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Let’s save the eulogies

Maybe it’s the contrarian in me, but when ever I see the world going into a collective grief spasm or orgy of self-righteousness, I want to go the other way.

So it was when Diana died. I found Blair’s self-serving tribute cringe-worthy. Similarly when the world was going into hysterics over Mother Teresa, I found myself contemplating the opposite. Indeed, Christopher Hitchens excellent book “The missionary position” entirely debunks that nonsense.

Consequently, the death of Mandela, or more precisely, the over the top reaction to it, has had the same effect.

Let me first say, this is in no way an endorsement of apartheid. And in a sense, Mandela was unlucky, he was on the wrong side of history. When you were a young African nationalist fighting foreign rule at the time, Marxism was the obvious point from which to do it.

But to adopt a position as a youthful idealist is one thing, to maintain it all through life is quite another. Mandela started life as a peaceful protestor but soon turned to violence and was imprisoned thus. Despite being in jail, he was still able to sign off on the 1983 Church Street bombing, killing 19 people.

The UN reckons that 21,000 people were killed during the apartheid regime, some 518 deaths being the direct responsibility of the loathsome security forces. The ANC killed many, many more via the charming practice of the infamous ‘necklace’ Indeed, seeing the BBC this morning giving so much time to the odious Jacob Zuma had me reaching for the anti-emetics.

His record in government was unimpressive. The lights go out regularly in South Africa these days and the country is the child rape capital of the world, outclassing even Pakistan. Don’t believe me, ask Oprah Winfrey. It is an uber-violent society with crappy, crumbling infrastructure and endemic corruption which leads to collapsed shopping Malls when corrupt contractors are appointed by corrupt officials.

Are poor urban South Africans any better off? Sure they get to vote, but all they have done is replaced a white political elite with a black one. I guess when you are born into the Thembu royal family it’s your destiny.

Lastly, he couldn’t quite bring himself to condemn the evil, murdering monster Mugabe of Zimbabwe. A word from him would have been catastrophic for Mugabe in a way comments from British politicians never could have been, but he bottled it.

I regret the loss of any human life, but no saint has died today.

39 Comments

  1. Cheeryble says:

    You regret the loss of any human life?
    Jimmy Swaggart?
    Pat Robertson?
    Tony Blair?

    Would I cry or rejoice at the end of Netanyahu?

    ps would be happy to give them a humane end (well most)

  2. John Galt says:

    He was a marxist terrorist who, unlike Mugabe was locked up for the majority of his middle years. If he had been free, it is likely that he would have conducted a long campaign of violent struggle until killed or captured.

    By the time F. W. De Klerk took over from P. W. Botha in 1989 (after an acrimonious transition), the South African government were vainly wandering over the battlefield looking for someone to surrender to.

    The fact that they essentially handed power to Mandela was more luck and timing than anything else, added to the fact that he was the “least worst” of the ANC terrorists for them to share power with.

    During his time in office, he achieved little, but he also frustrated the will of those who wished to press home their victory by rubbing the whites noses in the dirt. However, now the old man is finally gone, it is likely that the same madness of land seizures that destroyed Zimbabwe (formerly the breadbasket of Africa), will also destroy South Africa.

    It’s very sad really, but South Africa was built upon the rotten foundations of a particularly virulent form of racist colonialism which could not be supported by the free world, but equally now that it is gone, the usual rampant kleptocracy familiar to much of Africa is in place in the form of Jacob Zuma.

    I can’t see any likelihood of change until the African people themselves put aside this self-destructive behaviour.

  3. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    Cheeryble ~ Fair point, I still can’t advocate violence, but perhaps won’t shed any tears over that lot you mention.

  4. PeterT says:

    I don’t disagree with anything that has been said but I ask myself how I would have behaved if say, the Nazi’s or Soviets had won the 2nd world war/Cold war and a couple of million of them were ruling over the rest of us. Peaceful protest? Maybe not just. Would I find it in me to condemn serious resistance against our current rulers?

  5. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    Peter t ~ Grim as the apartheid regime was, would you prefer to live under Stalin, Hitler or P W Botha?

  6. Watchman says:

    What marks Mr Mandela out from his contemporaries was his commitment to freedom and democracy – he was no part of his wife’s gangster techniques, which were on a small scale those of many of his contemporaries who became leaders in their countries in the 60s and 70s. And he seems to have not been concerned by ethnic divisions (of any type) in the way that his much lesser successors were.

