Some people are better than others at dealing with villains.
I would have loved to ask Nelson Mandela a few questions about it. The main villains in his story (although I am sure there were more that I don’t know about) were ignorance, fear, greed and hate, along with their minions, poverty and prejudice.
He was not always the peaceful, grey-haired man that we think of today. Sometimes I wonder if his successful challenge to apartheid had come about as a result of violence, would we still revere him as much as we do? Do we revere him because he brought down one of the evils in the world, or do we revere him because, in the end, he did it peacefully? I am not questioning his integrity by wondering; I am questioning ours (he was labeled a terrorist by the US until not too long ago).
And besides the huge scale of his political achievement– the tremendous benefit he brought to humankind when South Africa’s apartheid collapsed– there is also his more personal triumph: overcoming the bitterness that one would rightly expect him to feel toward the actual faces of the villains he battled, the individuals who actively or passively sought to enslave and imprison him. Mandela’s ability to do this is–was–extraordinary. Surprising, inspiring, humbling.
One of the most remarkable aspects of his life– one that is to me a sign of hope for the world– is that he died an old man, an old, old man. The last bunch of guys who attempted a revolution based on love were assassinated: King, Gandhi, Jesus.
My thoughts about Mandela are somewhat random and wandering, but my friend Lucy Smoker is more coherent. Click here to read her blogpost.