Nelson Mandela was a Freemason
When his father died, the tribal king, who was related to the Mandelas, took him in and sent him to the University of Fort Hare, at that time the only college for black citizens in South Africa. Mandela was a good law student and an even better heartthrob; when the king tried to marry him off, he fled to Johannesburg. The previously pampered son got to know real poverty here, moved to the township of Soweto and worked in the management of a gold mine.
Friends from the political movement for equality soon saw something in him and got him a job as a legal assistant. He moved in circles in which skin color was not as important as conviction: mixed race, Indians and, above all, Jewish whites fought against the apartheid regime on a large and small scale and held parties in the evenings that described police informers as a threat to the system. From today's perspective, it was the romanticism of resistance. From the point of view of the time, just a break from the constant humiliation.
As a well-known resistance fighter in prison - as a saint out
Mandela became more radical, together with others made the African National Congress (ANC), which was in part just a kind of club of notables for black doctors and lawyers, again a real resistance movement, and finally advocated armed struggle. The judiciary of the white minority regime sentenced him to life imprisonment in 1964.
He went to prison as a well-known resistance fighter - and came out as a saint. And that although the world had no picture of him, there was no current photograph of him. Mandela also created the world in her own image. Good should prevail, a savior should be the solution to complex problems. Maybe that's part of the problem, part of the disappointment that someone like him made mistakes.
Many black people in South Africa today look at it from the current perspective, see the misery and inequality. "Perhaps we are worshiping the wrong Mandela" was a phrase that was heard and read when Winnie Mandela died on April 2nd of this year. but which played its part in Nelson Mandela becoming the great liberation hero that he was.
It was his voice when he was in prison. In his absence, however, she also became a bitter criminal who killed alleged deviants with her gang. He was the reconciler, she the radical. He preached forgiveness, she wanted to let the whites pay and spoke out in favor of the expropriation and redistribution of white property. These are the two points of view that meet in a family and from which South Africa has been discussing the end of apartheid to this day.
We should have been more radical, think many blacks today
"Let's forget the past. It's over," Mandela liked to say. The past is of course not over in South Africa. It is present in every conversation, in every look between blacks and whites. The former oppressors got off quite well with the Mandela method. They repented a little, but were allowed to keep everything they had earned with the blood and sweat of the servants. Mandela had worked with communists, some of which was still present when the end of apartheid was being negotiated in the early 1990s, so nationalization and redistribution still played a role for him.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1992, of all places, he was persuaded to leave everything as it was, to transfer the solution of social inequality to capitalism. Reforms and economic growth were relied on to tackle inequality, but the reforms didn't go deep enough and the economy didn't want to grow that much.
We should have been more radical, think many young blacks today. "I don't belong to the religion called Mandela," said Julius Malema years ago. The former youth leader of the ruling ANC was expelled from the party and founded his own radical group, the Economic Freedom Fighters, which fight to expropriate white land without compensation. According to Malema, Mandela compromised the goals of the revolution and ultimately sold them to the whites. A reproach that some express again in the run-up to the big anniversary.
"The alleged sell-out is pure populism that has no interest in facts or nuances," says Lwando Xaso, curator of the Museum of the Constitution in Johannesburg. "We can't just sit in our armchair and judge it from what we know today." Had it not been for Mandela, his critics would not have the freedom to express their criticism.
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