Amartya Sen receives German Peace Prize under the shadow of the pandemic

Amartya Sen receives German Peace Prize under the shadow of the pandemic

© Provided by Agencia EFE

Berlin, Oct 18 (EFE) .- The Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen received this Sunday the Peace Prize from the German Booksellers in a ceremony that was under the shadow of the pandemic, with the winner miles away connected by teleconference and the room almost empty.

“The hall desangela, the winner in another continent and the German president, in charge, of the laudatio in quarantine. These are not normal times”, began the speech of the president Frank Walter Steinmeier, read by the actor Burghardt Klaussner.

Steinmeier has been in quarantine since Saturday due to a positive coronavirus from one of his bodyguards. Sen, also a Nobel Laureate in economics, followed the ceremony from Boston.

According to Steinmeier, Sen, who has devoted much of his work to the problem of the search for global justice, is an appropriate laureate for times like today when the pandemic pandemic threatens to exacerbate inequalities.

“The pandemic affects everyone but not everyone equally and a challenge that we will have will be that of the fair distribution of a future vaccine,” said the German president.


Sen, in his speech, spoke of another pandemic that according to him also affects the world today and that he called the “pandemic of authoritarianism and authoritarianism” for which he cited his own country, the United States, Poland, Hungary as examples. , to the Philippines and Brazil.

As an antidote to that pandemic, Sen gave great importance to the defense of freedom of opinion and public discussion.

Sen began his speech by expressing his joy that he had been given an award related to the world of books, reading and writing that he feels is fundamental in his biography.

“My life would be poorer if since childhood I had not had the tendency to read everything that fell into my hands. Books help us not only to understand the world but also to argue,” he said.

Then he quoted the philosopher Emmanuel Kant who said that the possibility of arguing and debating was something that is usually repressed by various authorities.

“Don’t argue, do the maneuvers, says the army. Don’t argue, pay, says the tax administration. Don’t argue, believe, says religion,” Sen said paraphrasing Kant.

According to Sen, unfortunately the repression of freedom of opinion is not something that belongs only to the past and there are current developments “in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States that give cause for concern.”


With regard to India – the country to which he dedicated most of the speech – Sen attacked the current government, which he said has appropriated the right to define someone as an enemy of the nation or even as a terrorist without specific reasons.

“I think it is a confusion of concepts. Being against the government and being against the nation are different things,” he said.

He also criticized the attempts of Hindu nationalism to want to define Hinduism as the sole pillar of the Indian nation and to try to minimize or erase Muslim contributions.

According to Sen, although Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranaht Tagore, Nobel Prize Winner for Literature in 1913, were Hindus, they did not deny that India was a multicultural and multireligious country.

Now instead, he added, “the school books are being rewritten with a revisionist tendency to minimize or deny the contributions of Muslims.”


Sen also referred, albeit marginally, to what he sees as authoritarian tendencies in Hungary and Poland, the latter referring primarily to discrimination against homosexuals, as well as the worsening of racial problems in the US.

“We have to worry not only about our own country but about all the countries of the world. As Martin Luther King said, if something unjust happens somewhere, it is justice that is being attacked,” he said.

Sen warned that the defense of free debate is also important for the possibilities of moving towards global justice.

The German Booksellers’ Peace Prize is awarded every year on the last day of the Frankfurt Book Fair at St. Paul’s Church.

(c) EFE Agency


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