Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela and the Audacity of Humility

I didn't post RIP Nelson Mandela on Facebook because everybody else did. I'm not sure I even felt an overwhelming sorrow because if you make it to 95 you can't really complain. Well maybe you can complain about being too old.

Still there is something sad about the passing of Mandela because he was part of the world I have known for so long and because it's rare to behold a figure who has endured so much hate but emerged from the shadows with humility and a will to heal. It's rare to find someone apparently uncorrupted by power, especially in the despotic world of African politics.

The idea of a world in which you have to ride on different sections of buses, go to different beaches or eat at different places; a world where you voting rights are restricted because of the color of your skin is anathema to us today. The fact it no longer seems real is in no small part due to figures such as Mandela and Martin Luther King.

That world is fading now and has already gained an edge of unreality. That's a good thing but a bad thing in some ways because we need to be reminded of the horrors of apartheid to make sure it never happens again.

My internal mouse seems to have packed up on me again and my external one is resting on a copy of Inside Hitler's Germany. There's a picture of Adolf Hitler amid frightening black banners and a sea of stern white faces. What's so unnerving about all of this it doesn't look like it was real. Nazi Germany has become a film set for one of those frightening movies about the police state which is based on Nazi Germany. It's really hard to believe that such horror clad in ridiculous uniforms could have taken over most of a continent for a few short years.

Between Mandela and Hitler we have a gulf as wide as the human condition - of hope versus nihilism of life versus death. It's hard to know what the future will bring but it's to be hoped the spirit of Nelson Mandela is somewhere in the mix.

3 comments:

  1. I saw Mandela speak in Oakland in 1990. I was a huge supporter. The key word being 'was'. I have friends in South Africa...white friends...who've told me about the rampant violence and murders of whites by blacks, how the ANC is turning a blind eye to it with many chanting 'kill the Boer'. There were grave concerns for white tourists when the Fifa World Cup was held down there a few years ago. Mandela seems to have abandoned his promises of uniting the races over the years and for that I am very disappointed. That is why I didn't post anything on FB when he died. He didn't make good on his 'love one another' ideals.

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    1. Unfortunately, he was too old to continue in office to make good on those ideals and also there were not enough others who thought the same way. Witness the corruption rife in our government today. We do get on better with each other though.

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  2. well it seems almost impossible to put some of that idealism into practice, particularly in somewhere like South Africa

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