Nicholas Kristof in his poignant op'd entitled How to truly honor Mandela, talks about how all those who are rushing to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela have failed to "uphold Mandela's spirit".
Is it because people no longer feel morally obliged to do something meaningful for others? Is it because the cost of taking sides can end up being too high? Is it because committing to fight for something you believe in may be too costly? Or is it because there is comfort in compliance which is preventing us to open our minds and embrace diversity?
Mandela once said “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
I guess this is the Mandela spirit that Kristof is referring to.... and I guess this is precisely why visionary leaders of the calibre of Madiba are few and far between.
How many of our leaders practice Mandela's mantra of: "A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger" and how many are prepared to say: “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
Madiba taught us that the art of forgiving is the only way we can move forward and achieve our vision: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”
I do wonder whether he ever forgot.... But I guess at this point it really does not matter.
If you ever have had a real vision and not just a rehashed "safe and secure" idea, you know helping people see your vision is far from being an easy feat, as you will have the naysayers barking; the snipers ready to shoot; and the cautious running for cover to avoid getting hurt.
But when you get a handful or just the ONE person - because that is what it takes - just ONE person with a decent social capital and influence - to "see and share" your vision, then you are in business and can pursue realizing it.
Mandela was determined to realize his vision of uniting his nation. In doing so he tried to help people see his vision, or at least asked for their indulgence to give him the benefit of the doubt...... He then ended up having many partners in crime and with his iron determination, his wonderful smile and stamina managed to bring about the change he had always dreamt and advocated for.
He is one of the few people who stood for something all throughout his life. He never gave up his ideals and convictions to please anyone or to be politically correct. He criticized the people in power when they deserved it or when he was not convinced of their actions. He never forgot nor abandoned his friends and allies - even if this meant going against the tide.
Indeed he was a giant and even if he said: "I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying" do not be surprised if sometime soon he will be elevated to sainthood.
Madiba, may you rest in peace. Hopefully collectively we'll be able to honour your immense legacy.