It’s pretty late where I am right now – almost 0100hrs – so I’m not going to post too much here.
Many readers will be aware by now that former South African President Nelson Mandela passed away earlier today.
Mandela was 95, and had suffered from ill-health for some time, thought to be particularly influenced by lung damage he suffered while imprisoned under Apartheid.
While his death is not exactly unexpected, having been hospitalised for most of this year, with reports indicating he was somewhere between a coma and a vegetative state, it is no less powerful an event for many.
Individuals like Mandela have attained a near-mythic status – they have transcended their all too human reality to become an icon and an inspiration for whole peoples and generations.
In our secular age, Mandela has joined the ranks of our modern Saints, right up next to other now mythic figures like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Che – and he achieved this status long before his death today.
While there is a lot about Mandela’s presidency and the post-Apartheid ANC Governments in general that can – and should – be subject to criticism, such criticism takes nothing away from the very real achievement of overcoming Apartheid and ushering in the rainbow nation of modern South Africa.
Mandela and the overcoming of Apartheid in many ways marked the end of the first liberation struggle of the 20th Century, overcoming formal imperialism and overt racism.
There are still examples of overt racism and formal colonialism today in the 21st Century (just think of Bermuda, for example, which remains a colony), but nothing on the scale that the first liberation struggle confronted last century.
There are many ways by which our people, and others throughout the world, will seek to express their grief over Mandela’s death, or seek to honour his life.
Locally I expect the media to be full of statements and comments from everyone, but particularly from the OBA and the PLP, with both parties seeking to claim the legacy of Mandela for themselves. This will be played out both globally and in pretty much every country in the world I reckon.
Personally, I feel the best way to honour Mandela – the myth if not the man – is to renew the commitment to building a better world and launching a second liberation struggle.
This next liberation struggle is as relevant to Bermuda, the Caribbean and everywhere as it is in South Africa.
This second liberation struggle must overcome the covert and structural racism which still haunts our lands and even at a global level; it must also be a struggle against the colonialism of the mind, of colonial mentalities.
Even more, this second liberation struggle must be against a socio-economic system – capitalism – that not only exploits and maintains existing inequalities, but actively exacerbates them while creating new inequalities, that threatens to consign whole generations and populations to the dust-heap, that thrives on war and that poisons our very planet, all in the pursuit of profit and not in the pursuit of realising our human potential.
The next liberation struggle is the struggle to build a better world for all.
I can’t think of a better way to honour the life of an icon like Mandela.
So, yes, mourn today – but tomorrow, the struggle continues.