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Mandela legacy

Nelson_Mandela,_2000_(5)

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Nelson Mandela transformed South Africa in part because he was first able to transform himself. And therein, of course, lies perhaps the greatest lesson of his remarkable life, and the hardest one to learn.

Because he was somehow able to find in his years of imprisonment a form of personal liberation that freed him from anger, resentment and revenge, he emerged from prison with the only vision that could possibly transform South Africa from a racist police state into a relatively peaceful and truly democratic, multi-ethnic nation.

Within the discovery of that internal freedom was clearly the seed of a nation’s freedom and the extraordinary future almost no one predicted for a place seemingly poised on the verge of a bloody convulsion.

How South Africa escaped a civil war that would have torn it, and much of Africa, apart, is one of the great lessons of human history, and it’s a lesson that should become part of the required curriculum in every classroom, in every school, in every country.

But the lesson is more complicated than the story of a single exceptional man. The impulse to deify Mandela is compelling, but there was more to the complex equation of South Africa’s liberation than the transcendent spirit of a charismatic and remarkably wise leader. The global campaign to drive western investment out of South Africa had an important impact on the apartheid regime, while it ironically cast into stark relief the tortured Cold War politics that gave Ronald Reagan an excuse to accommodate apartheid through the vacuous policy of “constructive engagement.”

When our president vetoed Congressional sanctions against South Africa in 1986, it was in the wake of a profoundly naïve or dangerously misleading belief that the regime of P.W. Botha had eliminated segregation. In a 1985 radio interview, Reagan said, “They have eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country — the type of thing where hotels and restaurants and places of entertainment and so forth were segregated — that has all been eliminated.”

Of course it had not, and a year later South Africa imposed martial law to further contain its rebellious black population, still saddled with passbooks and prison sentences, for trying to speak and move with freedom. And the U.S. Senate, to its everlasting credit, managed the two-thirds vote needed to override the Reagan veto.

There are many parts to the Mandela lesson plan, not the least of which is that profit is still too often blind to principle and western corporate interests were for years more invested in financial returns than human justice in South Africa.

“Constructive engagement,” ostensibly a strategy for gradually growing moderate voices inside a radically evil system, likely extended the life of apartheid, and certainly gave some American corporations a couple more years to fatten their portfolios.

But the divestment campaign, with roots at UC Berkeley, had a powerful impact on apartheid, and on American corporations profiting from a South African labor system sometimes described as indentured servitude, just a cut above slavery.

As President Obama recently said, Nelson Mandela may be the greatest man any of us alive have shared the planet with. Let’s hope his legacy reminds us of the work we have left to do on ourselves and on our nation.

  • Phineas Worthington

    South Africa has descended into a society plagued with gang violence, rape, and murder at levels never seen during the Apartheid era that had to go. Though now democratic, it is far from being a peaceful country. It is a society still in desperate need of proper law and social order.

    • Chris Scott

      Speechless

    • Chris Scott

      Mr Worthington;

      Apartheid; From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia;

      Please, for your own sake, read the entire Wikipedia article.

      • Phineas Worthington

        Chris, are you a man or woman? Its a serious question. Just curious.

    • Chris Scott

      Translation;
      “Yep! Like you say, things were just find until they ended Apartheid. Proper law and social order – had that with Apartheid too.”

      That is STUNNING. It’s also embarrassing.

      • Phineas Worthington

        I never said things were fine during Apartheid. I said it had to go. Please read more carefully before you infer. You’re very emotional and I understand that given the unwritten rules of race relations in modern America that command the unearned collective guilt of white people for the sins of the past.

        To measure evil properly, one must use a good standard of measure. I like to use the number of actual prisoners of conscience and innocent dead produced as a standard of measure myself. Communisms as an ideology is the most evil by that standard, not Apartheid. By that standard, Castro’s Cuba is far worse than the Apartheid era too, by far. And it was our president shaking hands gladly with his brother Raul at the funeral. Its sickening.

