Every child knows of Nelson Mandela. Here in South Africa, especially in Cape Town, the name Mandela is seen everywhere. Yes, there is a Mandela Square, Mandela Street, Plaza, Park, etc. etc. Mandela’s picture is seen on book covers, buildings,
magazines, souvenirs and T-shirts.
Mandela is everywhere, on everything. I understand the need for people to
express themselves with the happy feelings his name invokes, yet I cannot help thinking
that too much of a good thing is detrimental to the cause.
|Statue of Mandela when he was 90 yrs. old|
Mr. Mandela sure did not have a great life. He is the symbol and the idol of the down trodden. He is the man who fought the system and ultimately won; the man who would not give up his belief that all men are created equal. Mr. Mandela was also the man, among and along with many of his peers, who was punished by the prevailing government at the time and jailed for decades for his point of view. He spent 27 years in jail because the old South Africa would not, could not, or did not, want to see the new light Mr. Mandela and his friends tried to show them and show the world. The light that clearly shone with the brightest rays told the whole world that Africa is not a dark continent. The radiance of those rays showed that all the people of the world are one color, like light is not just white but has many spectrums. Mr. Mandela is (was) the embodiment of this idea. Now he is shown to all as the man who overcame all that was forced upon him.
|Entrance to the Prison Grounds|
Mr. Mandela ( prisoner # 466/64 at Robben Island ) spent 18 years of his life sentence at Robben Island, part of this time in hard labor splitting rocks with small hand tools in a quarry at 40 + degrees Celsius in summer and freezing cold temperatures in winter. The bright light reflecting off the almost white limestone created eye problems for many prisoners. Mandela had many eye surgeries in his life. In the end he had no way to shed tears. Mr. Mandela, when sad,
could not cry. He slept not in a bed inside
his isolated cell, but on thin, old, rag blankets on a straw mat on the concrete
floor. Imagine how cold this would be in below freezing temperatures when there
was no glass in the windows and no heating. He was deprived of food, not
allowed to talk to inmates, censored for his writings and regarded as a man who
committed treason and incitement to revolt. His life sentence was given to him because
he spoke up publicly against the policies of the
government. He condemned
Apartheid and did in no way agree with the point of view of the then all white
Government. He was a thorn in their eyes. He was a trouble maker. He was
removed from the public and stuffed in a jail. Along with many other men who
thought likewise. But even in jail he wrote letters and articles that were smuggled
out somehow and published in newspapers and magazines. Mr. Mandela was known
even while in jail. He was a prolific writer and held to his belief that
treating people of different colors differently is wrong. He paid a dear price
for his point of view. He suffered, he became ill, and he was deprived. Basic
human needs were unmet. Things like respect, family and love were also denied
over and over.
|The Rock Quarry|
|No Glass Windows When Mandela was There|
|Taken During Mandela's Time|
What struck me as ironic was a series of pictures shown at an exhibition where the Queen, Elisabeth II, met with Mr. Mandela for a photo opt after the end of Apartheid. Watching their faces in the pictures told me a quiet story of dealing with the hateful past and adjusting to the new reality. One outstanding character trait of Mr. Mandela was that he truly could and did forgive his jailers. His beliefs were that the past should be forgotten and he forgave all of them, even the people who physically tortured him so that the country could move forward into a new era.
South Africa today is free. South Africa is a mix of people from Earth, people of any color, dark or light or any shade in between. All are considered equal. Although the South Africans now have personal and religious freedom, they do not yet enjoy economic freedom. There is still a great disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots”. Hopefully, with the help of the rest of the world, the new light can shine into the hearts of the rest of humankind. Free schooling should be offered to all, especially for the destitute would be a good start. The future of any country is inherited by the young. Let the young people be the ones who carry the torch for all to see throughout all of Africa and the whole of this planet.
Robben Island today is a museum. Mr. Mandela’s cell is a monument to freedom. His way of life in jail is a deterrent for governments of the world to consider. North Korea should take a close look at Robben Island. Many Asian countries need to start to believe that we are all one people, people of this Earth no matter the color, the culture, religion or heritage.