Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won’t Talk About

Think Progress
Aviva Shen and Judd Legum
December 6, 2013.

In the desire to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s life — an iconic figure who triumphed over South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime — it’s tempting to homogenize his views into something everyone can support. This is not, however, an accurate representation of the man.

Mandela was a political activist and agitator. He did not shy away from controversy and he did not seek — or obtain — universal approval. Before and after his release from prison, he embraced an unabashedly progressive and provocative platform. As one commentator put it shortly after the announcement of the freedom fighter’s death, “Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view.”

As the world remembers Mandela, here are some of the things he believed that many will gloss over.

1. Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism. Mandela called Bush “a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly,” and accused him of “wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust” by going to war in Iraq. “All that (Mr. Bush) wants is Iraqi oil,” he said. Mandela even speculated that then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan was being undermined in the process because he was black. “They never did that when secretary-generals were white,” he said. He saw the Iraq War as a greater problem of American imperialism around the world. “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care,” he said.

2. Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right.” Mandela considered poverty one of the greatest evils in the world, and spoke out against inequality everywhere. “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils,” he said. He considered ending poverty a basic human duty: “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life,” he said. “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

3. Mandela criticized the “War on Terror” and the labeling of individuals as terrorists without due process. On the U.S. terrorist watch list until 2008 himself, Mandela was an outspoken critic of President George W. Bush’s war on terror. He warned against rushing to label terrorists without due process. While forcefully calling for Osama bin Laden to be brought to justice, Mandela remarked, “The labeling of Osama bin Laden as the terrorist responsible for those acts before he had been tried and convicted could also be seen as undermining some of the basic tenets of the rule of law.”

4. Mandela called out racism in America. On a trip to New York City in 1990, Mandela made a point of visiting Harlem and praising African Americans’ struggles against “the injustices of racist discrimination and economic equality.” He reminded a larger crowd at Yankee Stadium that racism was not exclusively a South African phenomenon. “As we enter the last decade of the 20th century, it is intolerable, unacceptable, that the cancer of racism is still eating away at the fabric of societies in different parts of our planet,” he said. “All of us, black and white, should spare no effort in our struggle against all forms and manifestations of racism, wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.”

5. Mandela embraced some of America’s biggest political enemies. Mandela incited shock and anger in many American communities for refusing to denounce Cuban dictator Fidel Castro or Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who had lent their support to Mandela against South African apartheid. “One of the mistakes the Western world makes is to think that their enemies should be our enemies,” he explained to an American TV audience. “We have our own struggle.” He added that those leaders “are placing resources at our disposal to win the struggle.” He also called the controversial Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat “a comrade in arms.”

6. Mandela was a die-hard supporter of labor unions. Mandela visited the Detroit auto workers union when touring the U.S., immediately claiming kinship with them. “Sisters and brothers, friends and comrades, the man who is speaking is not a stranger here,” he said. “The man who is speaking is a member of the UAW. I am your flesh and blood.”

See the original article here.
Comment: Watching Obama pontificate on Mandela today made me sick.  I could not continue watching so I rather read his speech an hour later.

This one-size-fits-all Mandela that is being projected is problematic for the same reasons that Martin Luther King Jr is remembered for his "I have a dream" speech and Malcolm X is denigrated for his "by any means necessary" comment - by the same elite establishment nonetheless.

The complexity of any political character cannot be reduced to soundbites.  And for those in South Africa who want to remember Mandela as the kind father of the post-apartheid nation the reduction is about the same.

No one man fathers a nation and no one woman mothers a nation.  These terms are inexact at best and inescapably patriarchal and sexist too.

Socio-political movements are what bring changes.  Real leaders lead behind their followers as Lao Tzu philosophized centuries ago.

Mandela must be remembered and memorialized but he must be analyzed as well.  We will do no service to the course of justice, equality and democracy if Mandela's legacy is just a matter of fawning over some parts of his politics and his life.

What is needed to move dialectically forward is a critical politics.



Dade said...

Ridwan, mon frere!

How are you my friend? Mandela's death is big news over here, of course. Some on the right are calling him a murderer and a terrorist. One idiot even compared him unfavorably to the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. But the coverage has been overwhelmingly positive. Ignore the right-wing freaks! The vast majority of Americans stand in solidarity with Mandela and his positive legacy.

Ridwan said...

Hi there Dade:

Great to hear from you brother.

I have read some of the coverage on the right. Those folks/freaks will never change.

Thankfully as you say the vast majority of folks see through this right-wing hate-mongering.

Thanks for your comment brother.

Peace to you,

Pstonie said...


Funny that his image benefits more from lies of omission than the US does.

Terrorist twat.

Ridwan said...

Who did Mandela terrorize by the way Pstonie?

The white government who had stripped his dignity and that of his people for 48 years under apartheid and even longer under colonialism?

Which definition of terrorism are you using - one contrived from white victimhood or one that recognizes the plight of those oppressed under apartheid?

Mandela was no saint but to call him a terrorist requires a very myopic view of what whites did to the majority of people for too long in this country.

You may want to set aside the filthy name calling and engage in a civil manner that is productive.

