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Friday, December 6, 2013


I don't know what to say, but I have to say something. The day a celebrity dies is not necessarily something I feel sad about, remembering the time my aunt gave me hell up one side and down the other for not knowing Conway Twitty died that day. All I know about Conway Twitty is his singing voice. I made a mental note of it the day I heard Eudora Welty died, but didn't give anybody a lecture for not hearing about it. I turned the radio on BBC radio in the night and learned Nelson Mandela had died. That, I took note of, remembering first thing, when Time magazine declared Einstein the Man of the 20th Century, I felt they'd missed it. My own personal pick for the man of the 20th Century was Nelson Mandela. Yes, Einstein was a great physicist, and yes, he wrote enough about world peace to fill a thick book, but as man of the century, I feel like his greatest contribution was to give us a new word for genius: Einstein. He's an important man looked at historically. Einstein was also on the tame side of the fence. He didn't lead demonstrations and make white people anxious. He assisted white people in blowing up yellow people. Also, by the end of the century, Einstein's name had become a product, and Mandela's name only meant disturbing news, black people rising up. Memories of Custer's Last Stand. White people don't forgive such behavior. Since I suffer from Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Mandela's humanity is more important to me than his pigmentation. His color has no importance to me other than thinking it's beautiful. I would like to have seen him in person, just to see his actual skin tone. It is different from one color photograph to another due to lighting and film, and, in the digital age, manipulation.  
Nelson Mandela is the only celebrity I know of whose hand I wanted to shake, to honor him and to feel his energy. I know his hands were hard as rock, like a coal miner' hands and a hillbilly farmer's hands, people I respect. Mandela broke rocks into gravel with a sledgehammer every day for I don't know how many years. He spent 27 years in hard core prison for BLACK political prisoners, Robben Island, nearly all of it spent making little rocks out of big rocks with a hammer. South African white people hated the kafirs and oppressed them as our country does the Indians, as Australian white people do the Aborigines, as the Chinese do the Tibetans. Racism is not just an American thing. We are the people of the world. American white racism  crossed the ocean as English racism in particular. Racism has been a big issue all the way through the 20th Century all over the world, though in denial largely. It didn't appear to me that racism was dealt with in the American Civil Rights movement where the agenda  was legal rights. Television helped keep racism under the rug. It kinda looks like racism is up for  being dealt with in this time. Even television is declaring racism evil and coming down on racists like it's the Sin of the Year. Corporate board rooms allowed black people into commercials, movies and tv shows, but it didn't change racism. Calling racism evil, as they're doing now, just gives it the golden glow of taboo, gives it energy, enlivens it. Political correctness in the white middle class is mere boutique activism, a social checklist to go by for being thought cool. Black people all over the world live under the boot of white oppression at work, in government, in business, in the ghetto, in prison, at home. Colonialism lives.

I cannot help but respect a man who defied (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) the authority of South African institutional apartheid. Mandela was criticized in his retirement because in a few years he had not diminished poverty among the black people, etc., but South Africa is no longer under white rule, the troop carriers don't unleash a white firing squad on a black community shooting anybody running or standing still. He made the change possible and turned it over to his black brothers and sisters to make it work---it's what you wanted, here it is. When it comes to hopeless and helpless, I can take the feeling about as long as I can take breaking rocks with a hammer. One day would be more than enough for me. Mandela did it one day every day for a lot of years. He learned about hopelessness and about helplessness for a very long time, an eternity seen from inside that time. His story is the story of Job, the guy God turned over to the devil. I doubt Mandela had a hard time figuring out who the devil was. I expect, from words he is quoted to have said, he eventually found that devil in himself and became free within. Job's experience was his enlightenment, and Mandela's experience was his enlightenment. Not often do we see an enlightened man in political position, or in any kind of position. Not often do we see an enlightened man. His time in prison created situations for his wife, Winnie, that were more than she could handle. She became the representative of somebody she didn't know anymore.
My respect for Mandela is for what he went through. I respect all the other people who went through the same but didn't have the political support to come out of it a national hero. The others go home broken old men. My guess is Mandela went into it an advanced soul. I'm even suspecting a soul who came in with the purpose of breaking the bondage of South African apartheid, ready to buy it with a quarter century of making gravel. How he did as top dog in South African government doesn't concern me so much. I'm more interested in Mandela's character than his performance with political power, though from what I've seen he did as well as one man could do. Danny Glover played Mandela in a film made in the past I can't find at netflix. I remember one called Mandela that I can't find at netflix either. Morgan Freeman made a good version of Nelson Mandela in his movie Invictus. Actors presenting Mandela seem to focus their presentation on his character. His character is the most outstanding aspect of who he was. His character is why he was held in high regard around the world, especially in Africa where black people are ok, mostly. Had he not been tucked away in prison over those incendiary years of anti-apartheid activism, he might have been assassinated, might with a high likelihood of success. It's one of those situations that we want to call bad, that he spent 27 years in prison, a target for abuse. But, another way of seeing it is he needed the suffering for the fast lane to the enlightenment he needed to be the one to make the transition from white rule to black rule, a first step toward democracy, in his homeland. He put an end to the systematic apartheid abuse by the South African government with forgiveness.

1 comment:

  1. Tj, there is a group of international elders that was initiated by Richard Branson and Peter Gabrielle (Nelson Mandella was a member of this group). the There is a common ground for money and power and wisdom doing good in the world.