Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nelson Mandela - Last Of A Rare Kind

With the demise of Nelson Mandela the world we know has lost the last of its truly great leaders. As with so many of his peers or the other greats of his times, Mandela was the product of circumstances, discrimination and rose against all odds and achieved the impossible. His life inspired all the marginalised, the oppressed, and the disadvantaged and if anything, all those who feel that way, must continue to take inspiration and walk the path he did. As he said famously - if you have to judge me, judge me by the number of times I got up after I fell down.

What made leaders like him what they were is perhaps exemplified in the colors of the India national flag - saffron symbolising sacrifice, white symbolising nobility (and green which I think is the result of the above two, symbolising prosperity). Greatness is always measured in the amount of sacrifice one makes for a cause, for others, at risk to oneself. This concern for others, irrespective of who they are, is what brings shows the noble part in them. When one burns ones soul in the fire of sacrifice, noble emotions come by naturally through the sheer experience of having undergone it.

It is this sacrifice, this nobility that marked these leaders, the leaders of the world, half a decade ago. Now we are ruled by pygmies who neither understand sacrifice nor nobility, who solely exist to survive and plunder. They accumulate, they hoard, bargain and negotiate and pimp for power, for wealth. How can one expect the amount of forgiveness, love, kindness, lack of resentment, courage an conviction as shown by leaders gone by, the ones whose soul coursed through Nelson Mandela himself, from these current leaders. None of today's leaders has yet shown glimpses of greatness, of vision, of conviction, of humility that Madiba lived his life through. There is no sacrifice, no noble intention, no thought for the common people whom they represent - only a rapacious, predator-like, dishonest, shameless intent to cling on somehow. But it is not about them.

What do we do? We can pay our tribute to Mandela and his ilk by changing our lives in the context we live in. We can adopt some of those ideals (shown in some of his quotes below) and transfer them to those in our sphere of influence. And when the time comes, we can stand up and display the same courage, integrity and love.

To suffer racial discrimination of the worst kind, to yearn for freedom of living freely in their native land, to face atrocities because one dared ask for those rights and to endure 27 years of incarceration of one's prime life is enough to turn people into resentful wrecks. But Mandela chose to integrate, to trust and believe, to love and share the lessons of love. The complete lack of resentment is what makes him join the greats gone by. It saddens, even frightens, to think that leaders of such high calibre people do not exist on this world anymore. One can only hope that some of the current lot rise above, draw inspiration from the likes of Mandela and choose the noble path.

I read somewhere how Mandela wished to be remembered - as a man who has performed his duties well And that he did. Few of us can claim that  - but we can aspire to.

Some quotes that exemplify his life, his spirit. Quotes that can be guiding principles for all of us.

1) "Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end."

2) "It always seems impossible until it's done."

3) "If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man."

4) "I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles."

5) "Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people."

6) "A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of."

7) "Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do."

8) "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

9) "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

10) "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

11) "Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."

12) "Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."

13) "I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days."

14) "A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination."

15) "It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when celebrating victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership"

16) "Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished."

17) “It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.” 

18) “When people are determined they can overcome anything.”

19) “Social equality is the only basis of human happiness.” 

20) "Great anger and violence can never build a nation. We are striving to proceed in a manner and towards a result, which will ensure that all our people, both black and white, emerge as victors.”

21) “We are fighting for a society where people will cease thinking in terms of colour.”

22)  “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.”

23) "I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended."

24) "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

25) "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."

No comments: