So, What About Nelson Mandela?

Not Impossible

Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela Quotes

Nelson Mandela… what does the very name mean to you? Walking around earlier today, I was drawn into a conversation with this Aussie chap who was trying to explain to some of the Indians who Nelson Mandela was… and why he was so important.

It was interesting to see how none of them had an opinion on this generational icon… but how could they? And it got me thinking, what is my opinion on him?

I mean I know he was a great man… I certainly understand the Wikipedia version of his life with the incarceration and being the first black president in South Africa and the monumental change that he brought to his country. But do I really have my own opinion? I’m not so sure.

You see, he falls right into that fuzzy area where I remember his name being a big deal when I was young but really couldn’t tell you what he changed.

Nelson Mandela QuoteOnce I grew older, of course, I learned quite a bit about him, and his amazing impact. That made him fall into a really weird little window, I feel as if I learned about him the way that I learned about Gandhi, Kennedy, Hitler or Stalin… but wait a minute, those were all historical figures. I could never be truly asked for my opinion on them because I wasn’t alive when they changed the world. I can read about them, watch documentaries on them, and even listen to what others say and become a history buff…

But if I never practiced diving under a desk during the cold war, or watched the men go off to fight for freedom in WWII or witnessed as one man stood up to his oppressors and lead his country to a peaceful revolution or weep with the nation after the ‘magic bullet’ in Dallas, how can I truly hold my own opinion?… I can’t. The best I can muster is to combine what I’ve read, watched and heard into some sort of logic that makes sense and try to learn from it.

Nelson Mandela Quote

But that’s why Mandela is such an enigma… because I did live through it. I feel as though I’m supposed to have my own opinion, not just one that I’ve read about. I feel as though I’m supposed to remember how he changed the world.

I feel as though… I’m supposed to feel… something… anything…

So what do I feel when I hear that you’ve passed away Nelson Mandela?

In many ways I feel happy. No, I don’t mean this in a sadistic ‘glad he’s dead, dance on his grave’ idea… I mean it with great humility and respect.

Nelson Mandela Quote

This is a Pinterest Quote

You see, you somehow reached the age of 95, that to me is amazing. Not only were you incarcerated for 26 years (hope that’s right?) in a tiny cell, but then you returned to lead your nation, and to change the very way in which black and white South Africans saw each other… But you didn’t stop there, you continued to live on and on and on and provide the world with a great icon to look to for wisdom, unconditional love and Pinterest quotes. You never really faded away. You did absolutely everything that you could to provide the spark that your generation needed. Your life has been complete, it’s been inspiring and it’s been long, you deserve that rest you’ve been talking about.

Nelson Mandela Quote

And now, my generation looks to take the reigns and deal with the problems in the world. It was certainly time for you to pass the torch, and you did so with grace.

The question is whether or not we’re ready to pick it up… and I believe we are. We definitely have our issues, with our sense of entitlement and materialism and corporations and unchecked capitalism going out of control… but our generation is just starting to engage sir. You may have seen the first traces of it, and there’s more to come. I see my generation beginning to get away from the T.V. to do more with their lives, I see them beginning to stand up for what they believe in, I see them willing to pay more for an ethical product, support their local growers and help out their neighbours. I see them looking to change themselves, and thus, change the world.

Nelson Mandela Quote

You see Mr Mandela, we’re just getting to a point where we are beginning to dream again. Sure many among us are jaded, but many others see that there’s a better way to live… that scarcity of resources isn’t always great for society, that money shouldn’t be the only motive, that rich don’t need to get richer and that trickle down economics don’t always work.

The sad fact of the matter is that we have our own apartheid, but it is not one determined by skin colour… it’s one determined by wealth. The loss of the middle class is terrifying and exciting all at the same time. Throughout history when no middle class exists, revolutions soon follow. And with role models like you in our early psyche, I dream of this revolution not as the riots of the 60’s or the killings in the French Revolution… but as a consolidation of two distinct classes, like two distinct races, coming together to form a stronger society. It will be difficult. People with power never want to give it away… But could this possibly be more difficult than what you were facing?

I heard somewhere that during apartheid South Africa was made up of 90% blacks that were at the mercy of the 10% that were white… and I remembered thinking, ‘Wasn’t it obvious that it would change?’Nelson Mandela Quote

Well… it’s become common knowledge that today 99% of our society is at the mercy of the 1%… The very manner in which we live gives them power, and the ability to dictate our lives… but really, ‘Is it not obvious that someday, this will have to change?’

You see, I don’t feel very connected to you as an individual. and yet I DO feel very connected to the beliefs you stood your ground for. In many ways.

For me, I hear that Nelson Mandela has passed away and it feels me with a great amount of joy to think that I shared so much of my life with him, and it gives me the audacity and the strength to believe that our generation has what it takes in order to dream a little bigger to provide a brighter future.

