Mandela Coverage: The Banality of Goodness

FW de Klerk Nelson Mandela, right, in May 1990 in Cape Town. 'The Nobel peace prize was rightly shared between Mandela and De Klerk, a sharing ignored by almost all the obituaries. There were two good men in Cape Town in 1990.' Photograph: Denis Farrell/ASSOCIATED PRESS

FW de Klerk Nelson Mandela, right, in May 1990 in Cape Town. ‘The Nobel peace prize was rightly shared between Mandela and De Klerk, a sharing ignored by almost all the obituaries. There were two good men in Cape Town in 1990.’ Photograph: Denis Farrell/AP

 writes:  Enough is enough. The publicity for the death and funeral of Nelson Mandela has become absurd. Mandela was an African political leader with qualities that were apt at a crucial juncture in his nation’s affairs. That was all and that was enough. Yet his reputation has fallen among thieves and cynics. Hijacked by politicians and celebrities from Barack Obama to Naomi Campbell and Sepp Blatter, he has had to be deified so as to dust others with his glory. In the process he has become dehumanised. We hear much of the banality of evil. Sometimes we should note the banality of goodness.

Part of this is due to the media’s crude mechanics. Millions of dollars have been lavished on preparing for Mandela’s death. Staff have been deployed, hotels booked, huts rented in Transkei villages. Hospitals could have been built for what must have been spent. All media have gone mad. Last week I caught a BBC presenter, groaning with tedium, asking a guest to compare Mandela with Jesus. The corporation has reportedly received more than a thousand complaints about excessive coverage. Is it now preparing for a resurrection?

More serious is the obligation that the cult of the media-event should owe to history. There is no argument that in the 1980s Mandela was “a necessary icon” not just for South Africans but for the world in general. In what was wrongly presented as the last great act of imperial retreat, white men were caricatured as bad and black men good. The arrival of a gentlemanly black leader, even a former terrorist, well cast for beatification was a godsend.

Visiting and writing about South Africa in the last years of white rule in the 1980s, I was acutely aware that the great struggle was not so much between the white South Africans and Mandela’s ANC, whose leaders were in prison or exile, but within Afrikanerdom. This was no rebellion against a foreign power. It was a potential conflict between an impotent majority and a potent minority, in which the likelihood of the latter giving way to the former seemed minimal – and unnecessary in the short term.

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Funeral Spice

Relish the accidental comedy in a humorless world

pic_main_121313_SM_Funeral-Spice-Barack-Obama-RevMark Steyn writes:  ‘I don’t want to be emotional but this is one of the greatest moments of my life,” declared Nelson Mandela upon meeting the Spice Girls in 1997. So I like to think he would have appreciated the livelier aspects of his funeral observances. The Prince of Wales, who was also present on that occasion in Johannesburg, agreed with Mandela on the significance of their summit with the girls: “It is the second-greatest moment in my life,” he said. “The greatest was when I met them the first time.” His Royal Highness and at least two Spice Girls (reports are unclear) attended this week’s service in Soweto, and I’m sure it was at least the third-greatest moment in all of their lives. Don’t ask me where the other Spice Girls were. It is a melancholy reflection that the Spice Girls’ delegation was half the size of Canada’s, which flew in no fewer than four Canadian prime ministers, which is rather more Canadian prime ministers than one normally needs to make the party go with a swing.

But the star of the show was undoubtedly Thamsanqa Jantjie, the sign-language interpreter who stood alongside the world’s leaders and translated their eulogies for the deaf. Unfortunately, he translated them into total gibberish, reduced by the time of President Obama’s appearance to making random hand gestures, as who has not felt the urge to do during the great man’s speeches. Mr. Jantjie has now pleaded in mitigation that he was having a sudden hallucination because he is a violent schizophrenic. It has not been established whether he is, in fact, a violent schizophrenic, or, as with his claim to be a sign-language interpreter, merely purporting to be one. Asked how often he has been violent, he replied, somewhat cryptically, “A lot.”

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Gut Check: Lessons in Lockstep

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Greg Gutfeld writes: Last week, Nelson Mandela died. There were more than enough touching eulogies, and any attempt by me would be shoddy, with the depth of a contact lens. Better to sit back, shut up, and think about a lesson to learn from this great man’s life.

I remember in college avoiding the apartheid issue because it wasn’t part of the way I saw the world. As a staunch anti-communist, I could not abide by the African National Congress, who were backed by the USSR among other nondemocratic entities. I was on the right team, no doubt, as history has shown, but I was wrong on where my allegiances took me, regarding South Africa. I wasn’t supportive of the place. I just wasn’t crazy about any of the players.

My point: The danger of dedicating yourself to “the team” is an immunity to critical thinking. You avoid having to make tougher decisions, or listening, or admitting you might be wrong if you adhere completely to the ideology of the group you’re in.

Don’t get me wrong. The fight against communism was the fight worth having. But it prevented me from seeing that, despite the relationship between communism and Nelson Mandela, I should have been able to handle several thoughts and truths. Why can’t I renounce communism, want to win the Cold War, but accept the necessity of Mandela’s fight? I can enjoy both death metal and poppy electronica — so why can’t I be a cold warrior and a proponent of legitimate revolution? It’s a shallow comparison, but I am a shallow person.