        It is important to note, SA made many of the peaceful transitions away from the racist constructs of Apartheid as much as ten years before the transition to democracy.

        Also SA had a fully functional nuclear weapons program with missiles and productive capabilities to make more under Apartheid. They are the only nation to my knowledge that has fully dismantled and abandoned their nuclear program prior to signing the NPT. We should all be very thankful it did not get bequeathed to the new democracy there.

        • Chris Scott

          Mr Piazza;
          “an incoherent stew of irrelevance and innuendo”

          Every comment you have written in this thread has been to defend Apartheid, either directly or indirectly. There is no other conclusion possible, notwithstanding your defense that it is not. You may take satisfaction in your opinions because history and the world community hold the opposite view. That’s what is usually meant by the term, “The Bubble.” Opposition is the proof of being right, for the right, because the right’s (you’re) right. Right?

          1. Leave the pop psych in the vending machine. It always sprays out of the can. Everyone just thinks you did it in your pants.

          2. You’re right, conservatives and the political right speak with knowledge and authority on race relations in the U.S.; voter suppression, et al. Just as there is no racism in America today.

          3. “To measure evil properly” There are no words or assemblage of words to express how very unfortunate, thoroughly ridiculous and outright appalling this explanation is.

          4. Obama’s handshake was hardly the first time a U.S. leader pressed the flesh of an unsavory foreign leader. “Sometimes a handshake is just a F_#@+*g handshake,” Jon Stewart. A history lesson for the right wing’s handshake manufactured outrage;

          Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shook hands with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and a 1950s picture of Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower with Spanish dictator Generalisimo Francisco. Presidents Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt both gripped palms with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, among many other examples.

          There was the 1959 picture of then-Vice President Richard Nixon shaking hands with the original leader of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro. Richard Nixon gave a bit of a bow to Emperor Hirohito of Japan in 1971, despite the fact that Hirohito had served as his nation’s monarch in World War II. In 1972, Nixon shared smiling handshakes with Chinese communist dictator Mao Tse Tung. Of course, that was part of his famous visit to China, which announced an about-face in US policy toward normal relations. Nixon also gave a toast to Chairman Mao that included an excerpt of one of Mao’s poems.

          When the Taliban was the US’s surrogate fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, Ronald Reagan met with the leaders of the Taliban and referred to them as “the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers?” Reagan shook hands many times with Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev.

          Hundreds of photos of George W. Bush shaking Putin’s hand. And who could ever forget the time that George W. Bush not only shook hands with but held hands while walking with and even kissed the sheik who is leader of Saudi Arabia? You remember Saudi Arabia don’t you? It was Osama bin Laden’s home country and 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia.

          Whether this history has any meaning, relevance or effect on the Right’s outrage at Obama’s handshake of course is irrelevant to the rights outrage at Obama

          5. Reagan, Thatcher, many other leaders and you were and are on the wrong side of history and the view of the rest of the world community who mourned Mandela’s death and celebrated his life, accomplishments and contributions to the South Africa and the world.

          6. A slow transition is a means and disguise for perpetuating the status quo. It was no more acceptable to the America’s colonists with King George than it was to those under the oppression and racism of Apartheid and South Africa’s political establishment.

          7. SA’s Nuclear Strategy:
          ” South Africa did not develop a real and effective nuclear posture until well after it constructed the components for the first bomb. The posture it developed was not based on precedent or accepted international security theory but, rather, on its limited capability to produce and deploy nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons states have tended to regard both their ability to survive a first strike and respond unilaterally with readiness and the effective delivery of nuclear weapons to selected targets as integral to credible nuclear deterrence. South Africa had neither the technological nor fiscal ability to adopt such a posture. Moreover, any nuclear arsenal South Africa could produce could not nullify the Soviet Union’s nuclear threat.[15] As a result, South Africa gradually developed a nuclear strategy that used the bombs for “political,” not military, purposes.

