Sometimes, it seems as if the time lines for individual lives follow one of two curves: rebellious youth to corporate suit, or the reverse, modest and compliant youth to old anti-establishmentarian. The world, since the death of Mandela was announced late last week, has been revering the former, while the writer has been experiencing the latter. And the different circumstances could not be more different. Mandela, although raised in African 'royalty' and thereby subject to clearly defined expectations, (his being to advise the king) nevertheless, adopted the revolutionary stance, supported by the then revolutionaries of the world (among them Qaddafi, Castro) and, for his alleged revolutionary zeal, was imprisoned by the Afrikan-dominated government of South Africa. Stories of how his "prison guard" secreted his grandchild into his cell on one of the very infrequent visits permitted to one of the most dangerous of prisoners are crawling out from under the rocks of history and, just to enhance the stature of the nearly mythic character history has and will continue to make of Mandela the story contains the inevitable "he shed a tear" over the opportunity to hold the child.
Deprivation of one of the most human and uplifting experiences, that of being near children and the sound of their voices, could only evoke such deep emotion in anyone subject to such conditions.
Studying to complete a law degree, counselling both fellow prisoners and guards who transformed into 'best friends' and meditating on his earlier revolutionary and combative activities as leader of the ANC, linked to both his tragic deprivations and the occasional sunburst as in the visit of the grandchild, and occasionally his own children and then wife, Winnie, helped to "mellow" his hate and his anger that were previously directed towards his enemies and those of the black South Africans he represented as his chosen "clients".
As the public memorial service is about to begin in a few minutes, in the soccer stadium where he appeared, as president, in 1995 wearing the uniform of the "white" rugby team to bring black and white together in a sporting event (blacks played soccer, while only whites played rugby), I am merely another of the millions of spectators around the world who will carry the memories of the ceremonies bringing an American president and a serving president of Cuba together on the same stage.
However, as we continue to learn about a very different and less exposed kind of incipient apartheid that crosses national boundaries, and envelopes people of all religious and ethnic and 'colour' lines in one excluded majority, similar to the excluded majority of blacks under minority white domination when Mandela was a revolutionary, the world needs leaders with the passion, commitment, dedication and courage of an early Mandela. And we need them now!
Do people need to die, at the hands of such leaders? Hopefully not through the violence of that leadership. However, we can already see that people are dying from the exclusion of the vast majority of the population from a reasonable sharing of the benefits of an economy that increasingly serves only the small number of wealthy suits, also of all ethnicities and religions.
And, there are a few writers who are beginning to express their profound contempt for the "apartheid" of the extremely rich over the rest of the world. One such writer is Chris Hedges, former reporter with the New York Times, currently columnist and lecturer whose writing appears in columns of the website, truthdig.com, as well as in his several books.
As we continue to read Hedges observations, insights and calls to action, we are increasingly moving closer to seeing both the wisdom and the danger of those insights. As for their wisdom, Hedges cutting perceptions eliminate all the public relations bumpf that clouds the minds of too many, propaganda that issues from the cameras and presses funded by the same suits he is railing against.
As for the danger of Hedges' insights, read the following from his most recent column:
...our corporate overlords are gangsters in pinstriped suits. They care nothing for the rule of law. They have put into place the most sophisticated system of internal security in human history. They have shredded our most basic constitutional rights and civil liberties. They have turned the three branches of government into wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. They have seized control of the systems of information to saturate the airwaves with lies. They distort the law and government regulations to advance their own pillage and exploitation of us, as well as the ecosystem, which now totters toward global collapse. They have arrogated the right to assassinate U.S. citizens and to rain terror and death from the skies across the planet even though we have not declared war on any state that is being attacked by drone aircraft. There is no internal mechanism left, whether the courts, electoral politics, the executive branch of government or the traditional press, by which these corporate elites can be reigned in or held accountable. The corporate state, in theological terms, is about unchecked exploitation and death. And if the corporate state is not vanquished, and vanquished soon, the human species will not survive. (Chris Hedges, Shooting the Messenger, from truthdig.com December 8, 2013)
While we all bask in the nostalgia of Mandela's profound gifts to his country and the world, especially of forgiveness, let us not forget that he came to that position primarily to save his country from the inevitable blood bath that was clearly agreed as the most likely alternative to reconciliation. And, while it will be necessary to come to the table with the corporate "suits" in Hedges' piece and strike deals with those representatives who have demonstrated a disdain for the poor and the uneducated and the unemployed and the under-nourished, that time is not now.
Now, it is time, as it was for Mandela in his early years, to confront the savagery of the oppression that is being inflicted, with impunity, on our public laws and tax policies in favour of those paying for their will to be enshrined in those laws that take millions off food stamps, block millions from work with dignity, and cut millions off from access to both health care and education.
And, with Hedges and others, we are proud to dedicate this space to that cause.