Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Desmond Tutu on Nelson Mandela: " Politicians find it almost impossible to apologize. Only truly great persons apologize easily; they are not insecure"

By Michael J Morris
When I heard the news that Nelson Mandela had died at age 95, in 2013, my first thoughts were that he, more than any other in my lifetime at least, embodied love, compassion, forgiveness, truth and reconciliation.

I thought about Mr. Mandela today as I thought about our rapidly approaching federal election.
Here was a man who, according to Desmond Tutu, the Anglican church Bishop Emeritus of Capetown, South Africa, writing in the Washington Post, "set aside the bitterness of enduring 27 years in apartheid prisons – and the weight of centuries of colonial division, subjugation and repression – to personify the spirit and practice of ubuntu. He perfectly understood that people are dependent on other people in order for individuals and society to prosper."
Mr. Mandela in his own words said" "If people can learn to hate they can be taught to love for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
I went to Twitter for the breaking news on the death of the former president of South Africa, something perhaps I should not have done at the moment for Mr. Mandela, along with Archishop Tutu, Rev. Martin  Luther King Jr and Ghandi top the list of my heroes.
Among the condolences being offered were some from politicians at more than one level of government who are surrounded by scandal, deceit, coverups and lies, who in my view did not belong on the stage with Mr. Mandela.
As the date for the federal election nears in Canada, perhaps all Canadians, most especially our politicians reflect on those candidates worthy of being on the stage with Mr. Mandela today?
I immediately thought of the opening of  'The Hollow Men' by T.S. Eliot:
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar.

But, as so often happens, the next item on Twitter was a tribute to Mr. Mandela by Archbishop Tutu from the Washington  Post and put aside my feelings about some Canadian politicians -- at least for the moment.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The archbishop wrote:
"The truth is that the 27 years Madiba spent in the belly of the apartheid beast deepened his compassion and capacity to empathize with others. On top of the lessons about leadership and culture to which he was exposed growing up, and his developing a voice for young people in anti-apartheid politics, prison seemed to add an understanding of the human condition.
"Like a most precious diamond honed deep beneath the surface of the earth, the Madiba who emerged from prison in January 1990 was virtually flawless.
"Instead of calling for his pound of flesh, he proclaimed the message of forgiveness and reconciliation, inspiring others by his example to extraordinary acts of nobility of spirit."
I share some more of the archbishop's column.
And, he added that Mr. Mandela was also "sufficiently comfortable in his own skin, in his own ability to determine right from wrong, that he displayed few of the insecurities associated with many politicians. He was able to accept criticism – and even prepared to apologize when he felt he an apology was due."
"People warmed to him because they knew, they felt in their bones, that he cared genuinely. He was consumed by this passion to serve because he believed that a leader exists for the sake of the led, not for self-aggrandizement or self-promotion."
"Can you imagine what would have happened to us had Nelson Mandela emerged from prison in 1990 bristling with resentment at the gross miscarriage of justice that had occurred in the Rivonia trial? Can you imagine where South Africa would be today had he been consumed by a lust for revenge, to want to pay back for all the humiliations and all the agony that he and his people had suffered at the hands of their white oppressors?"
Let me return to our present crop of politicians for a moment and leave them and us, with one parting comment made by Archbishop Tutu who won the Nobel Peace Prize,  about Mr. Mandela. "Politicians find it almost impossible to apologize. Only truly great persons apologize easily; they are not insecure."
Nelson Mandela was one of those truly  great persons. May he rest in peace. What about our politicians?

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