If you persist in this manner I will ignore you.


The Brotha's Corner said...

Peace my favorite Big Brother & Professor... I pray this finds you well, by God's grace. Of course, I thought of you when I heard the news of Mandela's passing. Indeed, here in Chicago, most of the feedback from the community has been positive. However, I know there are two sides especially knowing what Sis. Winnie was a true warrior sister behind that whole piece. And, as far as the right, they are going to do what they always do--make mischief! -Your Lil' Big Bro. Dubie, Peace

I'd like to get your feedback on what Dr. Ray Hagins states here: "It is no secret that I am known for provoking the thought process in many people. It is also for this reason that I am often considered to be a "trouble maker."

At any rate, perhaps someone can help me understand the following:

1) A man is imprisoned and mistreated for 27 years; then released, forgives, embraces and PROTECTS the very people who imprisoned him.

2) He is told (by his captors) that he is going to be released and appointed as the President of his country on the condition that he agrees to the following:

a) He will not and cannot prosecute anyone who was involved in the brutal slaying and genocide of his people;

b) He will have to agree to his not having and/or using nuclear capability; and

c) He must not change or restructure the political and economic regime that had been set up by the European powers before him.

Okay, someone please help me understand what exactly is being celebrated here????"

Ridwan said...

My brother Dubie:

Always great to hear from you. I have heard it is freezing up your way but I trust all else is well.

I think you and Dr Hagins raise relevant and important questions that must be addressed. It is for this reason that I have raised some of the same queries here on this blog for more that 7 years now.

I have been frustrated with Mandela. I have vented about those frustrations like when he started the Mandela-Rhodes Foundation or when he associated with Suharto in Indonesia or the racist golfer Gary Player here in South Africa.

I also remember is less than forceful role in stopping Nigeria from murdering Ken Saro Wiwa.

The man was no saint and at times I have felt that he sold out a large part of the vision of a revolution and, for this reason, I have said repeatedly we are not free in South Africa.

That said it must also be recognized that Mandela is just one man. He may have been the man the apartheid regime decided to negotiate with but in the big scheme of things there was a movement behind and tensions between so called internals, Robben Islanders and exiles.

What has happened is that apartheid was scrapped but you right that rich whites and their capital essentially walked free.

Poor black folk are still poor and some would say even poorer.

Worse, apartheid capital is now firmly ensconced within a ruling capital class with a sizable black bourgeoisie as step and fetch partners.

The situation here approximates Obama and the compromised Congressional Black Caucus - no wonder brother Cornell West is livid too.

So within this broad framework there are questions about what must happen next.

As it stands the liberation movements have been sidelined by corruption and greedy thugs who care little for the emancipation of the masses and the impoverished be they black, brown or white.

I hope that as we move forward intellectuals like yourself will tease out the strands and provide clearer thinking about where and how the struggle must be aimed.

And like in the days of the Panther Party the struggle cannot be only about one country - it must be and international struggle because capitalism is a global system.

Inside of that thinking we must not fawn over Mandela - even he did not want that - we have to evaluate his successes and his failures.

I am not convinced that Mandela was offered a deal as clear as the presidency because people voted in elections. Winnie has been a stalwart in the struggle but she has been a disappointment too. Her role in the Stompie murder still remains unclear and her less than stellar role as an MP is not much to write home about.

But Winnie is bitter like a lot of folks who see that this era has not rid us of the scourge of oppression - even though now it is not just as clear as white versus black.

What is clear is that Mandela was too close to neoliberal forces - the World Bank and IMF and a host of capitalized interests abroad.

The problem of this era is the problem of capitalism, particularly neoliberal capitalism.

People are poor because the system is a rigged one and it favors an elite who do the business of neoliberal capitalism.

Peace my brother. Hope I have come close to an answer.


Pstonie said...

Kinda screwed up that first link: 3 Things You Didn’t (Want To) Know About Nelson Mandela

I would be referring to the definition of terrorist as being someone who kills innocent civilians (black and white indiscriminately in his case) because in truth they don't have the skills or the guts to take on their actual enemy. He has admitted to these acts of senseless violence and he has never renounced those ways.

He terrorised civilians, or he tried to. You think the nats gave a fuck about the people dead? Their families all lived in probably the same houses in rich suburbs the anc members live in now. They were probably overjoyed to have something to sell as obvious and unavoidable proof that black people are hateful, violent and irrational. Shit, they probably helped him in every way they could.

Pstonie said...

Additionally I would point out that, to say that "the whites" did what was done to the majority of this country, itself demonstrates a myopic view. But myopic implies that something is seen badly. Let's use the word hallucination instead.

People, white and black, accepted apartheid just like we have accepted the anc, even though many of us KNEW that everything was going to go to shit in this country, as it now obviously has. People accepted it because that's what the media convinced people to accept as the state of matters. South Africa in the last 20 years has demonstrated the undeniable flaws in democracy, but still it is mostly accepted because that's what CNN man and university man says is the best thing since the royal wedding.

Ridwan said...

Pstonie there is a reasonable critique to be made (as you do) when we deal with how "consent is manufactured" by the media and the state.

