Anton Joseph

Mandela’s legacy for the world’s oppressed

I think the life of Nelson Mandela justifies not just a response to Tom Goodfellow’s negative blog but also an appreciation of his achievements.

I start with Tom’s reference to media over kill as offensively excessive, lacking refinement or good taste (vulgar), ludicrous or incongruous distortion (grotesque). Sadly there is also reference to the grief stimulated by deaths of individuals not personally known to the mourner (vicarious grief), which is not to be sneered at. I am sure your readers would be aware that this is genuine grief.

The button switching on all the news channels is not terribly surprising, since the event that pressed the button was his death: when eulogies are most commonly released. Good stories are often told over and over again, not just in praise of the good and the great but also for the benefit of the listener who might benefit and be inspired.

As Tennyson said: “Lives of great men all remind us, We can make our lives sublime.”

Not all listeners have the luxury of being able to listen to broadcasts over and over again to the point of boredom. Those with limited time on their hands would benefit from repetition.

As for the objections to Radio 4’s Justin Webb comparing Mandela to Christ, described as the ‘lowest point’ in this saga, permit me to draw attention to Christ’s own expectation of his followers, “Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Without entering into theological discourse, Webb was not too close to heresy! Homilies too have in the past and will in the future be preached without God being mentioned. The needs of the least of our brethren, or reference to their role model, may be just as inspiring.

I am not sure whether we have the right to criticise Mandela’s medical management without knowing the precise circumstances for the management undertaken.

I welcome the assurances by the author, “I respect the memory of Nelson Mandela as much as anyone”. May we proceed full of that respect.

There are several achievements of Mandela that have been recorded and recalled. I cannot pretend to do justice to the great man through expressing my own appreciation. Permit me, however, to draw attention to Mandela’s attributes – particularly his legacy to the oppressed peoples of this world.

Oppression, however well reported (Jon Snow could not cover oppression in every part of the world), is difficult to appreciate unless personally experienced. Mandela showed the world how to condemn and combat oppression and even forgive those who had incarcerated him in prison for twenty seven years. In this he was admirably Christ like. There could not have been a more justified and greater compliment. Attributes that should be admired and emulated.

It may be debated whether the forgiveness he espoused is entirely appropriate. Does it absolve the oppressor and encourage greater wrong doing? Could it undermine the concept of justice? One thing is certain, the forgiveness that he practised would still have been painful. He must have been deeply hurt and pained by the torture and humiliation he was subjected to. To forgive therefore must have been a true virtue of a sincere man.

This pain is shared by oppressed people who are called upon to forgive. In his own words, “it always seems impossible till it is done”. It may perhaps be helpful to condemn the system but forgive the perpetrator. Indeed many may not even be fully aware of their evil ways.

In admiring the democratic credentials, and the saint like stature, let us not succumb to amnesia over his resorting to violence. Having started his campaign strongly endorsing passive resistance, he did not in the face of the growing apartheid policy shrink from adopting violence in the absence of any other choice, even undergoing military training to lead the resistance against apartheid.

In this too Mandela had a message for the oppressed. Espousing the same cause, he was a freedom fighter for some and a terrorist for others. Condemned as a terrorist by the United Kingdom and the United States, he was a freedom fighter for his own people. His sincerity and single mindedness brought him success, the terrorist turned peace maker received the Nobel Prize.

His attributes have been described by many world leaders and I do not feel I could do justice to the Nelson Mandela who has won the admiration of the world. To me the greatest Mandela legacy was bequeathed to the oppressed peoples of the world. A legacy that promotes equality and freedom.

Maybe it is time to bury Mandela and not to praise him.

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One Response to “Mandela’s legacy for the world’s oppressed”

  1. Tom Goodfellow says:


    I disagree with nothing concerning your comments about Mandela himself. Indeed I have on my coffee table a large pictoral account of his life.

    But I stand by my comments over the (in my view) excessive media coverage which I think ultimately detracted from a proper celebration of his accomplishments. I know that I am not alone in this – the Radio4 Feedback programme carried this as its first item because of the number of people who had contacted them.

    However there are more important things to disagree over than what the media get up to.

    Have a good Christmas

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