I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free — free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut, free to swim in the clear stream mat ran through my village, free to roast mealies under the stars and ride the broad backs of slow-moving bulls. As long as I obeyed my father and abided by the customs of my tribe, I was not troubled by the laws of man or God- Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela.
Today, 18th July is celebrated as Nelson Mandela day all over the globe to commemorate the birth of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela- the political leader and anti-apartheid activist who lost 27 precious youth years in prison surviving each day to fight for his countrymen. Putting 67 years of his life in service with the imprisonment and African National Congress, the people pay tribute for 67 minutes for Mandela each year. The Mandela Day campaign message is, “Nelson Mandela has fought for social justice for 67 years. We’re asking you to start with 67 minutes.”
A century later, following the brutal murder of George Floyd by a white police officer, the Black Lives Matter Movement or BLM has found it trails in the hearts of the people to raise their voice against the injustice and racial discrimination.
“More than 1,000 Black people die at the hands of police in the U.S. every year,” the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement condemning police brutality, adding “mass incarceration, predictive policing, targeted surveillance and a host of other tools render Black lives more vulnerable than all others.” Nelson Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela told Sky News that Nelson Mandela would have admired the BLM movement across the world.
For Mandela, the “oppressor and the oppressed were equally robbed of their humanity.” After the death of Geroge Floyd, this day has gathered a lot more significance, but what remains vital to this day is his methods and ideologies. It’s about learning the notion from the very root because racism is deep-rooted in our society. Whether it is Europe, India or America the path of discrimination surges from the roots.
We have read about the incident of George Floyd, about other incidents leading to the death of Floyd and about the books centred around racism. Jared Diamond in his book “Upheaval- How countries cope with crises” defined one of the factors of changing crisis into opportunity is to take other countries as models. The Soviet Union domination in Finland and the suppression of Japan during the Meiji Era by the western countries- for the former coping with the crisis was much difficult because they didn’t have any country as a model to follow. While the latter took his very enemies as the models and worked upon releasing itself from the crisis.
The struggle of Mandela was gigantic and long, no doubt. But in the end, he conquered liberty over everything. Let’s learn a few lessons from one of the most inspiring leaders of all times-
No one is born with a stone heart. Everyone has their own fears and when you chose to go against the government to stand by what’s right, there are moments when you are filled with uncertainty. Some people back out, and some stand by you. In an interview to Time managing editor Richard Stengel for a cover story in 2008, Mandela confessed that there were moments when he was scared. But, he said, as a leader, if you are afraid, you must never exhibit fear. “You must put up a front,” he said.
•The Leader always walks behind.
For Mandela, it was wise to convince people to do things and making them think that it is their own idea. “I always remember the regent’s axiom: a leader, he said, is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” (Long Walk to Freedom)
•Befriend your enemy if you want to stop the repression.
After South Africa was established as a democratic – republic by the African National Congress, while the drafting of the country’s constitution the grievances of the whites and blacks were heard equally. Imagine our leaders of today asking us to forgive our enemies- those who put us under years of suppression- to give them a place in our country, in the Constitution and in our government. Maybe that’s the one place that a half a century later people have overlooked. Nelson Mandela Day is not only to pay homage to a leader who set things right for minorities- but to comprehend the struggle it took and the ways and methods people put to intricate
“If there are dreams of a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to that goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.”
•Hate, like all other things made and perpetuated by humans, breaks and ends one day
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
•A rebellion in prison still battles against the enemy.
“In prison, you come face to face with time. There is nothing more terrifying”
Spending 27 years in prison will leave anyone shattered. But for Mandela, it was fighting each day for his countrymen. When you are in a prison, each breath you take is a fight against the enemy, who wants to kill the human in you. For 67 long years, the struggle to end racism in South Africa reflects how racism penetrated every aspect of society. Whether it is today, tomorrow or yesterday, change can only be brought if you work on the root level of anything.
“If instead of being hanged by the neck
you’re thrown inside for not giving up hope in the world, your country, your people,
if you do ten or fifteen years apart from the time you have left, you won’t say,
“Better I had swung from the end of a ropelike a flag” —
You’ll put your foot down and live.
It may not be a pleasure exactly,
but it’s your solemn duty to live one more day to spite the enemy.” – Nazim Hikmet.