When I was studying history at Edinburgh University in the early 1970s, and refusing to buy Outspan oranges and ashamed that my sport, Rugby, was giving moral succour to the evil empire of apartheid, I knew Nelson Mandela as a name, as a speech ( the Rivonia Trial 1964 ‘I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’) and as a source of hope, that politics could make the world a better place.
I remember in those far off days discussing in a seminar what seemed then, in the postwar world of powerful impersonal global ‘-isms’ which rendered individuals helpless and impotent, to be a hopelessly outdated theory that certain individuals, usually men, were ‘world historical’: figures whose image, whose values, whose decisions influenced not just one country, not just one continent, not just one generation…. but who would stand through the ages for the possibilities of humanity, for good or for ill….. and yes, there were a lot of long sentences in those days too.
It is our great privilege, we of the late 20th / early 21st century, to have walked the planet at the same time as a world historical figure. How could so many of us, in so many parts of the world, come to embrace this man as a loving father to us all, his wisdom and compassion our star of hope for humanity. He is no longer with us, but he is always with us. RIP.
Some things to remember him by….
Thanks to Tatty for this fantastic link to Mandela in his elderly pomp, strutting his stuff on stage with Johnny Clegg:
Morgan Freeman on Mandela invading the Springbok laager:
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”