Vale Nelson Mandela 1918 – 2013

Nelson Mandela-2008 (edit)

Image Credit: South Africa The Good News / [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

“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.” —Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is people who have made poverty and tolerated poverty, and it is people who will overcome it. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” —Ambassador of Conscience Award Acceptance Speech, November 01, 2006

“It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.” —International AIDS conference, 2000

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“When the history of our times is written, will we be remembered as the generation that turned our backs in a moment of global crisis or will it be recorded that we did the right thing?” —Tromso, Norway, 2005

Categories: crisis, ethics & philosophy, history, indigenous, social justice, violence

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6 replies

  1. As a ridiculously insular teenager with an uninformed world perspective, I unquestionably believed much of the bullshit being peddled to vilify him back in the day. Doubtless he was no saint, but you can only admire the superhuman example he has set in promoting harmony and tolerance in a culture with systemic divisions and inequality. I hope the legacy of tolerance can last.

    • Madiba himself acknowledged, recounted, regretted and renounced his personal history of violent revolutionary activism at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He was never perfect, but through years of self-reflection and self-honesty during his years in prison, and a willingness to follow through on what he learnt (about himself and others) there once he was released and refusing to engage in vengeance when in a position to take it; well, that’s when he became great.
      I liked this comment at Whatever in response to someone who felt some acts from the first half of Madiba’s life should outweigh other acts from the second half of his life:

      No one is perfect. What differentiates one person from the other is the degree to which one learns from ones mistakes. The process of enlightenment can be extremely painful as one realizes the errors of ones path. It runs the risk of reliving those moments from the perspective of horror and revulsion in ones self until death. That is the burden of enlightenment for anyone. It is vital to push past that if one is to act on ones ‘rebirth’ in a manner that will bring aid to the suffering of the world. Otherwise, what was the point?

      I wonder, in fact, whether anyone who had not known what it was to engage in revolutionary violence and then renounce it, could possibly have convinced others that violent vengeance was not the way forward to justice in South Africa? Without his example of moving beyond old grievances to embrace possibilities for peace, how could the Truth and Reconciliation Comission have even happened?

  2. For me, his legacy is that in an increasingly apathetic world, he reminds us that political actions by individuals matter and that we can change the world.

  3. Andrew Bolt has a predictable take… MUCH of the sanctimonious grieving for Nelson Mandela is not just a sin against history – but a danger. The article is lopsided, bitter and predictably typical. Don’t click, it only encourages them, and I laughingly note that he is not paywalled….

  4. Watching ABC-24’s selected highlights of the memorial service: it’s a glorious outpouring of love and unity.
    I know, you know, they know that the unity won’t last, but right now it’s a shining moment.

  5. I think the first time I heard about Nelson Mandela was when I heard women singing ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ on TV. As a kid I thought that the ‘rebel’ cricketers who went to South Africa despite the ban were good guys. Now I am ashamed of them.

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