Honour Madiba With Your Actions

Soon, Nelson Mandela will die. As I write this post traditional and social media channels are rife with rumours of his ill health and deteriorating state. This day was always going to come.

When he dies messages of condolence and sympathy will flood in. Wreaths will be laid, memorial services will be held and millions, maybe billions of people around the world will mourn one of the greatest men who ever lived. His life – and more specifically the actions that shaped his life – have earned such a send-off.

Last week Friday I was called to Benoni after my gran passed away in the company of the people she loved most. She was 89, and had lived a most remarkable life. This was no more evident than in her funeral on Wednesday – an event that was not clouded by regret, but illuminated by celebration. Her life was such that she had no unfinished business.

She was gracious beyond reason. She faced every challenge that life threw at her – two bouts of cancer, a World War, the loss of her husband after only 7 years of marriage – with admirable strength and resolve, and an unshakeable faith that anchored it all in place.

I see so many parallels in the grace she showed others, and the gratitude she expressed for every moment she had on this earth, to the life of Nelson Mandela. It’s not for their achievements that we hold these special people in such high esteem – it’s for their actions. Actions that fly in the face of what the world tells us is right, or normal. Actions that defy logic. Actions that change the fabric of society.

When Madiba dies… wait, screw that… BEFORE Madiba dies, seek to honour him and those that are like him in this world by not just sending out a compassionate tweet, or updating your Facebook status to “RIP Tata”. Seek to honour him by ACTING abnormally. ACT with grace, compassion and forgiveness:

Write that letter to that person who you need to make peace with.

Smile at strangers.

Give something away – something that is of value to you.

Stop collecting things and start collecting memories.

Love without fear.

I figure if I can do these things, if I can change the way I act and be just a little more like the kind of person Nelson Mandela is, and my gran was, then I am truly honouring them. The minister who officiated my gran’s funeral said, “people only die when we stop talking about them”. The lives of my gran and Nelson Mandela will best be honoured when we try and act like them.

  • Richard

    Its very true, we must honour our heroes by emulating what we admire most from their lives.So many will snd messages of condolences including the self imposed ‘Presidents’ yet their hands are full of bood and its a very sad situation indeed.

  • Madiba is the icon of hope for our country. For me my joy in South Africa (and Africa for that matter) is that one day we will rise to be a powerful nation on this earth. A continent where every family has their own home, enough food and a life worth living. I wait for the day where Africans (black and white) are all striving towards their dreams and not just for survival.

  • Neil Golding

    So true my friend! A reminder and ongoing wake up call for us 2 convert our words into actions and live, striving to make a difference and impact the lives of others in a way someone such as Madiba has!

  • Lesley

    So true, well said Mike – what better way honour the great people in our lives, our country and our world.

  • Agree wholeheartedly with everything except the comment, ‘Soon, NM will die’. We don’t know that. Unless Apple are selling crystal balls now? ;-)

  • Philip Copeman

    Nelson Mandela – a Godless, Goodwill Greeting
    from Philip Copeman.

    This blog posted on Atheist Nexus

    Happy Birthday Madiba on your 93rd Birthday. The 18th of July is spritually special to me because it is both my late father’s birthday and your birthday. Both of you did so much to make my life in Africa a better place.

    Madiba, you have done so much in your life for me and for so many people, can you now do something for yourself. Make a clear statement to all of your followers. Tell them,

    “Jesus had nothing to do with it.”


    Madiba, read further at your own discretion. You have already made it perfectly clear that you have retired from public life. This is a goodwill greeting, a 93rd Birthday greeting. Younger people may find the tone melancholy and dark, but an acceptance of the inevitability of life’s termination is not usually uncomfortable for older people, especially those with a leaning to atheism. You are under no obligation to respond to this greeting, and I would certainly not ask of you anything other than your own willful contribution to a debate that will rage on with or without you.

    Your soul is not even a few feet above our heads and already the theist vultures have started to circle. You will notice in the media and in the web that reference to you is caged in ever increasing terms of reverence, bordering on sanctification. This is typical of theistic culture, where popular belief pervades that nothing good in the world can happen without the sanction of a higher power. Good is solely attributed to the will of the lord. You are already described by some as a saint.

    Madiba, you are much more than a saint. A saint is a comic book character that rules over a fantasy world where good triumphs in the spirit of Revelation and evil rides the world in broad daylight on the back of giant black bats. As a saint, the legacy of Mandela will rank right up there with Harry Potter, Batman and King Arthur.

    Madiba you are much more than a saint. You are a politician that has risen to global popularity. You have always been good at doing popular things and you have used this popularity to do good in the world. However you are not a politician anymore and you don’t have to be popular. Do something that will make you less popular, but will do much good in the world. Tell them,

    “Jesus had nothing to do with it.”