          South Africa’s nuclear position was formally articulated in April 1978 when President P. W. Botha approved an escalating three-phase deterrent strategy. Most officials believed that actual strategic deployment of a nuclear bomb would be akin to committing suicide. Instead, the bombs would be used as a form of nuclear blackmail: the emerging strategy was designed to bring Western countries, principally the United States, to South Africa’s aid in the event of a massive Soviet-inspired attack against “
          “Limited Capability: A History and Review of South Africa’s Nuclear Weapons Program,” Isaac Adams

          SA dismantled their nuclear weapons because having them was a severe economic drain and having them was from the beginning folly. – not out of the purity of a motive for world peace.

          Below a list of resources for you, should you choose to be better informed. I listed on the titles as links provoke holding a comment for review. I hope you read at least some of them.

          South African History Online (SAHO)
          Wikipedia:
          - Apartheid
          - Nelson Mandela
          - US South African Sanctions
          - International Sanctions on South Africa

          - Limited Capability: A History and Review of South Africa’s Nuclear Weapons Program, Isaac Adams

  • Robert Piazza

    Mandela was a communist and a terrorist!
    While I have no tolerance for apartheid, Mandela’s rise to power did irreparable damage to South Africa, it’s economy and it’s citizens.

    • Chris Scott

      Stunned

    • Chris Scott

      Mr Piazza;
      You’re referring to the 27 years Mandela spent in prison,

      Nelson Mandela; From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia;
      (but an introduction, please, for your own sake, read the entire Wikipedia article. )

      Nelson Mandela was an African nationalist, an ideological position he held since joining the ANC,[333] also being a democratic socialist,[334] thereby being “openly opposed to capitalism, private land-ownership and the power of big money”.[335] Mandela was influenced by Marxism, and during the revolution he advocated scientific socialism.[336] During the Treason Trial, he denied being a communist,[337] although later historians and biographers believed that this was a lie; biographer David Jones Smith stated that Mandela “embraced communism and communists” in the late 1950s and early 1960s,[338] while historian Stephen Ellis found evidence that he had been an active member of the South African Communist Party (SACP).[109] This was confirmed after his death by the SACP and the ANC. According to the SACP, he was not only a member of the party, but also served on the party’s Central Committee, when he was arrested in 1962 and this was denied for political reasons.[110][111][112]

      In the 1955 Freedom Charter, which Mandela had helped create, it called for the nationalisation of banks, gold mines, and land, believing this necessary to ensure equal distribution of wealth.[339] Despite these beliefs, Mandela nationalised nothing during his presidency, fearing that this would scare away foreign investors. This decision was in part influenced by the fall of thesocialist states in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc during the early 1990s.[340] Although he presented himself in an autocratic manner in several speeches, Mandela was a devout believer in democracy and abided by majority decisions even when deeply disagreeing with them.[341] He held a conviction that “inclusivity, accountability and freedom of speech” were the fundamentals of democracy,[342] and was driven by a belief in natural and human rights.[343] This belief drove him to not only pursue racial equality but also to promote gay rights as part of the post-apartheid reforms.[344]

    • Tom Sokolowski

      Mandela a communist and terrorist? Not according to many right wing heroes, Ted Cruz and Newt Gingrich for example. Quoting Cruz: “Nelson Mandela will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe.” You really need to catch up to
      the latest talking points Robert, you’re a little behind the times.

      Mandela was known in South Africa as the “Father of his Country;” guess they didn’t get the memo. But do you really think the idea of a few old white men holding sway over a huge section of Africa was ever sustainable in our modern world? Don’t you think South Africans taking their country back was something akin to our own American Revolution? And if so, wouldn’t that make Mandela more of a Freedom Fighter, like our own American Revolutionaries were?

      • Robert Piazza

        Yes Tom!
        He was a communist and terrorist!
        You need to brush up on your world history.
        According to Wikipedia Nelson Mandela was,
        “Influenced by Marxism, he secretly joined the South African Communist Party
        (SACP) and sat on its Central Committee. Although initially committed
        to non-violent protest, in association with the SACP he co-founded the
        militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961, leading a sabotage
        campaign against the apartheid government. In 1962, he was arrested,
        convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the state, and sentenced to life
        imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.

