Nelson Mandela: Heroes of Liberation and Heroes of Building-Up

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is sometimes called “the Black Pimpernel.” This South African lawyer and tribal prince first achieved world prominence at the time of John F. Kennedy’s presidency. Mandela is one of the great fighters for liberation in the twentieth century, along with Ernesto Che Guevara, the Colombian Jesuit priest Camilo Torres Restrepo, Mohandas Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mandela is today being called The Last Great Liberator of the Twentieth Century.

But our new century–the twenty-first–is the century of “building up”. In a way, liberation has become accepted policy. It has become main stream. We no longer imprison those who proclaim liberation, or hose them down in the streets, or fight them with guns. Instead, we elect them presidents. When Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa, you could say that his election was the culmination of his life work as liberator, and the conclusion of his work as a man of struggle.

But what happens after liberation is achieved? When the shackles of oppression fall away and the prison gates are held open, it is time to seek the other inalienable rights of every human being–which, along with liberty, are life and the pursuit of happiness.

As I see it, the twenty-first century is the century of all three inalienable rights. “Life” has to do with the means to sustain life, or a sound economy. “Pursuit of happiness” has to do with the cultural means to achieve happiness, in other words, a vibrant culture. Therefore, the establishment of a sound economy and the development of a rich culture are the tasks at hand in the twenty-first century–our task.


Swords into plowshares

In order to achieve a prosperous economy and a flourishing culture, it is best that we beat our swords into plowshares, that we change our banners of struggle for banners of harmony, and that we set aside our rhetoric of confrontation for the dialog of  bringing together. “Difference” and “oneness”: “We are different, yes, and yet we are one”–that is how we are going to create a powerful economy and a wonderful culture.

As we say good-bye to the last hero of liberation of the twentieth century, let us hail the new heroes of building-up of the twenty-first century.

Paulo-Juarez Pereira
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA
December 2013


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