So, Nelson Mandela passed away Dec.5, 2013. Tributes have been pouring out from the capitals of all nations for this remarkable man who changed the face of South Africa. That’s all very well, but my opinion is that the prime ministers and presidents and kings and generals and party leaders should all keep a respectful and humble silence. Offhand, I can’t think of a single world leader (a political one, anyway) that can claim the right to even speak of Nelson Mandela, for fear that their hypocrisy will be exposed.
Let us not forget that, first, he was a revolutionary. A real one, not a romantic one, who at a certain point adopted armed struggle as a way to defeat apartheid. At a certain level, this is what sent him to prison for 27 years. The South African government called him a traitor and a terrorist. Reagan thought he was a communist. And, in fact, the ANC did have some communist connections, as did almost any insurgent group in that era. The communists were always looking for a whip with which to scourge the West. And vice-versa. Margaret Thatcher...I don't know what she thought...probably that Mandela was just too uppity. Prof. Cornell West reminded us on CBC today that Mandela was on the USA's terrorist list until 2005!
What distinguishes Mandela is that he achieved his goal...his revolutionary goal. Through his courage and determination, he transformed the racist face of South Africa. Mandela was sanctified by success.
In part, this is the old story of the terrorist reincarnated as freedom fighter. If you win, no one much questions the methods. But again, Mandela's singular accomplishment was to renounce the violent way and build on his success. Somehow he hit upon the solution that would cement his victory: truth and reconciliation, inclusiveness, forgiveness. All this hasn't been perfect for South Africa by any means, but it is far preferable to the likely alternatives had he not pushed forward on this path.
Meanwhile, all the world's leaders, degenerate as they are, will gather in a few days to sing the praises of this man, all the while knowing in their heart of hearts that they can not remotely approach the deeds and aspirations that Nelson Mandela espoused. It would be better if they all just shut up. The most fitting tribute he can receive is the one from the people of South Africa, singing and dancing as they weep.