Friday, December 06, 2013

Nelson Mandela

It is understandable that people don't like to dabble in politics. It is also understandable that people are more inclined to idolize saints than politicians. After all, saints are neutral, all-loving and harmless. Politicians are the opposite.

 But please, if you want to understand Nelson Mandela's legacy beyond the cheesy quotes and one-liners, you also need to understand his political genius.

 Couple of years ago I had a long and an interesting discussion with a white South African guy (an Afrikaner). He told me that things are not as rosy in SA as people tend to think. Racial divide in has not healed over completely. And politicians who came after Mandela were short-sighted and lacked his vision. Looking back, he said, it is truly a miracle that transition happened at the time it did with minimal violence and bloodshed. He said if and when Mandela dies, half South African whites will migrate.

 Probably an exaggeration, but you can tell that my friend here is anxious. And you can argue that his anxiety is not entirely baseless.

 So how did Mandela manage to win over millions of anxious white South Africans?

 I guess the core lesson is: being right is not enough. You can have all the moral high ground and sympathy of the world and still fuck things up. You can have an opportunity to bridge gaps, get over your fears, avoid a future disaster and be inclusive, yet again choose to fuck things up (as evident in so many places with political turmoil.) Being right is not enough. Being morally outraged is not enough. There are people who are scared of you becoming an equal to them. You can choose to call them usurpers, colonizers, occupation, junta or tyrannical regimes. Or you can choose to understand their fears and reach out to them. And that's exactly what Nelson Mandela did.

 But hey, if it was so easy, he --and figures like him-- wouldn't have been exceptional global leaders and inspirers.

 RIP Madiba.

1 comment:

KJ said...

I have South African friends and they, too, agree that the racial divide has still not fuller recovered. These take time, and generation after generation will slowly forget or come to terms with what once was. As it is in Syria now, I doubt any reconciliation will have people hugging tomorrow. All the anger and strife will be vented before newer generations -- who have not been succumbed to all of that (or had little exposure) begin to let go.

Quotes aside, Mandela had an agenda in his head, and he did what he could to play his cards right. People may call him a saint or yet another politician with an agenda, but one cannot deny the positive change that he had made.