We’re Not Thatcher’s Children, we’re Mandela’s.

Long Walk to FreedomThere were two events in my 20s that helped me understand the scale of the age we live in. one was visiting the Berlin Wall. The other was reading Long Walk To Freedom.

All of a sudden, the scale of the importance of what was going on in my lifetime was brought home. It wasn’t just seeing it on the TV, it was reading about world changing events and people and REMEMBERING them happening. Seeing the broken wall, walking from West to East Berlin, and remembering watching it live, being taken apart.

And then reading about Mandela in prison, the protests, remembering our choice as a family to boycott companies that were investing in South Africa (I’ve still never even considered banking with Barclays). Reading the good and the bad – The Soweto riots in the late 70s, Special AKA’s Free Nelson Mandela, the killing of Stompie Moeketsi, the boycotts of SA goods, reports from Robben Island, the names of the main players in the SA political scene – Walter Sisulu, Chief Mathole Buthelezi, Tokyo Sexwale, Oliver Tambo, Eugène Terre’Blanche, FW De Klerk, PW Botha – the emerging sense that the race riots in the UK in the late 70s/early 80s were part of a MUCH bigger global inequality, the artist boycott of Sun City and the dickheads that went to play there, Thatcher’s pathetic attempt to paint Mandela and the ANC as terrorists while cosying up to Pinochet. It was MY history, my lifetime, my memories, written down by Mandela.

I hope the book sells a million more copies in the wake of his passing, I hope more people my age get a handle on what we lived through, and that, as I said yesterday, we’re not Thatcher’s children, we’re Mandela’s. We grew up knowing that the greatest man of our age was in prison for standing up for what’s right, that he represented the fight for equality, and that when he was released he sought peace and reconciliation, not revenge. He stood alone amongst world leaders as a person of immense integrity, even when he got it wrong (see Desmond Tutu’s exquisitely written obituary.). That’s our legacy. The inspiration to fight against oppression. That’s the spirit that opposes cuts, the spirit seen in the actions of Tariq Jahan during the riots here when his son was killed. It’s the spirit that defines the protest movement worldwide.

Ghandi, MLK, Mandela.

the struggle goes on, and those we fight against are today trying to claim Mandela as one of their own. Resist that at every turn. We don’t need to dig up stupid shit Cameron did while a student to reject his words now (Mandela invited his jailers to dinner), but we can see what the Tories are doing now as the kind of politics of inequality that Mandela stood against, as a protestor, activist, prisoner and politician. The struggle is ours, on behalf of those who can’t struggle.

Ubuntu – the spirit of life, the exaggerated humanity of someone living life to the full by pursuing life for everyone, a word I was introduced to not via the Linux operating system, but by another revolutionary South African leader, Bishop Desmond Tutu, who described Mandela as the living embodiment of it. Google it, read about it, own it as his legacy. Ubuntu

One Reply to “We’re Not Thatcher’s Children, we’re Mandela’s.”

  1. I agree with you absolutely with the rightness of Desmond Tutu’s obituary, but I struggle with much of the baggage that comes with the ANC.
    Just because the cause was just does not make wrong-doing right.

    I never got the point about a boycott of Barclays, nor SA fruit as it made no difference; hurt the wrong people and just cosied up to a different political class, with their own selfish motives.

    In 100 years Mandela will still be a great man, but I am not confident that his legacy will remain intact as it is likely to be undermined by the current political postholders.

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