By Malinda Seneviratne –
The world’s most respected and loved elder statesman has passed on. Nelson Mandela for reasons that do not require elaboration was the one and only person who deserved the epithet ‘Global Citizen’; he did not belong to South Africa alone, he belonged to every continent, every country. He was grandfather, father and brother to the entire global family.
The entire world mourns today. The condolences of the powerful, naturally, make the ‘visible afterword’ of this most distressing piece of news. Perhaps it is as much a comment on hypocrisy as the stature of the man that today his former detractors are falling over each other in eulogizing Mandela. Nations whose capitols fly national flags at half-mast would do well to reflect on the ‘national positions’ taken on Mandela not too long ago. That is another story. For later. What is important is that even when they are disingenuous, they have to tell the truth.
President Barack Obama, for example, got it right when he said that Mandela was ‘influential, courageous and profoundly good’. It is the ‘profoundly good’ element that stands out because it is a rare commodity among politicians, which is why the world is poor in its endowment of statesmen.
A Sri Lankan octogenarian who has spent many years in Zimbabwe notes that his goodness ‘allowed him to persuade the black majority to stretch out their hands in reconciliation to the white minority and this was his greatest victory’.
Mandela chose to walk a long road where destination was known but the distance to ‘end’ was not. As often happens, when destination was reached it was found that other destinations beckon and that there is more walking to be done. Mandela walked. All his life. This is why, today as the world remembers Nelson Mandela, all countries and communities would do well to reflect deep on destinations, distances and walking, especially those collectives that are embroiled in conflict or who find it hard to bury the suspicion and anger that precipitated and sustained conflagration in the first place.
The great man observed, ‘No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.’
Love is a non-factor when it comes to certain processes in which conflict is inherent; capitalism, for example. We would need more than a Mandellian approach to resolve the depravations, violence and destruction of that particular .global phenomenon. When it comes to inter-communal conflict, however, Mandela in word and deed showed the world a pathway to a destination where co-existence and harmony are possible.
The one thing that counts in the matter of love and loving is that they are not predicated on the guarantee of being loved in return. One does not have to be loved back to love. Mandela did not ask ‘Do you love me?’ before declaring ‘I love you’.
The world can learn. Sri Lanka can too.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com