Saturday, December 7, 2013

On the Passing of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013 (Creative Commons)

Of course he was a towering figure, a complex man, and a public hero. But the hagiography of Nelson Mandela is somewhat disturbing, not unlike the media outpouring following the death of Ronald Reagan -- or even recently the death of actor Paul Walker.

Wait, wait, I keep saying, this is celebrity myth making in overdrive. Is this really honoring the dead, or is it make-believe about the dead?

It was hardly a shock when news of Mandela's passing reached these shores. He'd taken ill quite some time back, and his recovery never seemed likely. His family and many of his admirers had long since accepted the fact that he was old and subject to the limitations of the old and frail, and in the end, his passing would be a blessing on him. Those who have dealt with end of life issues for loved ones know that the period is an emotional roller coaster. Staying centered is sometimes difficult. On the other hand, for many of those whose life is ebbing away, the end can be a welcome respite from the struggle to hang on.

What I've noticed about so much of the hagiography of Nelson Mandela is a nearly complete neglect of the story of the end of his life, and an obsessive focus on his "peacemaking" with his white tormentors.

Practically every picture I've seen of Mandela during the period since his death has shown him hobnobbing with some white politician or pooh-bah; on occasion, there will be other black faces among those with Mandela, but for the most part, it's just him and some white person.

There's nothing wrong with this on the surface, but it's a very incomplete picture. Worse, it's propaganda for an agenda, one that "unites the races" on behalf of... the oligarchy/kleptocracy that rules us with rod and staff. Let's not fool ourselves. Just as the stories and legacies of Gandhi and King have been expropriated by and for the ruling class, so now will Mandela's be.

This is perhaps a necessary thing, for if the masses were to understand the depth of feeling and the revolutionary nature of Mandela's efforts in South Africa, the rising of the oppressed and exploited majority around the world would be nearly impossible to suppress. By transforming Mandela into the Elder Peacemaker Between the Races -- and ignoring all the rest of his life and legacy -- and by making myth around that single aspect, the  Overclass seeks to maintain control of the restive rabble who otherwise might take courage...

I don't know whether it will work this time, though. Mandela was, it seems to me, both wiser and subtler than most of those who seek to maintain power over us now.

His spirit may yet have some surprises in store for us all...

Rest in Peace, Old Man, you did more than most mortals.

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