The average (and I don't mean that in a derogatory or disconnected sense) spend very little time pulling strands out manufactured anything.

The power of capitalism is that it can reduce complexity in much the same way and so we have emotions controlled by consumption and material desires, etc.

These are all viable critiques.

I have no disagreement with casting a suspicious eye on what can be called constructed 'life' because it is the basis of critical analysis in the first place.

I have explained what I mean when I say whites have benefited from apartheid in a response to you on an earlier post below.

The point is not to finger individuals but rather the collective of what is called whiteness in Postcolonialism.

That said all whites benefited from apartheid and all whites benefit from racism toward blacks even where such acts took place a century ago.

The substance of 'benefit' is to be found in the illustration of white identity and its relationship to power and privilege (the measurements of these obviously vary in context).

Individual whites who cast a critical eye recognize how racism has built in identity boosters whereas blacks generally start from a base point where dysfunction defines their applied reality.

If we are to get anywhere in deconstructing racism and whiteness in particular we will need for most whites to recognize this overall dysfunction.

We won't get there without intellectual engagement and certainly not through careless sarcasm.

That said there can be no revolutionary changes if victimhood -even among blacks - is the inherent default.

In the most recent post that deals with Professor Bond's argument I make this point in my comment - the one about separating a diagnosis from the needed solution(s) or revolutionary action.

Too many folks in SA are needlessly frozen in pointing out the dysfunction and totally lost (disempowered) to offer resolve.

At the very least we should be engaged as we are here and that is a positive thing, no.

I admire the spirit of engagement that Mandela supported. In a recent replay of a parliamentary address he talked about the need for discussing and critique.

Ideas must be tested because in the end all of what is around us is nothing more than ideas - be they workable or absolute failures.

Thanks for your comments.

The Brotha's Corner said...

Yes, big brother this is the "Cold, Cold, Chi!" :-) But, all is well, finishing up my M.Div and in the process of starting my MSW/Pastoral Counseling component.

Neoliberal capitalist is an accurate term because here in the States it is suggestive of both political parties. One doesn't know one from the other, as they both are the same.

The "Brother President," has put himself in many precarious situations during his tenure i.e., NDAA bill, Federal Bail Out, Gaddafi, and now Iran. Those he has entrusted as advisers, have as we say in the neighborhood, "sent him off." Obama knows the grassroots, he was a part of the fabric of some concrete mobilization in the neighborhood I grew up in during the mid to late 90's while I was at PSU.

This is why I believe at the core his heart is right (still), but the seat he sits in forces him to associate with those who have a capitalistic global agenda. They force him to bow down very similar to Mandela as you so accurately described.

The thing that is problematic with being closely connected to forces that are at the heart of our destruction is that we never win. This is why those that are awake like you and I have a duty. A duty to say "one man or woman can't do it alone," instead we say "we are many, if I do my part and you do yours for the collective we will win."

The time of being a disappointment, and doing a disservice to our people is over. Punk leadership has to go. Comprised and corrupt leadership has to go.

Black people and people color alike across the diaspora are still catching way too much hell like you noted for us not to lead effectively in this hour.

I see many parallels between Mandela and Obama. However, unlike Mandela, Obama has a chance to shake some stuff up before he leaves his seat. I just pray that he develops some testicular fortitude as he comes down the home stretch of his last term and goes out "guns a blazin'"! Kind a like Du Bois did when he finally realized what Garvey was trying to get him to recognize all along.

Much deference & peace, my brother!


Ridwan said...

SLM Dubie.

I have never ceased to be amazed by your consistent dedication and hard work from the time I joined you on your TV show in Portland through your work in Florida and now you are close to finishing your graduate studies.

I know that your moms heart is filled with admiration and love from above - may she rest in peace, until that day.

You capture the struggle to be consistent when you write:
"The thing that is problematic with being closely connected to forces that are at the heart of our destruction is that we never win."

A truer word cannot be spoken in the struggle to steer in-between the evils of desire and corruption.

It is a struggle that I face each day in my work as a political consultant - in particular. It was also a problem teaching in the Department of Black Studies as you know.

Folks are corrupted by desire (for power) and lose their way big brother.

I have lost faith in Obama, Rice, and others.

Robert Sobukwe taught us in his short life that the critique must be against the system and not the person. A reporter once asked him in the late seventies if he hated white people for what they have done to him.

He answered that hating a person or a collective of persons misses the point of what a system of oppression can do. He resisted the system and in so doing like Malcolm, Martin and Biko he saw a redemption in opposing injustice.

I have tried hard to see that wisdom since the time of my work in PDX. Now it is hard - I won't lie - to look past individuals and see how wrongful systems corrupt and make individuals evil.

It is for this reason that I choose (most times) to believe that all of life is just an idea - or rather a battle between contending ideas.

The more we battle toward the better idea the more just our system(s) will become. There is no end to that battle.

Thank you for your inspiration my brother. I will be in the states in June/July next year and will look where you are.

A visit to Chicago has always been on my books - I now the airport well but even when I was in Indiana for two years I did not make the three hour trip there ... go figure!

Peaceful blessings Dubie,