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Aysha Taryam: Mandela’s boat in Machiavelli’s ocean
July 21, 2013
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The world suffers not wars, famine or injustice but the lack of courage and the sudden death of moral responsibility. We live in a self-involved world governed by greed and guarded by hypocrisy. A crumbling world destroyed by the very reason it was created. It is a world where mirages of courage are glimpsed every so often but alas they are nothing but the trick of a mind longing to quench its thirst. Yet among all the falsities at times we find truth. We hear it in one’s words and witness these words come to life through one’s actions. This is a rarity, an anomaly if you wish, which makes the Mother Teresas, the Gandhis, the Martin Luther Kings and the Mandelas of the world names we will not soon forget.

The world has lost many of those lone warriors and as I write these words I fear for one of the remaining few as he battles for his life. Nelson Mandela is a man who at a time when the world forced him to remain silent shouted at the top of his lungs, a man who fought oppression and won, a man who for the sake of freedom lived most of his life a prisoner. At 95 years of age many argue that there is not much left he can offer, but it is not what he has yet to give that is at stake, it is what he stands for.

Today’s world cannot stand to lose the likes of Mandela for without them the future seems even grimmer. A few remain who can inspire us with absolute determination and endless devotion to their beliefs, and even fewer remain who will not falter at the pangs of pain or succumb to the lure of money. For no matter where your faith lies today’s world will find it and either beat it out of you, or buy it from you, it is as easy as that.

Mandela lived on his land but adhered to a foreign man’s law, he grew up witnessing the marginalisation of his people and the abduction of what was rightfully theirs. On Mandela’s land the white man differentiated, segregated and oppressed on the basis of colour alone. Mandela believed that no man should be silent in the face of injustice yet also understood the grave consequences of such a belief. Undeterred by doubt and propelled by the hope of freedom he took on a journey that no ordinary man can undertake, he walked through the thorny path of freedom and came out the other side bloodied, bruised but free.

The blood will wash away, the bruises will eventually fade yet the only thing that shall remain is a legacy of a man who unburdened his people, helped them take back their dignity when little was left of it and set them free.

Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1999, seems unfathomable for an African nation to get its first black president only 14 years ago but such is injustice, the greater its irrationality the stronger it becomes.

In 2001 Mandela visited Dar Al Khaleej Printing & Publishing in Sharjah and there he recalled his first visit to the United Arab Emirates in 1995. He explained his reluctance to visit a region of which he heard had no freedom, yet after visiting the UAE he told the attendees: “I found the complete opposite, I found a country that treats its people with greater respect than many ‘democratic’ nations in the West.” He pointed out that the great number of women in the audience shows just how progressive the UAE truly is. 

In a world devastated by wars and bled dry by greed people are lost in a sea of Machiavellian grey where only the end matters and nothing else. This dreary fact makes it all the more sad to see the Mandelas of the world perish with little hope of others of their kind surfacing from these murky grey waters. In his quest for his people’s freedom Mandela discovered his hunger for the freedom of all people, he believed that even his oppressor was not free for he too is shackled by the chains of prejudice and bigotry. He sought to free his people and in the process also unshackle his oppressor. The world only hopes that more people would seek justice knowing that it can never be achieved by allowing hate to cloud one’s vision.

I leave you with Mandela’s words that have never left me:

“I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.”

We wish you well Madiba, may you continue to inspire and enlighten forever.
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