It cannot have escaped your attention that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died on the 5th December. There were many subjects that I wished to discuss on this post, but I feel it would be churlish to not at least make mention of this one in honour of Mandela.
I am sure many of you have read at least one or two articles written about him since his death. I am also certain that many of you have read and shared a plethora of his most famous quotations. I am not being derisory, I have done so as well. So, as respite for you, I will not be talking about Madiba (that's what his friends call him, if you hadn't heard a thousand times already.) Instead I will be discussing on this week's post the reasons for the need of a man like Mandela and the miracle of his leadership.
We are, whether we know it or not, at an interesting point in the continued development of our species. We stand at a precipice, a tipping point, a place where see meets saw (or where teeter meets totter.) It is the result of discussions, like the ones we will have regarding the upcoming topic as well as those to come, that will define the world as it is and as we would like it to be.
I use the word species above quite deliberately, because we are a species. From the pygmy tribes in South-East Asia, to the behemoths of north America, we are one species, in the strictest sense of the word. All humans can procreate to produce viable (i.e. fertile) offspring. Yet if one examines the historical record of human's interaction with any other group of humans, it is not difficult to see that we have always differentiated between ourselves, usually with a view to annihilation.
The history of man, is a history of genocide. The further removed from the history one gets, the more complete the genocides seem to be and more worryingly, how easily these atrocities are reduced to a few words so as to keep the narrative of some conqueror rolling.
Entire civilisations came and went. Their stories and knowledge lost in the spilt blood of generations. Made to endure the Carthaginian Solution of tyrants, whose own names are forgotten to all but the most learned of historians.
There was no nuance to the argument. They are different, whether it be their appearance, language, gods, traditions, laws, clothes etcetera. Therefore we are justified in taking their stuff and doing what we want to them. They are different. We are not.
As we move from ancient to modern times, we see that there has been no further improvement on the argument. Yes we sell it to each other using various subtleties, but the underlying feeling is always the same.
Our differences, however small, are the justifications for any and all of our interactions from benign to murderous. The differences we see prejudice almost all subsequent interactions. They are used to manipulate and guide us towards unsought paths, leading to outcomes undesired. It is easy and has been done since humans first walked this Earth.
It has always been the harder task to convince us of our sames. Those who have come to us whether through divine intervention or just dumb luck, to remind us that we are brothers and sisters, have oft been derided, scorned, ignored or crucified.
The miracle of Mandela was that not that he survived his formative years, but that he then went on to do something almost unprecedented in human history. He made the different see each other as the same. Not equal, that's not going to happen for a long time yet. But the same enough to sit and listen to each other's stories of cruelty, heartbreak and pain. The same enough to reconcile their differences and despite many flaws, try to build a country for all to live in. A country where all voices are heard, before the judgement of sight is imposed upon thought.
That was his miracle. That is how I will remember him.
Yours in thought,
A short one this week. Not heavy on the specifics either. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this or any other topic.
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