    Yes, he was a socialist. That does not mean he could not be a good man, just one who was misguided. And if you think what he could have been (and what some people, of the same misguidely violent mindset of Cheeryble, might say he had the right to be due to his treatement), then his essential goodness shines through. He was not in favour of violence, and he was in favour of freedom. For a third quarter of the twentieth century African political leader (which is what he was), that is enough to mark the man out as good and worthy of memory. The point of comparison here is not us, but those he might have been.

  7. John Galt says:

    @Watchman:

    Fair enough. But he’s being lauded as if he were some secular saint. He was nothing of the sort. At best he was a reformed terrorist / politician.

  8. NickM says:

    Every bugger seems to comment on this on the BBC etc. I’m waiting for the comment from Del from Nelson Mandela House.

  9. PeterT says:

    SaOT

    I’m not sure whether you take my point. Or if you do then I don’t understand your reply. What I was trying to say was that if we were in Mandela’s shoes then would we have acted differently? I think if I was living under a similar level of oppression (or worse, obviously) as blacks under apartheid, I too might not be minded to just sit it out peaceably (well probably I would, but that’s just me). As Watchman points out, Mandela’s objective was ultimately achieved relatively peaceably. Maybe he doesn’t deserve all the credit for this but still.

  10. John Galt says:

    @PeterT:

    I suppose it depends on how you view Mandela’s objectives. From the perspective of establishing a government by the majority rather than just the white minority, then certainly Mandela achieved his objective.

    The only problem is that in achieving this objective, he destroyed South Africa as a modern functioning western country and turned it into just another 3rd world shithole.

  11. The Communist Party of South Africa was deeply hypocritical – in the 1920s it was “workers unite and save a white South Africa” (the “Rand Rebels” went to the gallows singing “The Red Flag”), then they looked at demographic trends (the trends that have pushed the white population from 25% of the population to 8%) and they did a 180 degree turn – and started to support black liberation.

    As for Apartheid – it was a radical ANTI Capitalist movement (even General Smuts was too “capitalist” for them – hence the election of 1948).

    As W.H. Hutt pointed out back in the 1950s in his “The Economics of the Colour Bar” – the whole basis of the apartheid movement was hostile to everything that free enterprise stands for.

  12. John Galt says:

    Yes Paul. I don’t think anyone here sees Apartheid as anything other than slavery by other means. Certainly nothing you’ve said suggests otherwise and I can’t see any support for the pre-Mandela government in either the original post or commentary.

  13. single acts of tyranny says:

    Peter T yes I see your point, we cannot know how we would have acted in his shoes. However the violence was deeply counterproductive for the ANC then just as it is for the Palestinians today.

  14. Mr Ed says:

    I seem to recall reading that under the well-established Apartheid regime, 50% of adult Whites worked for the government, including a ‘Racial Classification Board’ that had various tests for determining and reclassifying people of indeterminate ‘race’, allegedly including sticking pencils into the person’s hair (if they had any) and seeing if it fell out. Do not forget the gerrymandering by the National Party in removing the ‘Coloureds’ [their linguistic 'kinsvolk' (sic.)] from the electoral registers, and all the theft, inflation and general bureaucracy that they wrought.

    Sadly most people’s knowledge of South Africa’s history is so poor that they probably think that Jan Smuts was the Dutch equivalent of Sid James.

  15. Watchman says:

    John Galt,

    Saints are not real people, but rather the image those who survive them have of them. So if we stand aside and just claim Mr Mandela as a terrorist what we are doing is allowing those with other agendas to colonise this particular secular saint. Rather than let a genuinely good man (and one who is commonly regarded as great) be claimed as a model of socialism (which is a faith that requires saints and prophets at least as much as any other), we should acknowledge what Mr Mandela did and was in context, and stop the association of a good man with the bad (not necessarily meant to be evil by their adherents) causes of statists and corporations in the minds of others.

    Mr Mandela was a champion of freedom, and even to some extent economic freedom (look at the way he did not nationalise things – it’s all relative you know…) – are we to ignore these things because a younger, less important Mr Mandela supported violent struggle against those who were, frankly, oppressing him by force. Surely to believe in freedom and equality, to renounce unnecessary violence and to fight against oppression are values we should celebrate as the mark of the individual?

  16. RAB says:

    Good post SAoT. I had an itch to play the Imp of the Perverse when the news broke last night too.

    My take on Mandela is basically this… He was essentially a good man who fought for the freedom of his country as I would have if mine had a corrupt and racist regime in place. As President he wasn’t much cop at the day to day hands on levers of power, but as a figurehead he was magnificent, as an idea he was superlative, and that transends any feet of clay he may have had.

