A tribute to Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

On the TV news today, there was video footage of some 10 year olds in a British primary school being told by their headteacher that Mandela was probably “the greatest human being to have lived in your lifetime”. I think such a statement is something of ‘a hostage to fortune’ (especially when said to such young children). I was not even born when Nelson Mandela was sent to jail, and was still a teenager when his imprisonment became one of the most contentious issues on the planet. However, as if it was not already so, what Mandela achieved after his release from prison was extraordinary. One of my heroes of the time was (is) Desmond Tutu (then Archbishop of Capetown). His prayer today was profound – and very moving. Tutu was always inclined to close his eyes tightly while praying so, don’t allow that to detract from the beauty of his inspired words in this video: “thank you for what he [Mandela] has enabled us to know we can become…” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzTH81d5oM0 There will, without question, be an awful lot of poorly-chosen words and/or selective memory on display in coming days… For example: one BBC journalist has just described Mandela (on the TV news) as having been “an angry young man” when he was sent to jail (for what turned out to be 27 years). However, in point of fact, Mandela was then 45 years old. Therefore, as an antidote to all such stuff, I would recommend you read (what many politicians singing his praises today will not mention)… Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won’t Talk About P.S. Mandela probably is the greatest man to have lived in my lifetime!


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
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10 Responses to A tribute to Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

  1. Mandela probably is the greatest man to have lived in my lifetime!

    True, for me too.


  2. Bill Everett says:

    Mandela’s legacy for climate activists By Alex Lenferna On December 6, 2013 Introduction: As the life of one of the world’s great heroes draws to a close, many will hopefully use his passing not to speculate on the downfall of South Africa, nor to claim ownership of his legacy, but rather to reflect back on Nelson Mandela’s long and courageous life in order to draw inspiration from one of the world’s moral stalwarts who weathered the storms of oppression, racism, injustice and inequality and not only managed to come out of the other side a smiling, compassionate and forgiving leader, but in doing so navigated a path through those storms which has helped to inspire generations of leaders to come. As I attempt to do just that, please join me as a proud South African, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, a great admirer of Mandela’s life and work, and a climate activist and philosopher deeply inspired by Mandela, as I reflect back on and celebrate the life of my hero and the hero of so many others and draw on the lessons he has to offer us in an attempt to find inspiration to help build the climate movement. In doing so I hope to honour Tata Madiba’s memory the best way I know how, by building on it to create a better world. Of course, Mandela’s name is not one synonymous with climate change and so the aim of this article might seem strange. However, while climate change was not the issue that defined Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom”, a reflection on Mandela’s philosophy and life reveals a profound overlap with the principles and commitments of the climate justice movement, and therein lies many important lessons not only for the climate community but for humanity as a whole to learn from. Other Sections: Mandela’s Cosmopolitan Ubuntu: A Foundation for Climate Ethics Climate Justice & Ubuntu The Time for Armed Struggle? Befriending Your Enemies Celebrating Our Victories and Preparing for the Road Ahead See more at: http://adoptanegotiator.org/2013/12/06/mandelas-legacy-for-climate-activists/


  3. Fabulous post, Rick.


  4. “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life,” he said. “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.” Quite. I am pleased that S.Africa’s mourning has so far been a joyous celebration. He wasn’t a saint, he was a rather wooden speaker, and to me he always looked like a big grown up kid- I think it was those eyes and that smile. But the words he had to say, and the conviction he held behind them- that was the great leader. As well as the fact that he was a shrewd politician. Sadness and mourning should be for the Altman of real change in S.Africa concerning opportunity and the bloated ANC. By why single out S.Africa? We need leadership and conviction desperately now but all I see from leaders is more of the same old, same old. How many more decades to wait? I can be forgiving that after 40 years ‘2001’ space travel and hover cars have not materialised but 40 years on, 20 years on, there is still so much injustice and poverty and pollution.


    • Rick Altman says:

      Thanks for that very heart-felt contribution, Jules. I too look back on the last 20 years with some disappointment (about South Africa I mean).


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