Olivia and I have been listening to a CD of African music. One of the songs begins with a quote from Nelson Mandela. “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 it needs be it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,” he says.
Yesterday was the unveiling of a statue of the great man himself in London’s Parliament Square. I was thrilled to be able to show him to Olivia, who has found the concept of dying for an ideal a little hard to understand, as well as the 27 years he spent in prison. “27 years?” she exclaimed. “That’s more than my life. No, that’s much older than me. I wouldn’t want that thank you very much.”
What struck me as I watched the news coverage of Nelson and other “dignitaries” including Gordon Brown and Red Ken was just how dignified he is and how undignified they are. This is a man who really was willing to die for his principles and who sacrificed 27 years of his life in prison for them. And it shows in his face and comportment. I can’t imagine our politicians today sacrificing a weekend for much, although Gordon Brown did very generously cut short his summer holiday in Dorset this year to deal with a national security alert. I suspect he was secretly relieved to get out of the rain and back to town.
I am on my way to London now and hope to see the new statue. Maybe it will inspire future generations of politicians as they walk past it. Let’s hope so, we need more Nelsons.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007