Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

I've been thinking about Nelson Mandela a lot but haven't known what to say.  He was very influential in my youth. And I think back fondly on those politicised and active times. I spent over a year picketing outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square for his release in the late 80s. My designated time was from 11-1 on a Saturday although I ended up staying for much of the afternoon generally until we slopped off to the pub. We collected petition signatures, sang songs, chanted and felt like we were doing a good thing. There was comraderie there. And some genuine communists. I met Archbishop Desmond Tutu once when he came over to show his solidarity with the non-stop picket while he was in London on some greater business. 

I was 17. It felt like we could change the world if enough of us joined in. We individually sanctioned South African produce refusing to buy Rowntrees, bank with Barclays or buy South African fruit and veg. Persuaded the adults in the family to do the same as far as we could. We hated Mrs Thatcher for her refusal to sanction South Africa. And all the bands and artists who played Sun City (stand up Elton John, Queen, Rod Stewart, to name a few).

And then in 1990 he was released. It was a jubilant time. Like grass roots political activism was a powerful and important mechanism. This older, smiling, strong, amazing individual walked free and seemed to change the world. 

It was heartwarming across the world. To people who were not directly under his power. But were inspired and amazed and awed by him. He had a long, important, influential life.


la peregrina said...

"Those who make us believe that anything’s possible and fire our imagination over the long haul, are often the ones who have survived the bleakest of circumstances. The men and women who have every reason to despair, but don’t, may have the most to teach us, not only about how to hold true to our beliefs, but about how such a life can bring about seemingly impossible social change.”
-Paul Rogat Loeb, author of "The Impossible Will Take A Little While."

Which is why he and his life have affected us so greatly. When I was seventeen I protested but I was inspired by Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy- and by my mother's example.

Nelson Mandela showed me that you do not have to be young to bring about chance, although the fire of passion burns brighter when you are, you just need faith and tenacity.

Harriet (the fshlady) said...

That is so true. I can't imagine what it must have been like to be locked up for so long, and in such spartan prison, and come out and still have the strength he did. I love that. I miss the fact that people felt they could change the world. I miss feeling like I could change the world!