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How Nelson Mandela Came to Embrace Free Markets

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Note: The original title of this article: “Why the ‘left-leaning’ Nelson Mandela was such a champion of free marketsis weirdly naive, dishonest, or intentionally tempered and softened to the point of being comical.  Left-leaning? By that measure, should we reframe Fidel Castro as a “left-leaning” communist revolutionary? Or describe Pat Buchanan, Peggy Noonan, or George Will as “right-leaning” columnists?  That minor quibble aside, Jake Bright‘s essay is a timely and welcome addition to the ongoing review of Mandela’s remarkable leadership and paradoxical legacy. 

Jake Bright writes:  One often overlooked aspect of Nelson Mandela’s legacy is South Africa’s economy. Parallel to everything amazing the man is connected to—freeing the country from the shackles of apartheid, subordinating retribution in favor of peace and reconciliation, and unifying a volatile nation at risk of civil war—he laid the groundwork for South Africa as the continent’s economic powerhouse.

There are a lot of directions Mandela could have taken the country in those early post-apartheid days. At each juncture, he seemed to make the right call. When it came to the country’s economic policy, he chose free markets. Today, South Africa is Africa’s most powerful economy—though Nigeria may overtake it any day—and  in 2010 was added to the elite BRIC grouping of fastest-growing economies (Brazil India China Russia, now known as BRICS to include South Africa). It has Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest stock market capitalization, most heavily traded currency, highest sovereign credit rating, and highest purchased government bonds. South Africa also maintains Africa’s most modern business infrastructure and attracts the greatest foreign direct investment and number of global companies.

That Mandela would embrace the open-market path that led to this is somewhat remarkable given the African National Congress’s (ANC) and his own Marxist-communist leanings. In 1990, he lauded Fidel Castro’s Cuba as “a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people.”

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[VIDEO] CNN: Cornel West Warns Against the ‘Santa Claus-ification’ of Nelson Mandela

By Friday evening, nearly every cable news commentator on the planet had gotten a chance to weigh in on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. But none of them had a take quite like that of Dr. Cornel West, who joined Jake Tapper on CNN to denounce what he sees as the “Santa Claus-ification” of the South African leader.

Asked if Mandela’s passing has caused the media to “cover up” how some people, especially those on the right in American politics, viewed him in the not-so-distant past, West answered affirmatively. “I think no doubt we are,” he said. Calling Mandela a “spiritual giant, moral titan and political revolutionary,” West described what we are now witnessing as a “Santa Claus-ification” of his legacy.

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Mandela’s Virtue

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He prevented a South African explosion. Will his successors do the same? 

Travis Kavulla writes: Dignity, humility, and courage. Those are the words, predictable as they are proper, that are being used to describe Nelson Mandela after his death on Thursday.

Few other people in the annals of the 20th century suffered such great personal indignities and yet turned the other cheek. Few others, too, managed such an explosive political moment so deftly.

Certainly no African leader is more deserving of a cult of personality (on a continent where this practice is widespread). Yet Mandela was one of those Gandhi-like figures who, if occasionally vain and tempestuous, was no self-indulgent demagogue.

In the 1980s and ’90s, as the chorus to end apartheid reached its high notes, a guerilla campaign was waged on all sides in South Africa — white segregationists versus blacks, a Zulu nationalist faction versus Mandela’s African National Congress, “coloreds” (a South African term for the Afrikaans-speaking, darker-skinned, but not black, population) on both sides. There was a very real chance that South Africa would become another Zimbabwe. The forecast was for civil war, followed by an inevitable victory by black nationalists, and then decades of score-settling through expropriation and clannish misrule.

That South Africa has avoided this outcome thus far is remarkable. The country’s internal social and economic inequality makes the United States look like a nation of levelers. (South Africa’s distribution of income is the most unequal of any country for which the World Bank compiles statistics.) Even today, it is not clear what fruits the end of apartheid has delivered to most black South Africans — except the basic dignities of the freedom of movement and the freedom of the ballot, which are not to be mocked, but which at the same time don’t fill empty bellies. Read the rest of this entry »


Oh No, Not Again: White House Marks Mandela’s Death with Another Obama Selfie, Barry Photo-Op in Mandela’s Cell

obama-mandela-me-me-twitter

On Thursday, in the aftermath of South African iconic leader Nelson Mandela’s death at age 95, President Obama’s White House account tweeted a tribute to Mandela – a picture of Obama in Mandela’s Robben Island prison cell, along with a quote from Obama about Mandela: Even in paying tribute to a historic figure, President Obama couldn’t help but make it about him.

Obama in Mandela’s Cell: History is just a pretty backdrop


Anti-Apartheid Revolutionary

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Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid revolutionary who became the first black South African president after 27 years in prison, died Thursday at the age of 95.

Mandela died in Johannesburg, current President Jacob Zuma announced there just before midnight on Friday.

“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves. And in him, we saw so much of ourselves,” Zuma said.

“He is now resting. He is now at peace,” Zuma continued. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”

Mandela has suffered from poor health for a year, with reports that he was near death circulating last Christmas.

But the African leader known worldwide as a symbol against oppression had repeatedly battled back from illness.

Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s president in May 1994. He served one term, and stepped down in 1999.

Mandela twice spoke to joint sessions of Congress, months after his release from prison in 1990 and four years later, after he had been elected president.

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