Archive for Barack and Mandela

Happy Birthday Madiba!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , , , on July 18, 2012 by playthell

A Real Smoothie

 Now Let Us Praise a Great Man!

If presidentObama was looking for a role model he could not do better than NelsonMandela, the liberator of South Africa and the world’s greatest living statesman.  I would not be at all surprised to discover that Barack learned a trick or two from the great leader.  After all, our President is a first rate intellectual who is well read, and endlessly curious about the world.  Hence he could not have failed to notice that our country has a history much like that of South Africa.

They were both founded by colonists who were deposited in new world’s by Dutch charter companies.  It was the Dutch East India Company that deposited the Afrikaners on The South African Cape, and the Dutch West India Company that brought the settlers to New Amsterdam – lately New York.

Both groups of European settler colonialists subdued that indigenous populations of color, and in an orgy of land hunger seized their best land and ruthlessly murdered all who resisted.  And it was a Dutch East India ship that brought the first African labor to the English settlement of Jamestown, in Virginia; after they decimated the Native American population with guns and disease.

In both countries the white settler population established a racial caste system based on white supremacy.  Under these systems racial caste status was codified in law, verified in pseudo-scientific “scholarship” and rigorously enforced by the armed might of the state.  Both men emerged from humble circumstances behind the veil of color and rose to the highest elective office in the land.  And each left some disappointment in those supporters who believed that their ascension to the pinnacle of power would immediately end their suffering; answer their every grievance; and make them whole.

Beyond this the nature of their experiences diverges radically.  Nelson Mandela became the President of a country that is predominantly black and Barack became the President of a country that is predominantly white, yet in both countries the whites held privileged status in the pigmentocracy.  But Mandela had the harder row to hoe because the election of Barack Obama did not carry the threat of radically upsetting the power relations between racial groups in America, such as it did in South Africa.

While Barack Obama’s road to power went through a private school in the American paradise of Hawaii, elite Ivy league universities, Community organizing in a Major American city, the state legislature, a law professorship in an elite university, and the US Senate.  Nelson also became a lawyer and community organizer: But he spent almost three decades in prison on South Africa’s Robbin Island: A hell on earth.

That’s where Mandela was steeled in the fires of struggle and prepared to lead the nation to a peaceful end to white political domination.  Just as Mandela had shown unshakable courage as an ANC militant, he demonstrated the same resolve when dealing with the bomb throwers on his left, who wanted to start a race war that would have wrecked the country, killed hundreds of thousands of black people and hemorrhaged the nation’s blood and treasure!

Although much remains to be done in South Africa, and widespread racial conflict may yet come to that beautiful yet troubled land; the extension of political power to the black majority in South Africa remains one of the greatest political triumphs of oppressed peoples in the 20th century! A century consumed by peoples revolutions.  And the courtly courageous Nelson Mandela was its guiding light.

So enjoy this day to the fullest Modiba; you have done your nation great service…and they know it!!!!!  That’s why millions of school children will sing praises unto your name, and multitudes will smile and drink a libation of spirits in your honor all over the world.  The United Nations honors you by calling on people of goodwill everywhere to spend 67 minutes doing something to make the world a better place – one minute for each year of your public service.

This is my contribution.  Happy birthday Modiba!  No life in the last century has been better lived, and the world may never see your like again.  What Shakespeare said of the noble Moor Othello is profoundly true of you: “The elements so blended in him / that all the world could see…here was a man!”

 A Life Long Fighter

And he is still swinging at 94!!!

(Double click to see Mandla at White House as President of SA”)



 Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

Nelson Mandela Day, July 18, 2012