What do you think?
Rate this book
656 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1994
The air of one's home always smells sweet after one has been away.
While I did not normally give to African beggars, I felt the urge to give this woman money. In that moment I realized the tricks that apartheid plays on one, for the everyday travails that afflict Africans are accepted as a matter of course, while my heart immediately went out to this bedraggled white woman. In South Africa, to be poor and black was normal, to be poor and white was a tragedy.
As I was boarding the plane I saw that the pilot was black. I had never seen a black pilot before, and the instant I did I had to quell my panic. How could a black man fly a plane? But a moment later I caught myself: I had fallen into the apartheid mind-set, thinking Africans were inferior and that flying was a white man's job.
For me, non-violence was not a moral principle but a strategy; there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon.
The killing of civilians was a tragic accident, and I felt a profound horror at the death toll. But disturbed as I was by these casualties, I knew that such accidents were the inevitable consequence of the decision to embark on a military struggle. Human fallibility is always a part of war, and the price of it is always high. It was precisely because we knew that such incidents would occur that our decision to take up arms had been so grave and reluctant. But as Oliver said at the time of the bombing, the armed struggle was imposed upon us by the violence of the apartheid regime.
Prison and the authorities conspire to rob each man of his dignity. In and of itself, that assured that I would survive, for any man or institution that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose because I will not part with it at any price or under any pressure.
"I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against Black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs to be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." – Nelson Mandela at the conclusion of his speech during the Rivonia Treason Trial on April 20, 1964Nowadays, the name of Nelson Mandela has become synonymous with selflessness, justice and sacrificial values. As South Africa's first democratically elected President, he will go down as one of the most influential politicians and public figures of all time. His impact on South Africa must be celebrated: the abolition of apartheid, the implementation of a democratic system, his work on Aids and poverty, and his attempt at a more just and equal society for all. So it comes as no surprise that he is often put on a pedestal and being viewed as this larger-than-life figure. Reading Long Walk To Freedom enables us to see Mandela as a man in his own right, with his own struggles, shortcomings and failures, not just his contributions and accomplishments; it shows that it took a village (or let's say, a whole country) to bring about this substantial change and shift within South African society and politics; the victory of ending apartheid belonged to every single person who has fought and stood up for it, not just one man.
I replied that nonviolence had very much failed us, for it had in no way curbed the state's use of violence or brought about a change of heart among our oppressors.Mandela once famously said: "The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices - submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defence of our people, our future, and our freedom." And I couldn't agree more with him. Like most of us (I assume), I agree that nonviolence is an honorable strategy and where nonviolence is possible and successful, it should always be favored. But when you are presented with a hopeless situation as in South Africa, where a majority of its people were repressed and disenfranchised, and a minority held all power and was killing people by the thousands with no regard for their life, there comes a time where a certain line is crossed, where you cannot sit around and wait for progress (as Baldwin once famously put it), where enough is simply enough, where protests, sit-ins and marches don't bring in the results, where your people are still oppressed, killed, lynched and denied basic human rights on a daily basis.
An African child is born in an Africans Only hospital, taken home in an Africans Only bus, lives in an Africans Only area, and attends Africans Only schools, if he attends school at all. When he grows up, he can hold Africans Only jobs, rent a house in an Africans Only townships, ride Africans Only trains, and be stopped at any time of the day or night and be ordered to produce a pass, failing which he will be arrested and thrown in jail. His life is circumscribed by racist laws and regulations that cripple his growth, dim his potential, and stunt his life.Mandela vividly describes that he didn't have one singular epiphany or revelation that made him want to become a rebel, rather it was this steady accumulation of all these everyday injustices that produced in him an anger that led to his desire to fight that system that imprisoned and oppressed his people. For him, there was no active choice whether or not he wanted to devote himself to the liberation of his people, it was a necessary result of his everyday life. He didn't have the privilege to simply close his eyes and pretend nothing was wrong. He had to act and stand up for his people and himself.
Theoretical differences between those fighting oppression are a luxury we cannot afford at this stage.It truly reminded me of how, nowadays, Right-wing ideas and politics often benefit from the fact that different Left-wing (or Left-leaning) parties are at each other's throat instead of focusing on the actual threat. It's frustrating to see people and institutions getting so hung up on the (comparatively) small mistakes and missteps of like-minded forces, instead of trying to refute and stand up against (Far) Right ideas and implementations.
"We thought we had a father, and one day he had come home. But to our disappointment, our father came home and left us alone because he had now become the father of the nation." Being the father of a nation is a great honor, but being the father of a family is a greater joy. Yet it was a joy I had felt far too little of.and in general feeling overburdened by the weight on your shoulders as an entire nation relied on your services. Even though Mandela grants us these glimpses into his inner thoughts, one is still left wondering how big of a toll all of these sacrifices and horrible injustices took on him and his mental health. Mandela doesn't fully open up about his traumas (which is perfectly fine, he doesn't have to), but it isn't hard to imagine that the path he (had to) cho(o)se left some deep scars.
"Who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain, patiently, moderately, and modestly at a closed and barred door? What have been the fruits of moderation? The past thirty years have seen the greatest number of laws restricting our rights and progress, until today we have reached a stage where we have almost no rights at all." — Albert Luthuli (President of the ANC)History has taught us that we need to approach these issues, not in terms of what is possible within the framework of a given structure or system, but rather in view of what should be made possible in terms of human rights and demands. There is no use in maintaining a racist/ homophobic/ sexist/ ableist/ you-name-it status quo. We need to threaten these existing structures, as they are the root of the issue. Challenging existing power relations and paving the way for more revolutionary changes in our societies are necessary if we want to bring about lasting change and create a socially just and environmentally sustainable world. Marginalised people, especially, cannot (and should not) remain passive agents in that process, we must push for that transformation by being active and mobilising for a better way to organise our world. The fight is not finished. There's lots that remains to be done.