    His single most important achievement was to prevent the bloodbath of a retaliatory race war against the Boers who had locked down the country into Apartheid since coming to power in 1948. I believe he genuinly believed in peace and reconciliation. This was his closing statement at his trial in 1962…

    ‘During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the 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’ – Nelson Mandela, August 1962.

    And he could have clung to power like Mugabe does in Zimbabwe. Who would have dared oppose him? But he didn’t. He became an Icon of hope not a greedy Kleptocrat. I heard Desmond Tutu on the radio at luchtime saying not to turn him into a secular saint, because he wasn’t. No he wasn’t, he was vain and very image conscious, but he knew that his image as the man of peace and reconciliation was pretty much all he was, and all he needed to be, because in practical terms he couldn’t have run a corner shop let alone a modern westernised state. What happens next I am very pessimistic about.

    President Zuma is already displaying all the Kleptocratic traits that has come to be synonomous with African rulers. The bruhaha over his referbished palace, his belief that shagging a virgin will cure you of AIDs, instead of getting the vaccines in sharpish. How long before South Africa becomes another Zimbabwe, with the land grabs and the stolen aid money and the shopping trips for the wives of the elite in Paris London and New York, while the whites become fewer to non existent and the poor blacks become poorer? Pretty soon I’d say. Then what, the Chinese step in and buy the place for a song?

  17. Mr Ed says:

    One quote that I have seen attributed to Mr Mandela is one that all should take to heart:

    ‘Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.”

  18. John Galt says:

    Sorry, but my argument is not perversity, I’ve kissed and wept over the scars, both mental and physical from the bush war in Rhodesia which Mandela supported.

    Fine, let’s not micturate on the deceased, but we should recognize the facts about Mandela, both the sweet and the sour.

  19. Sam Duncan says:

    I tend to agree with John G’s last comment. A man has died. Certainly the hagiographies are nauseating when one considers his support for Mugabe, but let his followers mourn. Whatever his methods, he was instrumental in freeing the black people of South Africa, and, as RAB says, his voice was an important one in preventing any recriminations.

    Reminding them of their hero’s many flaws brings us almost to the level of those who celebrated Baroness Thatcher’s death.

    I’m sure, incidentally, that what the NP really feared, at least in the latter days of apartheid, wasn’t so much black rule, but the communist rule that seemed to go hand-in-hand with it (for his part, Smith, in Rhodesia, was pretty open about this – and who can now say he was wrong?). Of course, the anti-apartheid industry had a vested interest in ignoring this aspect and talking up the racism – for which they can hardly be blamed – but I think Mandela understood it. He quelled those fears and became a safe pair of hands. Zuma has no need to. He’s dangerous.

  20. Flaxen Saxon says:

    Some good points raised. I think we will have to wait for the dust to settle down before we get a balanced review of the man and his achievements. Can’t help admiring the man for standing up for what he believed and more so for changing his methodology as he aged. This showed courage and wisdom. Should he have been running a modern state? Probably not. I suspect he was the best they had at the time. Shame he didn’t have able men around to do the work. Or perhaps the problems were just too hard to be solved. People want simple solutions and slogans to complex problems. Mandela has become a figurehead, a wooden Titan, very much like Kitchener and Von Hindenburg during the Great War. Should he be lauded as a great man? I suspect not. All the current histrionics will be a temporary distraction from South Africa’s descent into chaos.

  21. CountingCats says:

    At best he was a reformed terrorist / politician.

    And that was a damned fine thing to be.

    Yes, Nelson Mandela went to prison as a terrorist, but while there he had his own damascene conversion. I don’t know if it was overnight or drawn out, but he emerged a changed man. Kudos for that.

    Mandela was not an economic genius who was able build a mighty free enterprise infrastructure, but so what? He didn’t stuff the SA infrastructure either, that was the work of his successors. What he did achieve, with his partner FW de Klerk, was a transition to a freer society, avoiding the violence that everyone had previously expected. He managed to avert the destruction and tens of thousands of deaths that the collapse of apartheid engendered in other realities.

    That he was otherwise a fallible human being seems to come as a shock to some people.

  22. John Galt says:

    Excellent, then I presume the BBC will be even more supportive and reverential when Nobel Peace Prize laureate F.W. de Klerk dies as he was even more influential than Mandela in forcing out P.W. Botha, supporting a peace agreement with the ANC and organising a peaceful transition to genuine democracy and he didn’t approve ANY terrorist outrages.

    Somehow I expect not, but then again, F.W. de Klerk wasn’t a communist.

