Batuhan: Goodbye, Mr. Mandela-A A +A
Saturday, December 14, 2013
OUT of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”
These immortal words come from the pen of English poet William Ernest Henley. The title “Invictus” is Latin for “unconquered,” and which is why perhaps it best characterizes the life of the man who loved this poem so dearly.
Nelson Mandela, whose passing on Dec. 5 was mourned by practically the whole world, was a man of unparalleled significance in today’s world.
His name ranks among those of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II, in terms of their profound impact on the lives of the world’s people.
The South Africa he grew up in was an anachronistic throwback to the days of Uncle Tom and Huckleberry Finn, when men were judged by the color of their skin, and not the goodness of their hearts. It was a land where people of color were considered inferior to the whites, even if those people were the ones who inhabited the place long before the parents of the white settlers arrived. It was a land akin to what Martin Luther King had lamented 20 years before, only 20 times worse, and a good 20 years after. If hell was real, then it was in South Africa, and it was happening to the colored people there.
When Nelson Mandela entered the anti-apartheid cause, he did so out of anger for the situation, and at his plight. He was, after all, a promising young lawyer who should have had a bright future, if only for the pigmentation of his skin.
Yet, when Mandela came out of prison, he had become like Gandhi. He had lost all the anger, all the spite, and all the darkness in his soul; and in their place blossomed compassion, understanding and love for all of the people of South Africa, whether they be black, white or coloured.
Perhaps one of his most enduring legacies is his support of the Springboks, South Africa’s rugby team, in their quest for the World Cup in 1995.
From being a white-supported team, the object of hate and the very symbol of apartheid to non-white South Africans, Mandela had the whole country cheering the Springboks to victory, and successfully made them the poster boys of the rainbow nation he was trying to make South Africa become.
Once in a while, we have figures like Mandela emerge from among the misery and torment of their time. Great men who became famous not so much for their wealth, power, or their individual feats of glory; but rather simple men who inspire us to see beyond ourselves, and seek first the good of our fellowmen before our own.
These are the men who make the words of the prophet Isaiah ring true, when he prophesied:
“They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.”
Goodbye Mr. Mandela. This world is so much better now, because of you.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 14, 2013.