"لقد جرّدت نفسي طول حياتي للنضال من أجل الشعب الأفريقي، لقد كافحت ضد هيمنة البيض كما كافحت ضد هيمنة السود. لقد عشت تواقًا إلى مجتمع ديمقراطي حرّ، يعيش فيه الجميع في وئام ومساواة. إنّه هدف أرجو أن أعيش له وأن أحققه. وهو الهدف الذي سأموت من أجله إن لم يكن من ذلك بدّ."
I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness nor because I have any love of violence, I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by whites.
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
"الحكومة والشرطة كانت قد اتخذت التدابية لمنع اي اجتماع سلمي وتجريمه، وكانت الامور تسير تجاه حكم بوليسي. وبدأت أرى أن الاحتجاجات القانونية ستصبح مستحيلة في الوقت القريب فإن المقاومة السلمية تكون فعالة إذا تمسك من تقاومهم بنفس القوانين التي تتمسك بها أنت وإلا فلا فاعلية لها. وبالنسبة لي كان عدم العنف استراتيجية فقط ولم يكن مبدأً أخلاقيا. فلا يوجد خيار أخلاقي في استعمال سلاح غير فعال."
"لا نستطيع هزيمة الحكومة عسكرياً، ولكن بوسعنا جعل حكمها صعبا."
"كنت أود إفهام الحكومة أنه رغم رفضي العرض فإني اعتقد أن المفاوضات وليست الحرب هي السبيل للحل."
"الشروط التي تريد الحكومة فرضها تسبب لي الدهشة، لأننا لم نسلك طريق العنف إلا بعد أن سدت أمامنا جميع .طرق المقاومة"
"وكان عديد ممن انضموا للمنظمة الجديدة قد فعلوا ذلك لأسباب شخصية منها الغيرة والرغبة في الانتقام. وكان اعتقادي دائماً أن على المقاتل من أجل الحرية أن يكبت كثيرا من المشاعر الشخصية التي تجعل منه فرداً مستقلاً بدلاُ من جزء من حركة جماهيرية، واعتقدات أن كثير من تلك الآراء والتصرفات غير ناضجة. ورغم تعاطفي مع آراء الأفارقة والقوميين فقد كنت اعتقد أن النضال من اجل الحرية يتطلب من الإنسان القبول بآراء وسيطة وتقبل نظم قاومها حينما كان أحدث سنا."
"ليس هناك أي تعارض لتأييدي الكفاح المسلح وتمسكي بالمفاوضات، فالكفاح المسلح هو الذي أتى بالحكومة إلى حافة المفاوضات."
"وكنت أرى أن مجرد الاضراب عن الطعام داخل السجن أمر غير واقعين فلكي يكون فعالاً يجب أن يعلم به العالم الخارجي، وكانت الاتصالات شبه مستحيلة في تلك السنوات. وبالنسبة لي كان الاضراب عن الطعام أمراً سلبياً يضر بصحة أجسادنا الضعيفة، واستدعاء للموت. وكنت دائماً أفضل أنواع المقاومة الأكثر ايجابية ونضالاً كالاضراب عن العمل والتباطؤ ورفض أعمال النظافة وتلك أعمال تضر بالسلطات ولا نعاقب بها انفسنا. ..."
"... ولكن اقتراحاتي لم تلق تأييدا، وكان متى اتخذ القرار اؤيده تماما."
"كانت هناك المشاكل الفلسفية أيضاً، فإنه بالإمكان توحيد الحركة أثناءالحرب مع العدو المشترك، لكن إيجاد سياسة على مائدة المفاوضات أمر مختلف، فإنه كان علينا أن ندمج مجموعات عديدة في المؤتمر وأيضاٌ آراء مختلفة."
"كانت اللافتات التي حملها المتجمهرون تنادي باستعمال السلاح والتخلي عن المحادثات، وتفهمت عواطف الجماهير التي كانت تريد إسقاط الأبارتايد وكانت قد سئمت المفاوضات، وكان العمل الجامهيري في تلك اللحظة طريقاً وسطاً بين المفواضات والكفاح المسلح."
"وشعرت أيضاً أننا يجب أن نخبر الشعب بما لن نستطيع عمله. فقد كان الجميع يشعرون أن الحياة يمكن أن تتغير في أعقاب انتخابات ديمقراطية حرة. ولذلك كنت أخبر الجماهير أنهم يجب ألا يتوقعوا أن يتملكوا سيارة مرسيدس ويكون لديهم حوض سباحتهم الخاص بعد الانتخابات، فكنت أقول لهم انه لن يكون هناك تغيير مفاجئ سوى احترامهم لأنفسهم كمواطنين في أرضهم وأنهم قد ينتظرون خمس سنوات لتؤتي الخطة ثمارها، كما كنت أقول لهم إن عليهم أن يعملوا بجد إن أرادوا حياة أفضل " فلن نفعل ذلك لكم ولكنكم أنتم الذين ستحققونه بأنفسكم"."
"لم أفقد الأمل أبداً أن التغيير لابد آت، ليس فقط بسبب هؤلاء الأبطال، لكن بسبب شجاعة النساء والرجال العاديين من شعبي، فلا يوجد أحد يكره شخصاً بسبب لونه او خلفيته أو دينه، فإن الناس لابد أن يتعلموا أن يكرهوا، وإن كانوا قادرين على تعلم الكراهية فلابد وأنهم قادرون على تعلم الحب. ففي أحلك أوقات السجن حينما كنت ورفاقي نساق إلى حافة القدرة على الاحتمال كنت أرى وميضاً من الإنسانية في أحد الحراس، ربما لمدة ثانية، لكن كان ذلك الوميض يطمئنني."