I have a sense that we are witnessing the passing of an era, a consequence of the death of an extraordinary human being, someone who has shaped the consciences of many people in his fight against apartheid and injustice. Nelson Mandela managed to capture the hearts and minds of millions through his resistance and the struggle to overturn the mindless and systematically inhumane treatment which is driven by fear of the ‘other’; and a sense of superiority based on race.
Vaclav Havel as a leader and a writer like Primo Levi, pointed out that unless you have experienced the abuse of power and consequences of dictatorships, imprisonment and the real threat of death it ill suits others to pass judgement and commentary that downplays the decisions made by those whose lives are directly affected by the violence, who live with the fear of torture and death. Arundhati Roy points out, what I have previously noted that when we have given away our sense of justice and settled for a few rights, we have lost our fundamental story as human beings. When we accept small wins at the cost of the overall victory, we have lost our way. Hannah Arrendt reminded us, that it is the banality of evil that allows it to slide invisibly into our lives, as we learn to comfortably avert our gaze, become used to unacceptable behaviour and standards of public commentary that in other times and places, would outrage us.
Nelson Mandela reminded us of all of this, insistently, consistently and with a mirror for us to look at what was happening through the obscene mechanics of apartheid; and he offered a different way forward. In his latter years and public discourse, we were reminded again and again, that he wasn’t about crucifying individuals in punishment, but about changing forever the evil systems and structures that have a very human impact, as racism strives to make others out to be less than human. This way of thinking must always be challenged. Unfortunately, this fight against racism is a fight that is still essential in our world and we must never let the light go out on this struggle.
Nelson Mandela has given us hope.
Rev’d Dr Lucy Morris, CEO