Nelson Mandela, Peace and Love

‘Peace and Love’

that old hippy mantra

cynically, we snigger, “peace and love? As if. What have you been smoking, hippy?”

yet in our lifetimes we knew a man who lived Peace and Love Who practiced it. Who more than any of us, could have been expected to be embittered and turn away from both peace and love.  This man died today.

In 1990 I remember him walking out of prison. It was incredible. At this moment we on earth actually witnessed an incredibly rare moment of human greatness. South African white President Frederik de Klerk defied the South African system and its apartheid ideology by freeing Nelson Mandela and legitimizing the ANC. Mandela made it very clear that he would work towards equality and a free South African for all.  By 1994 Mandela was himself President.

It was amazing that between them, two individuals could change history, could change hearts. de Klerk by giving up White Political Privilege – not just for South Africans, but – symbolically – for all of us. Mandela for firmly standing by the idea of freedom and dignity in equality. Two Enlightenment men. Who says individuals cannot shape history?

And as President, and for many years after, until this very day 5.12.2013, Mandela has symbolised the successful struggle for dignity and equality and the meaning of freedom. He has, in short, embodied Peace and Love.

…and yet …

almost a year before the great moment of freedom, in China the “communist” government massacred some thousand or so of its citizens in Tianamen Square. Having this shown its hand to the world they then proceeded to instill their version of state capitalism. It seemed so alien so brutal and so inhuman. I can remember turning my face away from the TV in disgust.

But the world we have made since 1990 is a world shaped more by the spirit of Tianamen Square than by Nelson Mandela. Materialism and greed, toleration of unfreedom and disrespect for human dignity is the order of the day, across the planet. We will now watch the world’s leaders and their venal supporters weep crocodile tears for Nelson Mandela.

…. but …

there is still a sliver of hope. Sometimes the world produces visionaries like Gandhi and Mandela. Sometimes it produces intelligent pragmatists like de Klerk. Sometimes good people can change things. Sometimes Peace and Love stop being platitudes and really happen.

Nelson Mandela RIP 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013