Saturday, December 20, 2008

Long Walk To Freedom

"Long Walk To Freedom" is the autobiography of Nelson Mandela.

He says "While I was stimulated by the Communist Manifesto, I was exhausted by Das Kapital. But I found myself strongly drawn to the idea of a classless society, which, to my mind, was similar to traditional African culture which was shared and communal."

Yet when he describes his childhood, it seems there were class distinctions in his, um, tribe. (Xhosa) Upon death, the Chief's son became the next Chief and children were groomed for adulthood according to their stature, or class.

He also says "I subscribed to Marx's basic dictum, which has the simplicity and generosity of the Golden Rule: 'From each according to his ability; to each according to his need'."

Sounds good on paper. But who gets to decide what other's needs are or what they are able to perform? I am sure that the rulers will always deem themselves to have needs superior to those they rule over. I like the idea of people working together for a common good.

The baby can does not have much ability. The grandmother can no longer toil in the fields, so she watches the baby, so the mother can do the labor. The mother, of course, will have more need of food to have strength to toil in the fields, than the smaller baby or grandmother who expends less energy. That is until the baby starts to crawl and walk. Maybe granny is too tired, bones aching from her years of laboring in the fields and thinks someone young and energetic should chase after the toddler. Who gets to decide how old the younger girls have to be before taking on childcare duties to ease Grandma's burden while Mama works?

Do men get to decide that the woman who birthed a child has the ability to get straight back to the fields? What if her ability is in fishing? What if a boy child has a natural ability to weave fabric, will he be forced to hunt instead? Basically I think any political ideology serves to divide people into two classes, the ruled and the rulers. That is true of the United States democracy as it is in any doctrine.

I have long admired persons like the Hopi's, "Native Americans", "Indians" or "First Americans". Their culture would be similar to how Mandela described his people. The shared and communal living applies to a lesser extent to U.S. immigrants and early settlers or those living in poverty, well into the 1900s. Each child on the farm or ranch gave according to their ability; they were "given" perhaps according to their needs. The eldest married with children was given a parcel of the parents land; the neighbors often helped with erecting shelter and providing household stuff to get the new couple started. In cities, the oldest sibling went to work to provide a college education for the younger siblings. Grandparents or elderly aunts helped with childcare. And so on.

Naturally homeless are mentioned in "Long Walk To Freedom". As Mandela matured and became involved with Africans, in general rather than his clan, he talks about Gandhi's efforts in India and the restrictions of Indians in Africa, made into law by Great Britain. Some of these laws seem even more severe than Jim Crow going on in Southern U.S.A. during that same time period.

Rev. Michael Scott was asked to "protest against the removal." The removal being a squatter camp outside of Johannesburg, the government wanted to relocate. Scott went to live with the squatters to be one of them. "Scott's shanytown for the homeless was built near a rocky knoll and the residents christened it Tobruk, after the battle in the North Africa campaign of the war." The man that asked for Scott's help, kicked him out of the camp, after Scott discovered the man, Komo, embezzling money that was contributed to help battle the government.

Mandela's house was too small to keep Scott and another priest, so Mandela spoke to the squatters, who then elected Scott to be their leader, ousting Komo.

"Nonviolent passive resistance is effective as long as your opposition adheres to the same rules as you do. But if peaceful protest is met with violence, its efficacy is at an end. For me, nonviolence was not a moral principle but a strategy; there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon." Or "At a certain point, one can only fight fire with fire."

Africa is a huge continent and it astounds me that Great Britain could take over the land, giving whites supremacy, dividing those who already lived there into inferior groups of African, Indian and Coloured. Most of this was implemented due to the Dutch Reformed Church; might liken them to the dastardly Christian Ku Klux Klaners, except there were many Christian groups that routinely committed genocide on natives of any land they choose to conquer.
"She was poor and apparently homeless, but she was young and not unattractive." "I was used to seeing blak beggars on the street, and it startled me to see a white one." Manella says he did not "normally give to African beggars" yet he "felt the urge to give this woman money." He talks about "the tricks that apartheid plays on one". "In South Africa, to be poor and black was normal, to be poor and white was a tragedy."

"It stands to reason that an immoral and unjust legal system would breed contempt for its laws and regulations."

On Boxing: "I was intrigued by how one moved one's body to protect oneself, how one used strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced oneself over a match."

"I was not going to let my involvement in the struggle and the scope of my political activities be determined by the enemy I was fighting against. To allow my activities to be circumscribed by my opponent was a from of defeat, and I resolved not to become my own jailer."

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