Few deserve the high praise that was reserved for Nelson Mandela in London this week, but a story in the Independent (2/9/2007) reminds us of why his example is crucial in this world of brutality and corruption.
We are reminded of the Robben Island years when prisoners were regularly forced to dig deep trenches, lie in them and then have the guards pee on them. When he became President who should Mandela invite but these very same guards? While it’s possible to be sceptical about this the action chimes in with the acts of reconciliation which characterised the period of Mandela’s Presidency. What was the alternative – to continue bitter feuding and embark on civil war.
In his speech Mandela was typically modest and spoke of the achievement of having a black figure represented in Parliament Square alongside Churchill and Lincoln. Those who spoke in the video testified how it was significant for them. They made it clear as people who had become prominent as politicians and broadcasters that there was still a general feeling that black people couldn’t make an impact. It is the legacy of colonialism with the racism that underpinned it that has brought about this state of affairs. Both Mandela and Jesse Jackson have been in U.K. to remind us of the fact and to provide inspiration for us all, but black people in particular.
Is Mandela a one off? It would seem to me that he is a product of his African upbringing. There are many examples through history of wisdom in African cultures from Nubia and Egypt (Kemet) onwards. The tragedy of much that has happened has been in the context of the nineteenth century Treaty of Berlin where European states carved up the continent. Rather than draw on African traditions their modern leaders have continued the paternalism of their former colonial rulers. Simplistic? May be, but not half as simplistic as the view, of which Sarkozy is the latest exponent, that Africa has no history.
My expression of apology for slavery on behalf of Birmingham has fallen on deaf ears and has been ignored by the Birmingham press in general. But thanks to Adrian Goldberg for supporting this in his Stirrer column!
My apologies for disabling comment, but a recent onslaught with pornographic and other junk has led to this. While www is a fantastic resource unfortunately it is wide open to abuse not subject to regulation. J.T.