Nelson Mandela would have been 96 this week. It's the first birthday since his passing -- celebrations replaced with mourning and reflection. With the passing of Mandela, humanity lost a quiet voice of reason -- one we still sorely need in an increasingly polarized world. In honour of Mandela's birthday, here are some of our own fondest memories of "Madiba."
In South Africa violence is present and disregarded across the country. The victims of this violence are black, coloured, Indian, and white, women and men, rich and poor, famous and unknown. While the stories of Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp deserve attention, there are other poignant personal histories across this spectrum of experience that are ignored, and have been ignored for decades. Surely such stories deserve real attention as well. Not a matter-of-fact reporting of time, place, and cause of death, but real attention; in narratives as penetrating and rich as is necessitated by the lives they represent.
Both the adults and the kids cry often but data collectors must not confuse their role with the families' service providers. It must be noted that the study has gone through several layers of ethical review and nevertheless, the stories trouble those who hear them. In some cases, children feel safe enough to make horrific disclosures for the first time.
There is no discussion of the fact that part of the reason Mandela was sent to prison was because he was responsible for bombing a power plant. Though we seem to like to imagine that Mandela brought change to South Africa with nothing but wise words and a kind, grandfatherly smile, the truth is very different. Mandela fought for his freedom, tooth and nail.
The South African Reconciliation Barometer, a survey of racial and social attitudes, consistently finds a deeply divided nation. Less than 40 per cent of South Africans socialize with people of another race, while only 22 per cent of white South Africans and a fifth of black South Africans live in racially integrated neighbourhoods.
If there were such a thing as a rock star politician, the man known affectionately around the globe as "Madiba" is one. Today's youngest generation did not witness his historic struggle, release or election. Yet they know his extraordinary messages of equality, hope and forgiveness. And they are ready to receive his torch.
Mandela was a towering figure of our time, a key person in the struggles for human rights and social justice. The 20th century was a century that saw some of the worse violence in human history, two world wars, brutal dictatorships, colonization of developing countries by imperial powers, and threat of nuclear war.
Her name's Melissa Bachman. She kills wild animals on American TV for a living. Sometimes with a rifle, sometimes with bow and arrow. Then she killed a full-maned male lion, and posted a picture of herself, cradling her rifle, laughing triumphantly, while the once-magnificent lion sprawled dead at her feet. And all hell broke loose.
How the mighty are falling. Resilience was a word used liberally to boast of the BRICS countries' staying power in the post-crisis period. Many even ascribed global-growth-engine status to these rising powerhouses. But 2013 has been a second tough year for the August group, even as OECD nations are steadily returning to growth.
Many people outside South Africa think Nelson Mandela is an exception; an aberration. Mandela is not like other black people, they say. This misconception lies at the heart of the paranoia among right-wing South Africans, recently repeated in some foreign media, that when Mandela dies, black people will drop the pretense of the last 20 years and start murdering whites.
It is winter in South Africa and inside Pretoria's Mediclinic Heart Hospital the old lion lies dying. Most of all, though, people are waiting for the word. After the tears that will follow Madiba's death, South Africans will still go about their daily business. And they will surely laugh because that's all they know, and that's how they've always endured.