With all the hype surrounding the ongoing 2010 South African World Cup, reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography seemed only appropriate. I began the 600 page novel on inauguration day and despite its length and heavy political themes, I found myself becoming increasingly engrossed with it as the days went by. Alas, the best things in life often haven an ending and it is with sadness and awe that I read the last page in the late hours of this afternoon.
Having just read and reviewed the Count of Monte Cristo, the themes of prison, justice and vengeance were fresh on my mind and I could not help but compare both protagonists: albeit a fictional character, Edmond Dantés and Nelson Mandela have much in common. Both are, in essence, good men whose beliefs or good deeds are rewarded with lengthy imprisonment. However, Mandela differs in that he emerges from prison with virtually no hatred for those who imprisoned him. Hence, the mass deification and formation of the “Nelson Mandela” idol.
Be not fooled, Nelson Mandela is no god; he is a flawed human, just like the rest of us. It is his circumstances and his surprising lack of hate for those responsible for his 27 years of denied liberty (his only hate was reserved for the unjust and cruel system which gave birth to such racism) which turned him into a symbol of hope for millions of South Africans.
In his own words, Mandela recalls incredible incidents of times so trying, you cannot help but wonder what compelled him and his fellow freedom fighters to keep up the fight for so long. Hope and undying faith in the righteousness of one’s cause have the power to propel ordinary men to new heights; as one of those men, Madiba teaches us a thing or two about how to face such situations with valor.
“ The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
All I can say is… What a life.