The 2015 Nobel Prize Winners Gives Me Hope For Humanity

The full list of 2015 Nobel Prize winners have been announced. It has restored my faith in humanity and faith in human achievement through hard work and meritocracy, not whoever comes up with the coolest gadget, social media fad or the next drug to enhance male or female sexual satisfaction. The winners this year, through the various disciplines of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, efforts at creating and sustaining peace and economic sciences, made real, tangible contributions to improve the human condition.

In a world where the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are revered as intellectual gods for their contribution to technology and how their inventions have made modern life easier and more convenient, contributions by other scientists, writers, doctors and activists are often overlooked. Their contributions are important. Can we even imagine a world without Apple products or Microsoft Windows? But the Nobel Prize each year reminds us that there are scores of other people toiling away in their unglamourous labs and homes, toiling away in dangerous political situations all to bring a little peace and relief to humanity.

In the category of physiology and medicine, it was awarded to:

William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura, for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites and the other half to Youyou Tu, for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria

Diseases caused by parasites have plagued humankind for millennia and constitute a major global health problem. In particular, parasitic diseases affect the world’s poorest populations and represent a huge barrier to improving human health and wellbeing. This year’s Nobel Laureates have developed therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases.

William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura discovered a new drug, Avermectin, the derivatives of which have radically lowered the incidence of River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis, as well as showing efficacy against an expanding number of other parasitic diseases. Youyou Tu discovered Artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from Malaria.

As big-pharma concern themselves with maximising profits by flooding the market with more anti-depressants (many of them cause more harm than good), erectile dysfunction drugs and the most preposterous of them all, a ‘female viagra’, most of which have more side effects than curing qualities; William C. Campbell, Satoshi Omura and Youyou Tu have been researching and creating drugs to help the poorest amongst us. Infectious diseases such as River Blindness, Lymphatic Fever and Malaria is still a huge concern in the undeveloped Third World, and they created something which will save lives. Big-pharma can use the hundreds of millions of dollars they spend on ‘researching’ the drug to give a man the best boner instead to fund diseases that should be eradicated and prevented, such as infectious diseases, but drugs to fight malaria aren’t really the biggest moneymakers.

After the drivel that is ’50 Shades of Grey’ and the ‘Twilight’ Trilogy, what a relief to have an author like Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich got recognized for her life’s work. The reason she was awarded a Nobel Prize for literature is “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time,” simple yet powerful. The suffering and courage of the human race is universal, it is not divided by race, ethnicity or country of origin. Suffering does not discriminate and is painfully felt by all who experience it. This is especially poignant since we are in the midst of the biggest human migration and refugee crises since World War II. All those people who are fleeing their homeland, regardless of the origin or reason, have one thing in common, and that is suffering and the desire to escape from that suffering.

The one prize that people waited with baited breath was the Nobel Peace Prize, arguably the most well known of all the Nobel Prizes, because it usually features people or groups that most people are already familiar with. Many speculated that it would go to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for her political leadership in finding a solution to the refugee crisis. She led the charge in the political efforts and the humanitarian efforts. She put aside the all the various immigrant phobias the other EU member states was suffering from and lead by example. She would give asylum to 800,000 Syrian war refugees in the year 2015 alone and will accept 500,000 Syrian refugees every year after that. This isn’t remarkable just because Merkel showed kindness and leadership instead of scorn for people fleeing danger from war torn lands, but Merkel, prior to this, was a known ditherer in all her other European policies, especially when dealing with the EU economic crisis. She was known for her irritating ‘incremental’ wait-and-see, kicking the can down the road approach, proposing a bunch of non-policy policies as her solution to the currency crisis, all in a bid to save Germany’s economy by sacrificing others. She imposed economic austerity on all the Southern European member states as a condition to remain in the Euro currency and the EU and if they didn’t comply, tough luck. It was ironic to many that her first show of political leadership was on a humanitarian issue as opposed to an economic or other political issue.

But in the end, and perhaps it was wise of the Nobel Committee as it would smack of back-slapping and tooting one’s own horn should they decide to award the Peace Prize to Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the end they decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a secular, multi-ethnic, gender inclusive, religiously tolerant group formed by various Tunisian activists to avoid Tunisia going down the same road as Egypt, Libya and Syria in the wake of the Arab Spring. Many people have not heard of this group before and the Nobel Committee decided to promote a smaller peace seeking activist group rather than a well known person or institution. The achievements of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet are:

…for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011. The Quartet was formed in the summer of 2013 when the democratization process was in danger of collapsing as a result of political assassinations and widespread social unrest. It established an alternative, peaceful political process at a time when the country was on the brink of civil war. It was thus instrumental in enabling Tunisia, in the space of a few years, to establish a constitutional system of government guaranteeing fundamental rights for the entire population, irrespective of gender, political conviction or religious belief.

The course that events have taken in Tunisia since the fall of the authoritarian Ben Ali regime in January 2011 is unique and remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, it shows that Islamist and secular political movements can work together to achieve significant results in the country’s best interests. The example of Tunisia thus underscores the value of dialogue and a sense of national belonging in a region marked by conflict. Secondly, the transition in Tunisia shows that civil society institutions and organizations can play a crucial role in a country’s democratization, and that such a process, even under difficult circumstances, can lead to free elections and the peaceful transfer of power. The National Dialogue Quartet must be given much of the credit for this achievement and for ensuring that the benefits of the Jasmine Revolution have not been lost.

The Nobel Committee finished with its press release by saying:

Tunisia faces significant political, economic and security challenges. The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes that this year’s prize will contribute towards safeguarding democracy in Tunisia and be an inspiration to all those who seek to promote peace and democracy in the Middle East, North Africa and the rest of the world. More than anything, the prize is intended as an encouragement to the Tunisian people, who despite major challenges have laid the groundwork for a national fraternity which the Committee hopes will serve as an example to be followed by other countries.

After a slew of strange Nobel Peace Prize awardees (Barack Obama in his first term as president, where he just ordered troop increase in Afghanistan, the European Union during its economic crisis where it was anything but cohesive), the last two years the Nobel Committee gave the Peace Prize to awardees which were comprehensible to the general public.

The remaining awards for the rest of the categories are as follows, they are in subjects in which I don’t understand fully so I won’t make a fool of myself and elaborate on things I don’t understand:

Nobel Prize in Physics: Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald: “for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass”

Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar: “for mechanistic studies of DNA repair”

Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences: Angus Deaton: “for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare”

Bravo to all these scientists, academics, writers and activists who don’t get enough newspaper inches written about them but are every bit as deserving.

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