Nelson Mandela Quote

How about you? How did the passing of Nelson Mandela affect you? And what does the life of such a man mean to you?

6 thoughts on “So, What About Nelson Mandela?

  1. girjaa

    Oh, a thought-provoking, and heart-moving blog…and LMHO conversation. Thank you JJ for helping us all pause and reflect on ‘what Nelson Mandela means to me’. It seems we need to see (or have other dear souls mirror back to us to help us see) our humanness (some call it imperfections), in order to ‘be inspired and begin to dream again’. It seems when Mandela passed, he gave us again the change to step out of our ordinary day to day lives, to be touched by the extra-ordinary …to want to dive-in and step-up. Mandela inspired people to move beyond their collective suffering, to see themselves as individuals worthy of ‘one person, one vote’ (de Klerks campaign with Mandela to end Apartheid). FW de Klerk is also extra-ordinary, himself raised and deeply engrained in traditional white South African power politics, yet able to enlist the White’ sense of a shared humanity. Thanks JJ. In this moment, I do experience the strength, the possibility, and the audacity to dream.

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  2. Margrit Bayer

    Thoughtfully put J.J. The signs are abound just now again in Kiev, that youth is not letting the powerful make all the decisions. And it is a long haul to bring about change as you said, the powerful do not give up their power easily. This we have seen in places like Egypt in spite of millions of young people’s rallying cries. And unfortunately South Africa is still suffering from incredible poverty, lack of jobs, inequality and terrible corruption from the very same party that once was behind its freedom from apartheid. It appears to me the “world” – macrocosm mirrors the microcosm – each of us has a duty towards examining ourselves, our lives. That brings to mind Socrates words .. “an unexamined life is not worth living” ..which might sound harsh and yet unless we do, how will we know what darkness potentially lurks in our own shadows.

    It is also interesting to note that our very own PM Mr. Harper supported apartheid! http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2013/12/16/Harper-Mandela/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=161213

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    • Jonny Jenkins Post author

      Wow, that’s incredibly well worded and insightful Margrit, thanks so much for that.

      There is certainly a long way to go in the world, and I’m hopeful in thinking that we are just at the turning of the tide, really hoping that my generation is ready to spark a change in the way that our society functions… a change in consciousness really.
      I do my very best to look at the positive in each situation, choosing to believe that the very notion of focusing on the positive will make things a tiny bit better throughout the world, by increasing my happiness and hope, which increases other people’s and compounds down the line. (Butterfly effect in a way)
      (As I write this there’s a bit of a kerfuffle outside my room in India which could definitely be swung into the ‘things that aren’t going right in the world’ category… but hey, there’s gotta be a positive side to every drawback no?… I mean I’ve learned a new appreciation for being able to walk home after midnight back in Canada… There’s got to be a silver-lining to every cloud, no? … … gotta be something learnt, or something discovered, or at least something humourous…)
      Getting back to our situation with our PM in Canada, all I find is humour. So here, enjoy the list of my favourite things about Steven Harper – the traveler’s edition.

      1) He makes me feel like I’m doing my part for the world by not living in Canada while he’s in power and becoming a wheel in the cog.

      2) How he tries his best to help me relate to dictatorships, there’s been an new odd understanding I have for a lot of people I meet around the world. I mean it took a serious commitment on Harper’s part to actually start trying to pull this off, but kudos to him he’s somehow making me feel closer to third world countries.

      3) My sister told me once that the best thing he ever did was change the name of Canadian Government to Harper Government because at least she doesn’t feel responsible when she hears new announcements, she kinda goes ‘yep, he doesn’t speak for Canada, he even admits it.

      4) Being from B.C. I know I wasn’t supposed to like Alberta, but the only thing I could ever hold against them was that they said they were from the west… I mean I found them friendly enough, and fun and all that kinda stuff… At least Harper gives me a proper reason to be upset with them.

      5) The way in which he’s let himself be the sacrificial lamb for the good of our society. Let me explain. He must know that he’s being a total nob, complete jack-ass, and can’t possibly believe he’s doing well. My belief is that he went so far thinking he was doing well… realized he went to far, and then decided he’d keep going so that our society could learn the lesson and become stronger for it. You see, he’s now trying to do as poorly as possible so that we have a lens to look at the system and realize that our system and way of thinking is must be seriously skewed to make it possible for a man like that to get into power for so long… (I believe that Rob Ford is using the same total rational reasoning)

      6) As people compliment Canada overseas, as they always do, and I need to be humble because I’m a Canadian, perhaps the best thing that he’s done is given me a tagline as a response… now all I say is…

      “Hey, Canada’s pretty great, but we’re not perfect… we elected Stephen Harper.”

      So you see I can even be thankful for having Harper up there… but wait, I’m not suppose to give thanks in this holiday, that was the other one… what’s the spirit of Christmas about again?

      Reply

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