Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Forgiveness: According to Nelson Mandela

I put Nelson Mandela up there amongst the gods, as a contemporary of Prometheus. “Civilization begins with a rebellion. Prometheus, one of the Titans, steals fire from the gods on mount Olympus and brings it as a gift to man, marking the birth of human culture. For this rebellion Zeus sentences him to be chained to Mount Caucasus where vultures consume his liver during the day and at night it grows back only to be again eaten away the next day. This is a tale of the agony of the creative individual, whose nightly rests only resuscitates him so that he can endure his agonies the next day. But note also that Prometheus is released from his sufferings only when an immortal renounces his immortality in Prometheus favor. This Chiron does. What a vivid affirmation of human life, one of the essential characteristics of which is that each one of us will some day die! It is saying: I willingly give up immortality to affirm humanity; I am willing to die in order to affirm human civilization.” Rollo May, Power and Innocence.

Mandela did steal ‘fire’ from the gods and gave it to the humans of the 20th century and as such he increased our level of consciousness in our dealings with one another regardless of the color of our skins and I know that race relations in the world since then has improved.

The history of South Africa has fascinated me since I was in secondary school and in the late 1970s there was a massive influx of black South African students into our schools, this was Nigeria’s way of helping the disenfranchised South African blacks. The five students that ended up in my school had left home, family and friends behind. At the time, I was still struggling with the feelings of abandonment from my parents who I felt had banished me to boarding school at the age of 12, but I still saw them about once a month, on vacations and holidays, I wondered how these students fared without seeing their parents for years and some of them swore never to return to apartheid South Africa.