        • Phineas Worthington

          Mandela was not a political prisoner. He was convicted of numerous acts of violent sabotage, terrorism, and multiple murders. The ANC went on to murder many more people and terrorize. He refused to eschew violence during the duration of his incarceration. His wife Winnie made threats of radical mob violence called necklacing to her political opponents. To my knowledge, Mandela never condemned her or the gruesome practice of necklacing. There is a youtube video of the elderly Mandela singing in English about peace, love, and democracy while at the same time singing in a native language about killing all the whites. Mandela was indeed a communist all his life as the worker party of the world website proudly proclaims. There is much more to Mandela than meets the eye if you are willing to look into the memory hole.

          • Chris Scott

            Those who preached delay in fighting apartheid often pointed to the hopeless complexity of the situation. But to many Republicans in 1986, the issue was obvious:

            “In the 1960s, when I was in college, civil rights issues were clear,” explained Senator Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.), who voted to pass the Act over Reagan’s veto. “After that, it became complicated with questions of quotas and other matters that split people of good will. When the apartheid issues came along, it made civil rights black and white again. It was not complicated.”

            You would appear to fall under your own judgement: “There is much more to Mandela than meets the eye if you are willing to look into the memory hole.”

          • Phineas Worthington

            When debating gradual change v radical change of a corrupt legal system we just will not agree. One can argue with great success the disastrous consequences of radical change to unchecked democracy of SA. And Iraq. And Gaza. And Afghanistan. And so on.

            I’d like to plug a book I think you and everyone with an opinion on the matter ought to read,”Into the Cannibal’s Pot, Lessons for America from Post-Aparthied South Africa,” by Ilana Mercer.

            As she says, “You can have order without liberty, but you cannot have liberty without order.”

            While it may be unfair to judge Mandela on the basis of what SA has become, we can judge him on the basis of his proven acts of sabotage and murder. Though when one does not value human life as an inalienable right, it makes perfect sense that his crimes could be justifiable through the lens of anti-colonial, anti-capitalist collective racial politics.

        • Chris Scott

          Mr Piazza;

          Selective editing to fit a narrative is convenient but hardly credible in the long run to a point of view notwithstanding the obvious undermining the speaker’s credibility. Below is the entire passage from Wikipedia; Nelson Mandela;

          ” Nelson Mandela was an African nationalist, an ideological position he held since joining the ANC,[333] also being a democratic socialist,[334] thereby being “openly opposed to capitalism, private land-ownership and the power of big money”.[335] Mandela was influenced by Marxism, and during the revolution he advocated scientific socialism.[336] During the Treason Trial, he denied being a communist,[337] although later historians and biographers believed that this was a lie; biographer David Jones Smith stated that Mandela “embraced communism and communists” in the late 1950s and early 1960s,[338] while historian Stephen Ellis found evidence that he had been an active member of the South African Communist Party (SACP).[109] This was confirmed after his death by the SACP and the ANC. According to the SACP, he was not only a member of the party, but also served on the party’s Central Committee, when he was arrested in 1962 and this was denied for political reasons.[110][111][112]

          In the 1955 Freedom Charter, which Mandela had helped create, it called for the nationalisation of banks, gold mines, and land, believing this necessary to ensure equal distribution of wealth.[339] Despite these beliefs, Mandela nationalised nothing during his presidency, fearing that this would scare away foreign investors. This decision was in part influenced by the fall of the socialist states in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc during the early 1990s.[340] Although he presented himself in an autocratic manner in several speeches, Mandela was a devout believer in democracy and abided by majority decisions even when deeply disagreeing with them.[341] He held a conviction that “exclusivity, accountability and freedom of speech” were the fundamentals of democracy,[342] and was driven by a belief in natural and human rights.[343] This belief drove him to not only pursue racial equality but also to promote gay rights as part of the post-apartheid reforms.[344] “

          • Phineas Worthington

            Chris, you can go to the CIA website and look up the raw stats on SA. Highest death rate. Highest aids rate. Highest murder rate. And their economy is in shambles. They did not have those distinctions under Apartheid. And their future is not good. It is important to look objectively at the facts as they are rather than through the lens of racial politics and psychological root causes which distorts the facts to fit a political narrative.

