Saturday 1390 – 7.12.2013
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I could not let this Saturday go past without comment on the recent death of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95.
He was not a perfect individual, he made mistakes which he has openly admitted to. For example his early ignoring of the Aids epidemic in Africa, he was not alone in this, which he later apologised for and went on to lead the battle against the disease. In 2005 his own son died from an AIDS related illness.
He did not renounce violence in his younger days in the early 1960’s, but look at the background in South Africa at that time and how brutally suppressed the black majority were and you will see that this is hardly surprising. He admitted that he had been a terrorist but that he eventually turned his back on violence, becoming first a politician and then a statesman, is to his credit.
He was accused of being a communist, which he always denied, and in 1964 he said this
“Theoretical differences amongst those fighting against oppression is a luxury we cannot afford at this stage. What is more, for many decades communists were the only political group in South Africa who were prepared to treat Africans as human beings and their equals; who were prepared to eat with us; talk with us, live with us, and work with us. They were the only political group which was prepared to work with the Africans for the attainment of political rights and a stake in society.”
His impact on the Civil Rights movement is justifiably legendary.
Nelson Mandela’s ability to admit his human failings ( which we all have) was one of his attributes that, in my opinion, set him apart from other world leaders and still does.
I have been inspired throughout my life by his core belief in forgiveness and reconciliation as I’m sure many have.
I remember so well Mandela’s release from prison, as this occurred on my 36th birthday on 11th February 1990. Best present ever !. I watched live on TV and felt the excitement shared by so many around the world at the prospect of the dismantling of the abhorrent, unjust apartheid regime operating in South Africa . I think we should also remember the then President FW de Klerk’s part in the changes that came at this time. He too acted with great bravery.
Mandela’s detractors are already appearing on Social Media sites but I would say this to them –
Could you have done better ?
Have you done better ?
Have you done anything at all to improve the lives of your fellow human beings ?
Have you inspired generations to believe in reconciliation and forgiveness?
As ever I welcome your thoughts.
Saturday girl signing off.
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Impossible to say anything about Mandela that is even remotely negative without sounding like a knee-jerk detractor, but I must.
I don’t think in B&W…. but I also don’t think that because a man spends half of his life preparing for, and a further third of his life actually doing good things,(Incredibly good things), and achieving things that are amazing and so,so, far beyond the realms of achievement for many that are detractors,(like me), that even a tiny portion of a life doing very bad things should be pushed under the carpet…
Mandela should not be sanctified….
The good things he did were more than good, they were great, and, just because I haven’t done them, or indeed anything approaching them, doesn’t negate my having an opinion…..
The bad things he did, all of which are a matter of record, were still bad….
On balance the good far outweighed the bad, but colouring the bad with terms like ‘understandable’ which I saw in a newspaper today, and ‘hardly surprising’ here, isn’t good enough…
I just wish that for once the media would keep some perspective…..It doesn’t make the good he did any less commendable.
Sorry for sounding a bit dogmatic on the first time I’ve been able to comment for a while…But its a thought provoking post, and I’ve missed you…
So…… I didn’t want to just say: “Hi Helen, thought provoking post”
THAT would have been shite!
I welcome your comments Stuart and thank you for such a thoughful response. The media never keep perspective about anything so no reason to suspect they would now.
I don’t know if you have heard of a group called The Elders? I may have written about them before.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqBfai_-FBA . With this post part of what I wanted to do was point out that no-one is as sainted as they might appear to be. However the fact remains that if you brutalise a people the response is usually brutality in return, that absolutely doesn’t make it right but it does make it very real. See this line again…. “He admitted that he had been a terrorist, but that he eventually turned his back on violence, becoming first a politician and then a statesman, is to his credit”
Absolutely…Very much to his credit…The great good is no less commendable because of the bad….
But the very real process of sanctification that’s going on really sticks in my throat..
Mandela himself didn’t ask for the halo that is being put on his head…He was, as you say, honest when asked about his past. But now, in the media, which sadly is the same thing as the public consciousness, there is at best the briefest of nods to his awful history..
I have no doubt that a straw poll of the Western World would prove that only a tiny percentage of people would have even the vaguest notion that
Mandela was the leader of MK, the terrorist wing of the ANC, that he mobilised bombing campaigns aimed at civilians and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds..He pleaded guilty to 156 acts of violence including bombs in shopping centres and movie houses.
The saintly image of the kindly, benevolent old man is only part of the story.
If Osama Bin Laden had lived, re-appeared in the time-softened body of an old man in a world that had changed in his absence, renounced violence and worked for the good of his people would we want his crimes to be forgotten?
All heroes are human. There is no other kind. And none of us is all good nor all bad. Detractors tend to think in black and white. A narrow scope, to be sure.
The scary bit is the capability we all seem to have to hurt each other.
A good piece Helen and well put.
Thank you Dave