when we look at Obama’s Nobel Peace prize and go, “wait, didn’t that guy deport more immigrants than all previous presidents, as well as Trump, AND intensify drone warfare in the Middle East which killed, like, a heck-ton of civillians, destroyed families and further increased resentment, hatred and distrust towards Western hegemony rather than doing anything to actually end the conflict and restabilise the region?” …
I mean… That point might come. Just sayin’.
There are fantastic projects and people who will never be recognised by an official body because they’re unlucky, or because their work isn’t economically viable, or is ahead of the zeitgeist. It’s just like in life: we don’t always get what we want. We’re not always seen or understood. Housework can go unnoticed, emotional labour unappreciated, the cleaners, care givers, bin collectors and farmers of our societies will not be recognised for their essential contributions to our lives, health and functioning of our societies.
No, we’re not always seen or understood, but should we even aim to be?
Some forms of recognition can be entirely disingenuous and self serving. Get your recognition, now you’re done, you’ve made it! You can stop now! This is often seen in corporate or governmental awards where recognition of meagre “green” activities are a way to maintain public image for the next quarter. On an individual level, I think of the winners of TV talent shows. They get recognised for their tear-jerking story and people pleasing performance, release an album that gets the Christmas no. 1 before being quickly and quietly sacrificed to the fickle elder Gods of rapidly shifting public opinion.
Even deserved and seemingly well intentioned awards can often be a way to defuse the radical nature of the work. For this one I think about Gretha Tunberg’s attitude towards awards. It’s either, “Alright, give me the money, this is going to people who need it”, or an outright rejection, “I need a future, not an award. Ecological collapse hasn’t gone away just because of this feelgood cabal of self-congratulation.”
Perhaps an award should never be seen as an expression of finality but rather exactly what it is: A subjective recognition that might provide social/economic benefit, bestowed by a small group of people whose authority on any particular subject might be less authoritative, or less genuine, than we might initially think. So what is this award to Suderbyn?
A hollow gesture made by green growthers?
A cynical attempt by an organisation to promote their agenda?
A psy-op campaign designed to incorporate Suderbyn into the “institution” in order to disarm any of its radical change making potential!?
I don’t really believe in any of them in this case. What I am certain of however is that whilst it’s nice to be recognised for our work it is far more important to recognise how much work there still is to do.
- Evelyn Carr
We even made a video to commemorate the occasion. It doesn't necessarily connect with why we won the award but hey. Check it out!
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