By now just about everybody has weighed in on Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. Personally, I am delighted about it, but a lot of my friends are going to stop speaking to me once they read that I am. There is enormous disagreement in my circle about Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate. One friend posted on Facebook, "Fuck the Nobel Prize Committee." Another not only applauded the award to Dylan, but said he hoped the Nobel Prize Committee would give the award to Bruce Springsteen in the near future. I am in agreement with him on this point.
Of the nay-sayers in the literary community, one of the most prominent is Garrison Keillor, who wrote a column, "Bob Dylan, Donald Trump, and the Wrong Prizes" for a recent issue of the Washington Post. Between taking a dig at Dylan and his silence on the Nobel ("We Minnesotans know about unworthiness") and going on to cite Donald Trump's lack of qualifications for the presidency, Keillor took a rest to comment on the inappropriateness of giving the Mark Twain Prize for Humor, named after one of our greatest writers, to actors and stand-up comedians. "Giving a prize named for the author of Innocents Abroad to Bill Murray is like awarding the Heisman Trophy to a bowler," he said.
I understand Keillor's point, but I am much more concerned about another recent Washington Post article about the Chinese government's announced plans to gather data on every Chinese citizen to measure their "trustworthiness."
A high-level report released last September, according to reporter Simon Denyer, outlines the Chinese government's plans as well as the sanctions it will levy against citizens, as early as 2020, who do not conform to its model of deportment. "If trust is broken in one place, restrictions are imposed everywhere," the government said with Orwellian serenity.
"In this world, anything from defaulting on a loan to criticizing the ruling party, from running a red light to filing to care for your parents properly, could cause you to lose points," Denyer wrote. "And in this world, your score becomes the ultimate truth of who you are--determining whether you can borrow money, get your children into the best schools, or travel abroad; whether you can get room in a fancy hotel, a seat in a top restaurant--or even just get a date."
What's my point? Just that we should be thankful we can disagree vehemently on who wins what prize--and have the freedom to disagree, for now. Anyone who has ever written anything for the Internet knows that you can be excoriated for any opinion--whether Bob Dylan deserves a Nobel Prize, whether rocky road ice cream is better than butter pecan, or whether Donald Trump should be the Overlord of the Universe.
We should be thankful that in this country no one is talking about the government becoming the unanswerable judges of our opinions. We should especially be thankful that no one is locking up our Bob Dylans, Bill Murrays, Garrison Keillors--or Mark Twains--while honoring members of the American Politburo for their encomiums to each other.
I grant Mr. Keillor all his caveats--especially those about Trump--and I am thankful for our ability to agree to disagree, without anyone punishing us for it. As long as that is true, I won't even mind someone getting the Heisman for making a 7-10 split.