Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela

There are rightly articles everywhere lionizing Nelson Mandela since his death yesterday. Others have said it much better, but his is a death that has hit me hard. The man was one of my heroes. He wasn't perfect by any means, but what he was able to achieve was absolutely monumental.
There are those who say he was a terrorist--interestingly those same people would probably in the next breath proclaim the rightness of resistance groups against the Nazis, even if said resistance groups targeted collaborators or were willing to risk citizen collateral damage. (Please note, I am not promoting violence, but South Africa was most definitely at war with its black citizens, and people do have a right to self-defense, and to resist against a tyrannical and oppressive regime.)
I've seen people complain that Mandela avoiding war/reprisals when he got out of prison was only doing the right thing and he shouldn't be lauded for that. Which ignores the situation: after 46 years of oppression, lack of the basic human rights, mass killings, mass torture, rape, kidnappings/disappearances caused by the police and government forces, those who resisted being imprisoned or having to flee into exile, and so on; it wasn't just doing the right thing to avoid violence. South Africa was absolutely on the brink of mass civil war. The right wing army was plotting to assassinate Mandela and re-institute apartheid. Black people were angry, wanting justice, wanting closure, wanting something for all those years of despair and heartache. And it is a testament not just to Mandela, but to all South Africans, that they managed to negotiate that transition peacefully. If it had been any other person other than Mandela leading, it is very very doubtful the outcome would have been so peaceful. Mandela came out of prison: renounced violence; instituted the truth and forgiveness trials (while still providing traditional prison terms to the worst of the lot); did as much as possible to heal the deep painful breaches between blacks and whites; and then stepped aside after his term was over, devoted his time to numerous charity causes and created a council of international elders to advise and work on issues like peace, climate change, poverty, and AIDS. And for all that, he absolutely is a hero, he absolutely does desire the praise and adulation.

Nelson Mandela's own words:
“where poverty exists, there is not true freedom. The world is hungry for action, not words. In this new century, millions of people in the world’s poorest countries—including South Africa—remain imprisoned, enslaved and in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free.”

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

"If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."
If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.
If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

"I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps trying."

"Social equality is the only basis of human happiness."

"Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."

"On my last day I want those who remain behind to say: 'The man who lies here has done his duty for his country and his people.'"

A list of articles to read on how the media tries to sanitize/downplay Mandela's radicalism, much as they have with Martin Luther King Jr:
Read/watch list on apartheid:
A list of YA/children's books on South Africa:
tribute from Bishop Desmond Tutu

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