          • Chris Scott

            stunning.

        • Tom Sokolowski

          Robert, here is what our Tea Party Hero’s have said about Mandela:

          Ted Cruz: “Nelson Mandela will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe. He stood firm for decades on the principle that until all South Africans enjoyed equal liberties he would not leave prison himself, declaring in his autobiography, ‘Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.’”

          “He endured decades of imprisonment and steadfastly continued his fight for equality. And, when justice prevailed in his battle against apartheid, and Mandela was elected president of his nation, he nobly chose reconciliation instead of retribution — a legacy for which he will be remembered forever. Because of his epic fight against injustice, an entire nation is now free. We mourn his loss and offer our condolences to his family and the people of South Africa.”

          Newt Gingrich: “Some of the people who are most opposed to oppression from Washington attack Mandela when he was opposed to oppression in his own country.”

          Representative Aaron Schock, Republican congressman eulogized Mandela as “the George Washington of our time.”

          I’m really sorry that you are so out of step with the times. Rather than relying on Wikipedia, maybe you should go back to newspapers.

      • Phineas Worthington

        George Washington never threatened, intimidated, nor killed innocent civilians in acts of terror, nor condoned it ever, like Mandela did. Students of the Cold War know the shocking significance of Obama glad handing Raul Castro. Its shameful.

        • Chris Scott

          Mr Piazza;
          This would seem to be obvious, nevertheless. In every conflict or war between peoples, societies and/or countries for time immemorial there has been demonizing your enemy, ascribing to them less than human attributes and character, brutality, threats, intimidation, acts of terror, mob violence, etc., by each side against the other and or others.

          War and similar violent conflicts are inherently uncivilized. This is the basis for the Geneva Conventions which are a recognition and attempt to bring some measure of civility to war – inherently they are the ratification that war is uncivilized behavior.

          To suggest it did not happen during the American revolutionary war is Pollyannaish. George Washington probably did not kill innocents by his own hands. Did Washington’s or other revolutionary army troops, probably; the current euphemism is, collateral damage.

          Such behavior is recorded in both direct and indirect accounts in historical documents, from both sides of the conflict. It should also be recognized that initially the revolutionary war was, by the colonists and their militias a guerilla type of engagement, undoubtedly often nothing more than a mob, until discipline was enforced and the revolutionary armies were formed. In the movie The Patriot, 2000, Mel Gibson, The fictional Colonel William Tavington is loosely based on British Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who was particularly known for his brutal acts. History being written by the victors the accounts are likely less than actually occurred.

          With respect to flags flown at half staff; Presidents often order that American flags be lowered for the deaths of American leaders, but the list of foreign dignitaries whose deaths have been honored is relatively short. They include:

          Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa (2013) (Oboma)

          Pope John Paul II (2005) (Bush 43)

          King Hussein of Jordan (1999) (Clinton)

          Yitzhak Rabin, prime minister of Israel (1995) (Clinton)

          Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt (1981) (Reagan)

    • Chris Scott

      You mean the 27 years he spent in prison. Apartheid did the damage. Mandela and South Africa had to and are still dealing with the aftermath.

  • Chris Scott

    .

  • 83191

    You’re right, Phineas. So much ignorance about post-apartheid South Africa. Was impressed by your review of Illana Mercer’s book on this subject. You may be interested in a similar book on SA that I’m about to update on Amazon: “Hearing Voices: Love and Loss in Crime City” (Johannesburg).- David H Overton