    Nelson Mandela ‘proven’ to be a member of the Communist Party after decades of denial

  23. CountingCats says:

    Hey, I’m not saying the whole thing is not permeated with hypocrisy, but Mandela remains an admirable man. Even if still only a man.

  24. By the way – the first comment (talking about not regretting the deaths of various people who are still alive – including the Prime Minister of Israel) indicates that the person who wrote the comment is a complete and total shit.

    Especially as he does not even have the guts to openly say he wishes to murder these people – saying he wishes to give them a “humane end” (just as the Fabians G.B. Shaw and H.G. Wells admitted they wanted to murder many millions of people – but excused themselves by saying they wanted the deaths to be “humane”).

    However, I was perhaps mistaken to use the word “person” – as the comment writer has previous denied there are any such things as human agents (that we have a choice over what we do – for example a choice NOT to wish people dead) he is not a person – by his own “logic” (as if there are no persons, no free will agents, he can not be one).

    I will not tolerate this nonperson (nonperson by his own “arguments”) writing a comment on any post of mine. Other posters must choose for themselves.

    As for the ANC, like human beings in general they had choices. And they made a choice to go down the wrong road. The Orwellian named “Freedom Charter” in the 1950s (demanding the nationalisation of X,Y,Z) alienated many foes of apartheid and helped prolong the existence of this vile system for DECADES.

  25. “My freedom and yours can not be separated” – a fine statement.

    Pity the man who made it forgot all about it when he visited Cuba in 1991. He celebrated the dictator (Fidel Castro) and celebrated the tyranny on the island (which he described as “freedom” – very Rousseau) and the regime sending thousands of young Cubans to die for the cause of Communism in Angola and other African countries (remember the people the Cubans were sent to kill were BLACK).

    I also doubt that Mr Mandela would have lasted long in a prison run on the principles that my namesake Herman Marks (if I remember his name correctly) ran the “Isle of Pines” camp for Fidel Castro.

    Fortunately Mr Mandela made a choice NOT to govern according to this ideology when he became President of South Africa.

  26. Before someone jumps in – I know that Herman “The Butcher” Marks was never an official camp commander. He was a employed as an killer in various places by Castro – with the help of his dog. However, like Mr Philby senior (the father of Kim Philby and first Red to infiltrate the British F.O.) Mr Marks later fled his employers. Mr Philby senior helped the House of Saud to come to power in Arabia (by betraying the House he had been sent to help and taking their secrets to their enemies) – Mr Philby senior ended his life in Lebanon – hatching various anti Western plots.

    His son, Kim Philby, was a visitor – but nobody seems to have seen this as suspicious (sometimes I despair of Western “intelligence” services).

    For camp life under the Castro family – see the book “Against All Hope”.

  27. NickM says:

    Paul,
    GB Shaw and HG Wells were pussy cats compared to DH Lawrence. The socialist who wanted to gas the poor.

    CC,
    He was more a figurehead almost like a constitutional monarch in some sense after release. He of course kind of had the presidency thrust upon him and I suspect after 27 years in chokey you are well out of the political/economic loop and for an old, frail man that is a heck of a lot of catch-up. Of course his crowning moment – the one that did more than anything to show his lack of malice was the RSA winning at the Rugby. People often underestimate the power of sport to capture the imagination of nations and to unify them. Mandela got that in spades.

    Sam,
    FW De Clerk is the forgotten man – agreed. He took a hell of a political gamble. And yes, I worry I about RSA due to Zuma et al. They are potentially Mugabe 2.0. The key point now arguably is if they get a white prez soonish. That would demonstrate a genuine “rainbow nation” – a colour blind nation where policy is more important than race. Isn’t that what we all want?

    In general,
    Yes the hagiography is nauseating – at least from the BBC. The coverage of the death and funeral of a another great hero of freedom (in a different way) was very different and vastly less “Diana”. I speak of Ronald Wilson Reagan of course. As to Maggie – well the response was inevitable. There were people cheering her death who have no memory of her as PM. Pathetic.

  28. Longrider says:

    As far as I am concerned, he was a flawed human being. I disapproved of his tactics that involved the deaths of innocents – this is not a legitimate use of force. However, he demonstrated that he could change and in his later years was a force for good. I think, on balance, the good outweighed the bad and I always approved of the reason behind his struggle to rid South Africa of apartheid, I merely didn’t like the means.

    So, yeah, I doff my hat and the world has lost a good man. That said, I find the eulogising on behalf of the “world leaders (bunch of self serving scumbags)” a bit sickening, but I find them sickening anyway ;)

  29. Nick – Shaw and Wells also favoured gas.

    Wells for the “teaming millions of blacks, browns and yellows” (what a lovely man) and Shaw for anyone who could not “justify their existence” to a government board organised in the way of “the income tax tribunal”.

