Thursday, 12 December 2013

Thoughts on Madiba.

It's been a week since Nelson Mandela died.

I heard the news while lying in bed reading my facebook newsfeed. I told Malcolm and we sort of looked at each other and then moved on. It's harsh but really, what were we meant to do? There was nothing to say, and we didn't go straight online to read about it, and quite frankly it didn't feel real or like it reached us here.

But the rest of the day, I got thinking about it, about what the death of Mandela meant to me. While his death didn't directly affect me, his life did. I think of my experience at school and at university, and how so many of my friendships wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for the political change. Furthermore, I am SO grateful that he chose to forgive when he could have been vengeful.

Then I got online and started reading peoples' reactions to it all. It seemed to range between making him out to be a God and that the country would fall apart without him and trying to highlight his imperfections.
I feel sad when people feel the need to drag people down, and I don't see why they do it. Of course he wasn't perfect - none of us are.

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Unfortunately, the focus seems to have drifted with the Mandela Memorial. Due to the bus strike, Malcolm stayed at home and, once we found a German site streaming it, we could watch it together. Until they started translating over it and we listened to Radio 2000's broadcast instead.

Initially, it seemed all ok... but slowly we started cringing.

1. The crowd behind the speakers were going nuts, and presidents were being interrupted so that the MC could reprimand the crowd. Surely somebody could have anticipated this being a problem? (Although apparently a sound system problem contributed to this.) Then there's Tutu's school master reprimand... I think he'll always be remembered for this... "I will not give you a blessing until all of you stand!" Even Ban Ki Moon looks amused.

2. I cringed for the guy running after Kirk Franklin with the umbrella, while Franklin seemed to want to run away from him.

3. When there was such a big deal made about Obama. Whose memorial is this? Yes, he's a great speaker, yes he took a selfie, yes, he shook Castro's hand. And at the bottom of each article it might just mention who Mandela was.

4. When people boo'd Zuma. Again, who is the memorial about? Also, remember who elected Zuma? We're celebrating the life of the man who contributed to bringing democracy to our country and yet the man who is being boo'd is the man democratically chosen by South Africans. Time and place for everything.

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5. When poor organisation was just so evident. Why so many long speeches when we all know that 1000s of people are not going to sit quietly for 4 hours? People were there to celebrate Mandela's life and it didn't seem like a celebration when they needed to sit silently and had little chance to participate.

6. When it turns out that the interpreter was a fake. Seriously?!? While I fully understand the seriousness of the situation, and I cannot understand how it happened. I'm quite impressed by the Mail and Guardian's collection of what jokes. If we can't laugh, we might cry.

So yes... let's say that the attention has not been where it should have been.



It makes me sad that the memorial has been in the news for so many reasons other than what it was about.

But, you know what? I don't think it makes even teeny tiny difference to the legacy that Mandela left behind. This was the nation's chance to honour him in the presence of international guests, and it kind of fell apart.

But, both Malcolm and I are still proud to wear our SA shirts any way.

12 comments:

  1. You're so right. Mandela's memorial service did not honor the man and celebrated his life the way it should have. I loved getting this perspective from a South African. :-)

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    1. Not at all. Fortunately there were smaller memorials all around the country which seemed a lot better, and the funeral service went really well, so I'm a little happier :) Pity the big international one was so shocking though!
      (but the amount of fake interpreter jokes cheers me up a little too!)

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  2. I love your perspective! I have been reading the articles recapping the memorial and didn't really know what to think. sometimes I feel like the media just make up drama (like selfies..who cares?!) to entertain themselves...

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    1. From articles I read it was like a circus. SO much that went wrong. The media definitely focuses on stuff for drama, and they entertain us all with it... just a pity that it was at such an important moment.

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  3. The reactions to Nelson Mandela's death really bothered me. A lot of British people (read: morons) wrote on Facebook admitting they didn't even know who he was. It was shameful.
    More to the point, I read it and moved on too. He was a great man but this was not an unexpected death, it was going to happen to some point. Idk, I just felt like the world acted so shocked about it when it was to be expected?

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    1. The fact that people don't know who he was isn't too surprising - I mean, if some people here are surprised I'm white and from South Africa they clearly don't know about Apartheid (kinda need white and black people to construct it!) and therefore wouldn't know about Mandela.
      His death was very expected (especially since news stations camped outside the hospital in July waiting for him to die), and I think the shock is sort of like "wow, it happened". We've all wondered what will happen the day he dies because we all knew it would be a big deal with the funerals and everything, but when it actually happened it was reality.
      But, for those of us not there, there really isn't anything to do. He left a great legacy which is worth reflecting on, but then we have to live our lives.

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  4. I just saw a few clips of the memorial service on the news. The fake interpreter--that was just really bizarre. But I am surprised when I come across people saying that they didn't know who he was. I suppose I do come from America, the country famous for being self-centered, but a basic knowledge of world history is helpful, I would think!

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    1. The whole fake interpreter thing was crazy, and just gets crazier. Really hard to figure out how it happened.
      I'm not too surprised that people didn't know him, especially since he's been out of the spotlight for years... although with the coverage of him in hospital earlier this year I would think they might have googled him earlier ;)

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  5. oh erica, another lovely post. i was thinking something similar today, not about mandela in particular, but about how hard we try to find faults with people that are praised for having done something good. can't we just let the good things shine and understand that they are human like everyone else? of course we have faults, but the fact that we rise above them makes every good deed worthy of attention in its own right.

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    1. Yeah there seems to be a tendancy that if people are saying something good, it gets juxtaposed with a list of their faults. We know that people aren't all perfect and are human, but accomplishments or good things can be celebrated regardless.

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  6. Hi Erica, Madiba is my modern hero. He touched my heart by what he had done to your country and to the world. One of my wishes was to meet him person. Alas, it's not going to happen anymore but I'm honored to live in history where such greatness existed.
    It's interesting to learn your insight as a South African about the issues that surrounded Mandela's deatt/memorial. As an outsider, i didn't pay much attention on the booing but agree that speeches could have been less. But what left a great impression for me was the great number of world leaders who paid their last respect in the memorial. I think it was a great testament to Mandela's legacy to the world. I don't think there's any figure in modern time who can duplicate such. You must truly be proud as a South Aftican.

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    1. He was a remarkable man! Sadly I think that many South Africans only got to see him in person when he was lying in state for 3 days.
      It was quite impressive to see how many world leaders were there - it actually surprised me too; I think I've always thought of him as a South African hero but didn't always know how far reaching his mark is.

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