Before I heard the news of Mandela’s passing, I was already feeling depressed. I was worried, but not about Mandela or this country. I was thinking about my priorities, family, bills that need to be paid and deadlines that need to be met. Then I heard the news. Mandela died. Minutes after President Zuma’s announcement, the news was all over the internet. What does this mean for me and my daily “first world” concerns? It doesn’t change them but, it does put things in perspective.
We often get lost within our own problems. We focus primarily on ourselves and our direct responsibilities. Poverty, the education system and other such matters are the government’s responsibility. We are obliged to pay taxes in order to fund these priorities. We participate by voting and we take advantage of free speech to voice our opinions. The problem is the never-ending cycle of shifting social and moral responsibility which characterises our generation. It appears that everybody is in it for themselves. The same can be said for our administration judging by the cars that MPs drive and the properties they own in comparison to the active role they play in enhancing our society.
Our individual problems are not as big as they appear but only as big as we make them in our minds. Your problems are not going to disappear if you shift your focus to the challenges of our country but, we need to realise that our individual concerns are minute compared to the issues we face collectively. If we perceive our issues as minor, it becomes easier to tackle them and we realise that we can take on greater challenges. Unfortunately, we have become a culture of the self rather than the community. We focus on the small problems which appear huge to us and fail to see the large errors in society which affect us all. This will only change through education and acting on what we learn. Only then will we see that our individual problems are not that big and we create many of them for ourselves. Poverty, child labour, human trafficking, ignorance, prejudice, racism, inequality and environmental deterioration, among others, are real, measurable concerns. They are statistics which are easily neglected. These are the real problems we need to face together.
Mandela sacrificed his life for an ideal. His freedom, reputation, family and physical self were placed at risk for the benefit of the whole. These hardships were endured with the end in mind. The task was not handed down to somebody else but accepted. Madiba is our icon as a result of his recognition of the bigger picture and fight towards political freedom and equal rights.
If a man could endure all that which he did and overcome it, why can’t we overcome our life’s obstacles? A man. That is all he was. That is what every icon tries to tell us. They are only human. They have just tapped into a greater potential and purpose than most of us. Mandela has taught us what the human spirit is capable of.
Mandela’s vision was not singular. It encompassed our entire nation. The long walk is far from over. It is up to us to realise that vision and if that day comes, the next vision. We cannot rely on politicians. The change begins within us.
My problems don’t appear so large anymore. In death, Mandela has reminded me of this. His purpose was realised through his service. If we want to see a change, we must make a change. We cannot do this by simply conforming and living within the system. Each person’s challenges are unique but it is up to us to face them in order to free ourselves so that we can actively contribute to society.
Thank you for the reminder, Madiba. Rest in peace.
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”
Icon (A poem about Madiba)
For a nation
To prove to us all
That we have
The words we quote
The history we study
The past we relive
And the theories we implement
In an attempt to alter our future
Just a man
A mere man
Like any other man
Fuelled by vision
But the legacy lives on
A luta continua.
Our long walk continues...