´ The Problem with Nelson Mandela -
September 19, 2015

No I am not going to point out all his secret flaws, he was a great man. The problem is not about him but that we have a tendency to admire him so much, that we basically give the entire credit of the South African reconciliation to him. Nobody, no matter how great, can ensure that the whole country complies and follows his lead. Mandela was a great leader but the South African people had to do the hard work, namely facing their wounds and transgressions and forgive. They did this not once or twice but daily for years and even decades.

The thing is because we enjoy the feeling of inspiration we get from a figure like Madiba so much we don’t examine the process that made the change possible. Questions like ‘how did you resist the temptation to take revenge once the tables were turned? How did you even manage to sit down at a table with someone who made your life miserable? What do you do when the feelings of hate or anger got too intense? How did you see the good in the other person or group even though you grew up believing there is no good in these folks?’

Inspiration is great. Role models are great. But not if they keep us from understanding solutions. This doesn’t mean that we think less of them: actually the more I know about the process the more I can admire both the sung and unsung heroes.

 

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