    Their method is saying such things was to have a little smile and a light voice – so that people would think they were joking (when they were not). Kim Philby used the same method – that way he lest slip what he actually was (i.e. a socialist) when drunk or whatever, everyone would just think it was just dear old Kim playing games again.

    It is not a game – as the “Fabian Widow” makes clear.

  30. Julie near Chicago says:

    NickM, I didn’t know that about D.H. Lawrence. Never knew anything about him, except that he was Welsh and Lady Chatterley didn’t do anything for me.

    Such people are no more civilized than the people who commit shari’ah murder.

    Dr. Zeke strikes me as being of the same stripe.

  31. Dioclese says:

    His nomination just clinched the “Dead Cunt Pool” over on the ‘…is a cunt’ blog.

    I think that says it all.

    But just in case, I’m penning my own tribute for publication tomorrow.

  32. RAB says:

    Julie.

    We have enough leftie retards to carpet a cathedral in Wales, but D H Lawrence was not one of us, thank God! You’re thinking of T E Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia. He was Welsh. And he could write a bloody sight better than D H, as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom proved.

  33. Julie near Chicago says:

    OMG, RAB, I am SO sorry, how can you ever forgive me! :( :( :(

    Wasn’t what’s-’is-face, the gamekeeper, supposed to be Welsh? The one with the brace of coneys? Oh, I’m probably making the whole thing up. Boring novel anyway.

    I really did think DHL was Welsh. Apologies. I shall atone by visiting Arabia.

    Thanks for the correction. :)

  34. RAB says:

    Apologies accepted. No idea about the gamekeeper, Mellors was it? Not a very Welsh name anyway. No us kids only read the supposed dirty bits, not the whole thing. It was banned til 1960 you know. We got our copy from the dirty Mac bookshop in Caroline street near the bus station in Cardiff. It was the sort of shop that you could buy “surgical appliances” and a gross of condoms too. The likes of Ann Summers has come a long way since those days. :-)

  35. Flaxen Saxon says:

    The Lawrencies were Welsh? What the fuck is going on!

  36. Julie near Chicago says:

    Mellors! Egad, how COULD I have forgotten! LOL

    Well, I actually waded through the whole thing. Of course I was in College by that time, so all grown up, don’tcha see, but not yet old enough to know it’s not actually sacrilegious to quit reading a book that was not interesting (except, of course, for the “interesting” bits).

    I have no idea how I got hold of it. Nor where I got the idea that the thing was set in Wales. :>(

    Here’s one on me. In the fall of 1966, when we’d been married just a year, my honey transferred from Columbia U. in New York to Purdue, in the glorious fields of Indiana. He traveled to our new digs by Greyhound Bus alone, as I had to wait another week before I could leave. So one evening I saw him off at the bus terminal in Manhattan, and then, seeing that there was a bookstore still open nearby, and having an addiction to bookstores that even Bookstores Anonymous couldn’t cure me of, I went in to peruse. Rank upon rank of paperbacks with rather, um, unusual covers … but of course one was used to the covers on the pulp novels, SF, whodunits … still, nothing looked interesting. Finally a young man came over, clearly an employee, and he said to me, “Um, miss, I don’t think you’re interested in the books we carry here.”

    Oh! *blush* *skedaddle*

    In those days you could still be pretty innocent at 23 — even if you HAD been to College.

    ;)

  37. I see I’m not alone in my sensation, whilst watching and reading all the tearstained media eulogizing, that we have been sold the myth of Mandela.

  38. Flaxon Saxon – the Welsh conquered England.

    Henry Tudor – 1485.

    And his granddaughter Elizabeth kept Wales in mind – insisting that the Bible be translated into Welsh (not just English). And that translation held – no need for another one later.

    Pity the great lady did not take such care of Ireland.

    Had Elizabeth been as keen to CONVERT the Irish to the Protestant cause as she was the Welsh (rather than just bash the Irish over the head with a big stick) history might have been very different.

    And it might have been possible – had the Bible been translated into Irish (then the language of most in Ireland) and the propaganda mill really got under way…..

    “The Irish Celtic Church of Patrick was Protestant in many ways – with a married clergy and …..”

    But no – just hit the Irish with a big stick.

    One catches more flies with honey than with vinegar.

  39. [...] part this comes down to SAoT’s recent post on the death of Nelson Mandela, but mainly from an argument with Perry de Havilland over at Samizdata who appears to be so [...]

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