Monday, April 2, 2012:
I just had to read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, because it was referenced and referred to again and again in other books that I’ve read recently.
I knew he was the leader of the African National Congress (ANC), that he had spent a long time in prison, and that he was elected South Africa’s first black president shortly after his release in 1990.
I didn’t know the magnitude of his strength of character.
This is a person who sacrificed his whole life to fight for the principles he believed in. As he said,
Men, I think, are not capable of doing nothing, saying nothing, of not reacting to injustice, of not protesting against oppression, of not striving for the good society and the good life in the ways they see it.
I didn’t know that after more than twenty years in prison, he was offered a pardon with the stipulation that he return quietly and peacefully to his home in the Transkei.
And he turned it down, saying,
…if I was released into the same conditions under which I had been arrested, I would go back to doing precisely those things for which I had been imprisoned.
He also had a lot to say about prison which I could relate to:
The challenge for every prisoner is how to survive prison intact, how to emerge from prison undiminished…prison is designed to break one’s spirit and destroy one’s resolve. To do this, the authorities attempt to exploit every weakness, diminish every initiative, negate all signs of individuality — all with the idea of stamping out that spark that makes each of us human and each of us who we are.
…one must find consolation in being true to one’s ideals, even if no one knows it.
And sadly, that,
In prison the minutes can seem like years, but the years go by like minutes.
I was deeply moved by this story and even though I knew he was going to be released from prison, my emotions got the best of me when he spoke of being released after 27 years.
Few people who have walked this planet can match Mandela’s humanity, and we all have a lot we can learn from his life and his struggle.
Buy Running Away From Me as a Kindle format ebook.