Friday, March 31, 2023 | Ramadan 8, 1444 H
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Will you pay for an award?

There was a time when an award meant something. There was a time when it puts the right people in the proper spotlight; that to win one, you have to meet very high, very strict criteria. There was a time when winning an award was a way for others to be motivated. Inspired by the great works of the masters, candidates strive hard to become worthy of being in the same spot as the person that they look up to.

There was a time when the world only awarded excellence. That after looking through very rigorous criteria, only the best minds and performances are elevated against their peers. Not everyone is given a gold star just for doing something, they actually have to do something meaningful and lots of it.

But the world has shifted to disappointing mediocrity that awards no longer mean anything — except as a door holder or an inanimate object standing on a pretty shelf or hanging by a wall made beautiful by pretty lights. The world has shifted so much that even in kindergarten, you get a gold star just for submitting a lousy artwork.

In today's world, any form of constructive criticism is considered bullying and everyone is offended when they are not made to feel special enough. This has been particularly true for some overzealous parents. I have teacher friends complaining that some parents verbally attack them when their children do not get a medal. So all the hard work, all the proper efforts, all the dedication of other kids fly out of the window and mean nothing because, in today's educational system, you get awarded just for about anything without even a proper definite measure. An award is supposed to help guide the young ones towards excellence. But what have we become?

This is nothing different in the professional world. There had been two notable incidents in the last two months that prompted this writing.

For instance, the organisation that I looked up to so much since I was little, the same award-giving body who properly recognized the brilliance of achievers and society-shakers like Einstein, Curie, Mandela and Gabriel Garcia Marquez now include amongst them a purveyor of fake news and a peddler of lies. The Nobel Prize, just like that, had taken a very disappointing turn and made millions of Filipinos like me question whether it bowed down to pressure from a certain government.

While there were dozens of journalists in the Middle East putting their lives in actual danger to tell accurate stories, the world awarded a fraud. It made me realize, that in the last decade, the way that achievements are measured had drastically changed that the work of earlier masters and thinkers are also put to shame because award-giving bodies are themselves destroying their legacy. I would never look at the Nobel Prize in the same way ever again.

The second incident was the recent power list that an influential magazine based in Dubai has released. With insider information as to how several people on the list performed, it was unbelievable that anyone can be on it just like that. It made me realise too that at the end of the day, it was more of positioning the magazine as a friend to all so that it can keep getting the financial support it badly needs even though it meant cheapening the whole initiative.

Browsing through the list, I can't help but be disappointed again because the people who actually did excellent jobs were made to sit beside names and personalities who were as mediocre as they can get.

If an award can be bought or paid for, if an award becomes nothing more but a memento, or a gold star for not doing anything meaningful, is it really worth awarding or receiving? Have we become a society that needed validation so badly that we can just award it to anyone even if they don't deserve it? If any Pontius Pilate can buy themselves an award and award-giving bodies just give it like cheap peanuts, what does that say about our society?

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