29 December 2011

Your own work, that's the prize

Concerned that my last post may be misinterpreted as sour grapes about my city’s latest laurel-crowned translators, I write here to clarify; Ingo, Susanne & Ursel unquestionably “deserve” their prizes; who’d doubt their work was the best? My punch was not aimed at prize-winners but rather at prize-giving & prize givers.

You’ll be told that you need to reward excellence in society by granting honours, usually with a whack of cash attached. If you didn’t do this, it’s implied, excellence would remain plankton-like, swilling about the seas, it’d have no motivation to conjulate into a nice, compact two chapters &  proposal form. We’d have no excellence, no one who wanted to bring things on. We’d be back in the cave.

Is there any evidence to counter this claim? – It’s hardly possible to compare our societies with others, that give few or no prizes – because almost all societies do reward excellence.

The alternative is to hypothesise that prize-giving exists - not because literature or other arts or other areas of life wouldn’t produce wonders without it – but in order to reinforce the status of the prize-givers. As long as even a few people are still interested in what you’re doling out, your place in the pecking order is assured. When the last waverers waver away from you & ignore your prize – and ten applicants is getting close to a blanket ignorance - your podest is pulled away under your feet.

Which may lead prize-givers to take up their own, real work again, their “doing.” Perhaps it is only in our own work that there are prizes to win, which are worth winning. And worthy the winning.