A memorial service unlike any other has been held today. Nelson Mandela passed away last Thursday and today many of the rulers of the world, quite a few celebrities and, of course, the people gathered to pay their respects in South Africa.
Speeches were made, politicians received applause and boos. The people sang.
This day has been a long time coming. Mandela has been battling health problems for months, spending much time in hospital. He was 95 years old. Not an age when Death is an unexpected visitor.
I don’t want to talk about the man or the politician. His legacy is what matters now.
Will it be lived, or will it be shelved? Many have called Nelson Mandela the “last” of this, that and whatnot. The last great liberator. The last great… you name it.
Why does he have to be the last one? Is there no more work to be done? Is South Africa a Garden Eden now? Just to begin with the man’s own country. Inequality, poverty, corruptness all prevail, do they not? And not just there. Most of Africa has the same problems and then we leave that dark continent and move across the world to find inequality almost everywhere, some form of it anyway. Even the richest countries in the world have poor citizens. A measure of corruptness prevails on all continents, safe for Antarctica maybe.
Am I being cynical?
I don’t think so, because it’s the simple, horrible truth.
The world, not just South Africa, or Africa, has lost one of its greatest. And he will be remembered, his life celebrated. But for how many people will he be a beacon to orientate their life to? Erecting statues in bronze will not pay homage, let alone respect, to the man. Only action can.
And it’s not just him. It’s everybody, whom we like to quote. It doesn’t matter if they lived in the 18th, 19th or 20th century. There are a gazillion websites for everybody’s perusal full of quotes by famous men and women, politicians or political. Everybody is calling for a better world, few are taking the step to action.
Most of us are terribly lethargic, apathetic, disillusioned and without faith in our own abilities to start an avalanche. Or kick one domino stone and watch the others fall.
I’m not saying it’s easy to change the world. Far from it. But in order to hope to change it, one has to start somewhere. And whilst kindness and acceptance of one another are a mandatory beginning of the process, they can’t be the end.
We can never stop wanting to change the world for the better, respecting the leaders of change that went before us and hoping to contribute at least a little bit. Wouldn’t that be what they would have wanted?
Do we truly believe that Nelson Mandela would have cared if Bono or Oprah attended his memorial? But instead maybe that a hundred politicians from around the world had amiable talks at his memorial, bilateral or otherwise, hopefully productive beginnings that will, hopefully, lead to productive action, something good?
Would he want to be the last great liberator, the last great you-name-it? Wouldn’t he rather that people followed in his footsteps?
I don’t know what my part in all this will be, but it won’t be silence and I will do more than just remember and collect a wall full of quotes by great people, who came before me. I’d rather add my own to that wall, though not because I was one of the great ones, but because what I said will have mattered.
And if you must know, I don’t happen to have these thoughts just because Mandela finished his long walk. I have them all the time. I don’t just think about writing. I’ve been known to write about my thoughts as well.