In praise of truth, in defence of human dignity
Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
There are moments when a voice comes along and it immediately touches your heart. More eloquently than one can imagine, it speaks ones mind. Furthermore it seems that, more or less, it cries out the inner thoughts of many other people. It comforts you. Harold Pinter’s acceptance speech at this year’s Nobel Prize award ceremony for literature was one such voice. An exhilarating call which began by praising the truth and concluded, spectacularly, with the defence of human dignity.
The 75 year old Pinter, who was not able to attend the ceremony due to ill health, had recorded his acceptance speech on a hospital wheelchair. His 46 minute long speech which was projected onto large screens in an elegant hall in Stockholm, mesmerised the Swedish aristocracy and the world’s elite in the field of science and culture. Pinter’s invigorating speech was not only the most important speech on the day but, from a political and humanist point of view, was the most important event of the year. Pinter not only won the best literary prize but also, in one of the most important gatherings of the year, and against the two major world reactionary powers, the US and the UK governments, came out as a political winner.
Pinter is a prominent English play write. He writes in English but thinks and writes globally and humane. His literary works have been at the forefront of drama for the past fifty years and is still a leader in this field. His subject is the alienated human being in the contemporary world and her/his attempts to hold on to human identity and humanity against the imposed capitalist alienation. Pinter’s political views and stance have always been intertwined with his avant-garde artistic works. He has, in the past 15 years, used political satire as an effective weapon in his battle against the US military aggression. In one of his recent works he satirically describes his battle against the US’s “New World Order” as we have not yet accomplished our task; we have not even started.
Pinter’s speech, under the title of “Art, Truth and Politics”, starts from dealing with the concept of truth in Art (and in particular drama in his case) and step by step enters into the domain of politics, the ruling powers, politicians and the statesmen and unravels the relationship between truth and power and states that the ruling powers are not interested in truth but in power. Truth and power for the leaders of the world, in Pinter’s view, are poles apart. Feeding the people with a tapestry of lies, with all the means and resources at their disposal, serves to assert and maintain their power. From here Pinter leads onto the invasion of Iraq by the US and the UK forces and all the lies on the weapons of mass destruction and the dangers that Saddam posed. Pinter asserts that all these pretexts were lies and the invasion of Iraq was to do with how the US perceives its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it. Pinter goes on to criticise the US foreign policy since the end of the Second World War and sheds light on its atrocities. Pinter highlights the tragedy of Nicaragua and the widespread US support for the Contra forces as an example and returns to the invasion of Iraq and calls it a blatant act of state terrorism and openly calls for George Bush and Tony Blair to be brought before the international Court of Justice for committing mass murders and war crimes.
At the end of his speech, Pinter once again returns to man and truth, and calls on the world and says: “If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man”.
The ability to pour out and express one’s inner feelings, thoughts and sentiments is a precious gift. Harold Pinter uses his gift to embody his fifty years of artistic, literary and political works, in his radical message. He is the legacy of the optimistic decades of fifties and sixties that is inviting the current generation to assume its radical and avant-garde and humanity position; particularly at the time when it is not easy to be an optimist in the face of all miseries surrounding us. This ray of hope and optimism must be cherished.
For me who follows the political developments in Iran from a humanistic and communist perspective, I find it an exhilarating and meaningful similarity between the content of the Pinter’s speech and the Tehran University students’ statement on December 11, 2005, on the occasion of the Students Day in Iran.* The timing of these two events could have been a coincident, but the two events were responses to one and the same need: the need of the world civilized humanity, and the global need of the human being to revolutionise the existing world, to turn the world on its head.
* The translated text of this statement is printed in this issue of KOMONIST- Please see page X