The Anti-Al

We have now given 4 Al Copeland Humanitarian Awards to recognize people who have made significant contributions to improving the human condition.  I am wondering whether it is time we start giving Anti-Al Awards to recognize people who significant worsen the human condition.  Maybe shaming the bad is as important as praising the good.

The problem with an Anti-Al is that it may be too hard to narrow the field since so many people harm the human condition.  And unlike the Al, which heralds the unheralded, the likely candidates for an Anti-Al are so well known that there may be little point in recognizing them with awards.

The most obvious type of candidate for an Anti-Al would be the ruthless tyrants who rule over large portions of the globe.  But it is already widely understood that the likes of Kim Jong-un or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are awful people who, along with their armies, bureaucrats, and fellow-government thugs, crush liberty, tolerance, and prosperity.  Then again, even in civilized societies one will occasionally hear about the need to understand, engage, and work with ruthless tyrants.  These same advocates for engagement of ruthless dictators are also often the same people who find Chick-Fil-A or Walmart too morally objectionable to frequent.  Perhaps the Anti-Al is necessary to remind people to have an appropriate moral perspective.  The real threats to liberty, tolerance, and prosperity are the folks being feted at diplomatic receptions, not retailers with disputed employment practices or objectionable views.

If ruthless tyrants are too obvious for an Anti-Al, then perhaps the most likely category of candidates would be those afflicted with Petty Little Dictator Disorder.  These tiny tyrants who populate the middle levels of government agencies, think-tanks, and cocktail parties everywhere are certainly not already recognized for their corrosive effect on liberty, tolerance, and prosperity.  The greater difficulty with using an Anti-Al to highlight these detractors from the human condition would be: how could we possibly choose among them?  They are so numerous and parrot each others’ ideas so much that I can hardly tell them apart let alone choose to highlight only one of them.  They are like a herd of zebras — a blur of proposed regulations, laws, and mini-dictatorial fantasies — that the lion cannot identify one to take it down.

Maybe there are other categories of likely candidates for an Anti-Al that would not have these same difficulties.  Or maybe others have more elegant solutions to the problems I’ve raised.  So, what do folks think?  Should we start an Anti-Al?

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2 Responses to The Anti-Al

  1. George Mitchell says:

    A very liberal friend (Marin County, no less) emailed about a New Yorker piece on Diane Ravitch. He expressed skepticism about someone who ditches their principles. Could there be an Anti-Al for intellectual mischief?

  2. Greg Forster says:

    Great idea, but here are three hurdles you have to clear before I’d recommend taking the plunge:

    1) “Anti-Al” is an incredibly lame name. Might I humbly suggest calling it the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian of the Year? We could call it The Higgy.

    2) Something tells me you wouldn’t be asking if you didn’t have someone specific in mind you wanted to give it to. So:

    2a) Spill.

    2b) Make sure you think the concept will hold up over multiple years, as The Al has. It can’t just be “who is this year’s petty little dictator?” every year. But if we get to go back in history and/or bring in offbeat ideas, as we do for The Al, you may have something.

    3) Each year we throw open The Al when the Nobel Peace Prize winner is announced, and wrap up on Halloween. Can we identify a similarly suitable time frame for The Higgy, preferably in spring to space it out from The Al? We could start on April Fool’s Day and end on Tax Day, for instance.

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