Friday, December 27, 2013


Mandela is an icon for humanity


This 3-Disc collection is extremely important to understand today what Mandela came to represent in our world. We can only understand it if we look at the fifty years of his life that led him from simple activism to the presidency of this own country. The three discs give three approaches to the question.

The first disc is also the most recent and it considers Mandela in his whole personal and political history and South Africa in its present state. What is the legacy and heritage South Africa will keep and benefit from coming from Mandela? It shows very well the icon he has become for South Africa, for Africa and for the world. This is a change in the whole world that no one can ignore. The lasting icon of change from servitude to freedom and democracy, from all types of centralized authoritative systems to direct and systematic democracy, and two events represent the turning point in our world on this question, the liberation of Mandela and his election to the presidency of his country on one hand and the fall of the Berlin wall and the implosion of the Soviet system on the other hand.

After these two events the world will never be again what it used to be. The fundamentalist Islamist movement essentially represented by Al Qaeda first and George W. Bush second have tried all they could, and for some are still trying, to bring the world back to what it actually never was: a world dominated by ONLY ONE power, the USA, either by attacking it directly and making it responsible for every evil in the world (Al Qaeda), or by sending troops everywhere they could to impose their solutions (the USA, and note France has recently followed that line TOO MUCH and had to be stopped twice by Obama’s USA). The two attitudes created a world that could have become dominated by Islamist terrorism and US state terrorism. But that has vastly failed in spite of the tremendous tension these two sides have created and are still creating and thanks to, among others, the momentous defeat of the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

The first disc, and first documentary film, does not insist enough on this fact, on this dimension, and consequently gets more or less trapped in insisting on the present difficulties of South Africa to (in order to) tarnish Mandela’s heritage. It also probably insists too much on the sole personality of Mandela himself. The people who made that film (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) would have been well inspired if they had followed Mandela’s example more closely and particularly what he wrote about his life and action. Mandela did not engineer a socialist revolution, certainly not a racial revolution, but he – with a lot of others –engineered a national transformation that is multiracial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-linguistic and multi-cultural within a general private property market economy that has to be regulated in a way or another and within a democratic system in which everyone has one vote and only one vote, and in which all votes are equal.

The consequence could not be anything but a difficult situation since before millions of people, the vast majority of the people, were not even counted as workers of any sort. They were some kind of reserve work force that was used when necessary, exploited as much as possible and in no way guaranteed employment, education, housing, electricity, or whatever basic goods and services. The transformation is enormous and the unemployment figures (practically the only element considered, along with AIDS, in some length) are only reflecting the fact that for the first time people are recorded as having a job or not having a job, i.e. as having the right to be registered as a worker with or without employment. What was the real level of work and income available to Black South Africans under apartheid? We do not even know. So a 20% rate of unemployment today does not mean much. What is important is that South Africa is a member of the BRICS alliance, is an emerging economy and will be able to improve its situation a lot faster than the documentary says. And these elements I have just listed are not even mentioned ONCE in the documentary.

In fact this documentary is typical of western news reports that want to be “objective” and they do not understand that objectivity is not to paint one side in pink and to paint another side in black and bring the two sides next to each other. The documentary should have looked for the central contradiction and it is not the fact that the distance between the richest and the poorest has increased. This is purely circumstantial even if socially important, but not necessarily existentially important. The main dynamic contradiction is somewhere else: the contradiction is in the potential growth perspective based on individual and collective initiative within a national and international frame. The question is: Is South Africa’s market economy able to bring development to the country within the world’s market economy? The concept of capitalism is not even needed here, except if we consider the vastly state-owned Chinese economy is capitalistic like the nearly uniquely private-owned US economy, not to speak of the deregulated market economy of Reagan and following presidents and today’s post-2008-9-crisis re-regulated market economy.

But this first film is essential to retrace the long historical perspective.

The second film is very informative on how the liberation of Mandela was negotiated directly with Mandela himself and a few others. It also shows how the two presidents who dealt with the problem, Botha and de Clerk, had to face the secret security services who were not thinking politically but conservatively as for the state apparatus and the danger of anarchy that could come up if the state yielded too fast and too easily, without any guarantees, to the pressures from the vast Black majority and from the whole world.

It also shows how the apartheid leadership always had a deficit of trust towards the ANC and other organizations fighting against apartheid, and that deficit of trust slowed down the process that could only come to an end, to a positive end, when the situation was desperate and there would have been a real danger of anarchy or revenge if Mandela had not been here to prevent it. The case of Zimbabwe is in our minds of course with its revengeful evolution that led to a total economic catastrophe. We also have to think of Angola and Mozambique, and the possibility of a civil or tribal strife within the Black community in South Africa was a real danger, apart from the potential civil war between the Blacks and the Whites.

This documentary seems to be well informed and very informative on these questions though it neglects the real divide between some African tribes in South Africa, particularly the divide between the Zulus and the others, essentially because the linguistic situation is NEVER considered. Two linguistic questions should have been examined: the tension between English and Afrikaans that covers other divisions like Blacks versus Whites or Calvinists versus Anglicans on one side and the great multiplicity of African languages of different families, and then the linguistic situation within the urban Blacks necessarily multi-lingual (two or three African languages plus English and eventually Afrikaans) and within the rural and even distant rural Blacks (two rarely three African languages and English, hardly any Afrikaans).

It is surprising how western news reporters and more generally intellectuals and research workers in many fields neglect the linguistic question, when they don’t altogether reject it as irrelevant. Apart from the fact that they do not speak the local languages concerned in this case, the main factor for that attitude is that to differentiate languages and to differentiate communities according to their languages implies that all languages contain their own thinking tools that are different from one language to another, though at the discursive level all speakers  will use their various languages to express all ideas possible (at least all ideas they can think). This is true of all human communities in the world: Cockney implies a way of thinking but an Oxford Dean could express the most complex mathematical concepts in Cockney just as well as in Queen’s English. The film being from Canada I guess they are sensitive to the argument of “proper English” and the accusation of social racism if not segregation conveyed by this concept of “proper English” as expressed by the advocates of “plain English.”

The last film is just an entertainment because it is a 1993 film on Mandela’s trip to Western Africa, i.e. Ghana, Ivory Coast, Gore and Senegal. The situation in Western and Central Africa today has nothing to do with the situation then. All these countries have been transformed by all kinds of conflicts and rivalries, tribal, social, political and religious with an extremely dangerous evolution of the Islamist branch of Islam in these countries leading to military conflicts, not to speak of blood diamonds and other valuable productions used to channel money into the various military or terrorist groups in various countries that have to face completely corrupt regimes within very un-democratic if not anti-democratic political systems, with or without elections.

But it sure is informative on the “dream” this democracy was in 1993 for Western Africa and since then the only country that was more or less democratic at the time has been the host of a political crisis that could have brought it down, the same way a similar crisis brought Ivory Coast down including some “military” pressure from France, not to speak of religious divisions that brought Mali down along with a French military intervention which is far from being over and is bringing the Central African Republic down along with a >French military intervention that looks from the very start as a quagmire. And we could go farther to South Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and some other countries.

Some even doubt there is any peaceful future in some areas. Without being that pessimistic, let’s say the economy will have to become a lot more dynamic for it to be able to bring the end of “tribal” conflicts and at times never ending and always restarting “warlords” conflicts.

A good set of documentaries to START assessing Mandela’s legacy and heritage.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?