Freitag, 18. Juli 2008

Happy birthday, Nelson Mandela - the struggle continues!

Even if you have just spent a day there as a tourist: You do not forget Robben Island. Especially not, if you have had the privilege to tour the place with one of the ex-prisoners. I feel bad for having forgotten the name of the comrade who showed me around in 2002. But I do remember his detailed descriptions of torture - including electric shocks to his genitals. Harrowing descriptions, which left me speechless, angry, and awed all at the same time. He recounted the dehumanizing daily life in the prison calmly and without exaggeration. He admitted how hard it was, still, to live with those memories, burned into his body through physical pains he still feels today. - I am not at all sure, I could have forgiven the torturers and racists who presided over Robben Island prison. For having been able to do that - and inspire many others, like my guide, to do the same - for that fact alone, Nelson Mandela deserves all the praise that will be heaped upon him on his 90th birthday today. He is an exceptional human being, no doubt. He is an inspiration for all political activists, as he combines a firmness in principles and beliefs, with a thorough assessment of tactics, and a true humanity. - That said, the hypocrisy of everybody, including, say, Merkel and Bush, now falling over themselves to praise a man like Mandela, does sicken me. Merkel's party backed Apartheid. Much of the equipment, that was used to prolong Apartheid's unjust reign, was Made in Germany. In the eyes of the US, Mandela throughout the 80s and early 90s, was really just another bin Laden - another evil terrorist. Now, nobody wants to be reminded of this history, of course. Now, western leaders like to pretend that Mandela was a pacifist, like Gandhi, all his life. But that is not so. Aside from being a boxer, Mandela was leading an army when he was arrested. His study of tactics had convinced him, that there was no other way to bring liberation to his people. I personally think he was right. The ANC's armed struggle was an essential part of the successful decades-long struggle against Apartheid. It may make western leaders (and bleeding heart liberals) wince, but the violence before the healing and forgiving, that violence is also part of Mandela's legacy. On his 90th birthday we owe it to him, to remember all of his life, not just an edited version (as if made up by Hollywood). - Another part of the full story, of course, is the continued economic injustice (and xenophobia) in South Africa. Mandela, in the process of healing the nation's psychological wounds in the 1990s, was unable to shift the economic power structures in South Africa. In the pursuit of personal freedom for all, economic justice for all was sacrificed, delayed or, even worse, injustice cemented into the new era. The struggle for a just and free South Africa, therefore, continues. I like to think that Mandela recognizes that today. I like to think, also, that it will not be another 90 years before that struggle, too, is won. Happy Bithday, Mandela. P.S. And thank you for being Honorary President of the United World Colleges - as well!

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