    Madiba, have no doubt that in making this statement you will reduce your popularity. Less than 3% of the world is atheist and theists vilify us. Just me writing this greeting is sure to make me less popular and so it will be with you, should you choose to respond. This should not stop you or I.

    Bertrand Russell said,

    “There would be more atheists if men did not protect their wages”

    Madiba you no longer need to be popular. You are not a saint, you are man. Like all men, your life will end soon and all that will be left is your legacy. The bad news is the legacy of popular politicians wanes quickly. The good news is the the words of good men don’t. Hard as it may be to accept this, think of as many popular politicians as you can from over 50 years ago. The only ones that come to mind are those that waged wars or murdered millions. Its gets even harder to think of popular politicians from the nineteenth century who forwarded peace. It is easy to think of the words of men from these periods. Words live on. Many great men have proclaimed themselves Atheists. Here is a list of some of them. Sadly you are not on that list. One clear statement would put you right near the top. The list may surprise you. Madiba, do something for yourself and make a proclamation that will last for history.

    Why even bother with this? Many good people are theists and why should we wish to antagonise them? Many of them are our friends and family. However, it is not the good people, but theism in general, that has a nasty way of perverting morality and distorting values. This is particularly so in Africa. Once men believe in righteousness and the blessedness of their actions, morality can easily slip. The township beatings of homosexuals, the genocidal instincts of central Africans, even the philosophers of Apartheid are forces driven by believers. As little as 150 years ago there were no theists in Africa. The Christian missionary zeal that swept this continent, accompanied a wave of subjugation and stratification that pervades the African continent even today. Madiba, you already know this. There is little point in dwelling here.

    So what happens if you do nothing? Evil thrives when good men remain silent. Even great men suffer the same fate as all of us. Soon your voice falls silent, circling theists descend and begin to tear at your flesh. I foresee a state funeral and a media fenzy in which every high profile priest in the world proclaims you as his own. You quickly become an icon for extolling that the only path to a good life is one that follows the word of the lord. None can come into the kingdom but through him. The tempered voices of reason and logic are pushed to the rear.

    Madiba I do not know you well and have met you only once personally (in a gym in Houghton doing bench press), but I have scoured your written word and it is difficult to believe that you are a man of God. Real theist politicians, never miss an opportunity to thank God for being on their side. This is missing from your speech history. Your media history reflects a politician skirting the issue of God. You are not alone, but this does put you into a rare group of African thinkers, see African Atheists. Space is limited here, so I will deal with two quotes attributed to you, which I have no doubt will be besieged upon by the theists and eulogists:

    A simple statement attributed to you like,

    “I have no regrets, because the things I have done pleased my soul.”

    will be taken to litereally mean that you foresee yourself entering the afterlife and heaven, under the guidance of angels. Theistic dogma is so pervasive that it has entered our speech and pervades even in seemingly innocuous ways.

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
    — Nelson Mandela (Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela)

    This may seem like harmless neo pantheist imagery, used to motivate the 97% for whom intellectual thought has been lost in the genocide that made freedom extinct in Africa. These are not the words of a believer. A true believer says something more like,

    “I believe in God the Father Almighty; Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. “

    Madiba there is nothing like this in your works. However your words and how you will be remembered will not be the same. Unless you give crystal clarity, and even then get heavily supported by the 3% that are free thinkers, you can be sure that your deeds and your actions will be perverted for the greater purpose of glorifying the lord.

    By Africa’s favorite son making one small, but clear statement, you will give light and hope to generations of Africans who can take inspiraration from you that there is meaning and purpose in a Godless world. Africans can rise knowing that even in the moments of darkest dispair and adversity there is no need to turn to fairies to find the strength to stand firm. A simple statement from you can make us all believe that a good life of compassion to your fellow man, forgiveness even in the face of massive aggression, is possible without divine assistance. Most importantly the children of Ham will be able to rise up and cast aside the label of water carriers that is placed on us by the Bible. With one statement you can help break the last chain of colonialism that still holds us in slavery. Madiba tell them,

    “Jesus had nothing to do with it.”

    • Are you trying to honour Nelson Mandela or promote atheism? Sorry, not quite sure…

  • Great sentiments about honouring Madiba – and those we love and respect. His generation had enormous strength and resolve. Your Gran sounds much like many of her generation, including my parents. We have much to thank them for the good stuff that’s in our lives today; they watched out for us and tried to make the world a better place. Some, like Nelson Mandela, had such vision as well as strength of conviction, that their light will shine long after they are gone. Their lives are an inspiration (and his life in particular has inspired much of my writing). Madiba’s humility, like Desmond Tutu’s, belie their greatness. Thank you to both of them for being our moral compass even when there were those who tried to put out the light.

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