Nelson Mandela’s name and my own became linked because of a song.
As he was born, destined for many painful days, on his path to almost sainthood (an honour yet to be officially bestowed upon him) so too it seems was the song.
There are many reasons why a human being does not achieve his/her full potential. But salient among them, are the reality of the combination of capacity and opportunity, without which the candidate cannot achieve, let alone maximise on his/her ‘bagfull’ of any one of those components.
As one who started very young in the game of music and consequently kept the company of ‘big men,’ many of whom were worthy of hero status themselves in the eyes of an up-and-coming talent, I came to swiftly realise that there is a magical element, that, regardless of capacity or opportunity, is powerful enough to raise a mere human being to almost God-like status and proportions. It operates regardless of the nature of its electrical domain, positive or negative. This domain I have since learned to call the ‘Super-Negative’ and the ‘Super-Positive.’
For example: Would you consider a man losing his eyes to be lucky? No, you wouldn’t. Personally, you would prefer keeping your eyes. Nothing is guaranteed to a blind man/woman but darkness and more than likely some degree of discomfort in a sighted world. In my estimation, as I reflect on the long life of the man we call ‘Madiba’, I am immediately drawn to the major aspect of super-negative that conspired to lift him out of the orbit of kings, popes, presidents, et al, of every colour and creed. Yes, he was cast as a danger to the white population; those that he wouldn’t allow to take over his mind in the way that they were able, in some measure, to orchestrate the actions of his body and those belonging to tens of millions of black South Africans.
‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ but preferably dead, he was sought out like a pimpernel and eventually incarcerated; but they went too far, much too far for the logical mind to understand and rationalise and relate to the scope of the crime purportedly committed by the man named Mandela.
The name itself started to take on a life of its own.
The news hungry world media making it, not a name of derision but a symbol of rectitude, testicular fortitude and most of all, that word that is beloved by every pseudo-revolutionary the world over, ‘resistance.’ Bit by bit, he came to personify something more than that which was imbued in the likes of Castro, Che Guevara and Steve Biko. The South African authorities had gone beyond the bounds of reason; normal people could no longer understand the measure of this perceived retribution.
Now, even the ignorant started to ask questions, the groundswell had started and the media would feed it. Songs and poetry were written and recorded by artists and non-artists. There was almost literally a pushing and shoving to create a masterpiece of Anti-apartheid anything. The white media was relentless in its thrust to find a white knight in shining armour to ride again to the rescue.
“Why don’t they leave us alone to fight our own battles?” would come the shout from the ‘Frontline’ (Brixton and other places like it where black people live in large numbers), while the boys at ‘home-base’ (South Africa) would be making the right thankful noises which the media would make sure that the right parts of the international community saw.
In the meantime a relatively young, physically gifted lawyer remains incarcerated and there is talk of impending war between black people and white. Suitable candidates are thrown up almost daily as the puppet-masters play their ugly game of seek out and destroy any and all that may one day constitute a leader of the black ‘rabble’ of many tribes. Young white South Africans are now confused, asking why this beautiful country of theirs must be destroyed by the conflagration of a stupid war. ‘The Leader?’
Give us a chance mate!
To rule South Africa? You gotta be joking! Some start to see the reality of being one day governed by a black President.
By now, it’s painfully clear, that their white authorities will not break the will of Nelson Mandela and he has been in jail much too long; so long it is vulgar even contemplating the number of years that this man has been in jail. There are now a multitude of songs for them to sing, some by white promoted interests and some by black artists being promoted by the same interest groups. Money is being spent like water and the results are marginal.
I am now again going to be placed into the breach; I am walking around predicting that they will have to release Nelson Mandela within 18 months or things are feeling so hot that anything can happen; the media are at a loss for words. In the meantime I have made a funny little song that clears the dance-floor in a UK discotheque when it’s tried out one night and is subsequently banned by the authorities in South Africa…. Now they’ve really gone too far, as this is, apart from anything else, a song that even the older white South Africans love. An artist named Dr Victor covers the song and sings it everywhere and Nelson Mandela is released from jail after 27 years of incarceration. The white world and its leaders are ashamed beyond belief but there is nothing they can do. The black leaders are as usual emasculated and rendered as mere onlookers as their brother walks on sunshine and into the glare of an unknown future with a people he must surely lead. But to where? Will he talk of another war in Africa sponsored by this side or that? He looks good for his age. No, he looks better than all of the politicians of the world, young or old, black, white, Indian, Chinese and those in between. Goddamit man, he even looks better than Maggie Thatcher and she’s a woman. The truth that dawns on the perpetrators of the most vulgar and heinous crime of our time is that Mandela does not hate them; he doesn’t really see them; all he sees are a world of black people baying for blood and retribution for them having been abused through him and the many, too many to count or even remember. The kids and so many women trampled, shot and killed for no other reason than being of a different hue to white people. Ridiculous! There must have been a different reason. He must, in the very shortest time, remember what he had decided he would say, should this time ever come, during his many years breaking rocks or in his many moments of veiled reflection after maybe crying on some lonely night or day on the island of his torture.
The call to war was to be televised; after all if this was not so, why was there so many cameras there?
Surely no one in his right mind, expected a man so unjustly incarcerated in his own country, by an alien power, with a draconian inhuman system, carried out by madmen, to walk out of prison blowing kisses to the gallery for having systematically killed a major part of the soul of his country.
They wanted blood and blood they were going to get… and yet even as they watched through their camera eye-pieces and their TV monitors, it was becoming clear, that this old ‘Shaka’ was not going to give them what they had expected or half expected or planned. Some kind of calm had settled over him and through him the whole world. The world, having been driven half crazy by war, after war, after war, breathed a sigh of relief, such as had never been breathed before.
Black people on the Frontline were a little confused at the message. They know that they could never be accused of Black racism… you have to be the power to be a racist and even in history, black people haven’t had that for a long time… but let the brother talk; give him time to settle down; he ain’t made no speech for a long time and the world has changed in those 27 years that the real racists messed with his head, and ours. Maybe after he’s had a chance to settle down with his ANC soldiers of old, out will come the battle cry; not no Cry Freedom with its white star-boy again saving Denzel Washington as he played another one of the dead heroes of our many struggles, but a cry for vindication, a cry to cleanse once and for all, all the advantage taken of black people the world over.
But alas, no!
When the surprise was over, the dancing in the streets of Africa and elsewhere and the last tear had been wiped from many a white sympathiser’s eye, the world was left wanting more. Somehow, the giant that came out of jail, was a benevolent force that dwarfed any that had existed before, certainly in recent history. He could wax eternal on very sensitive political issues, he danced and played with babies of all colours, he dressed as he pleased and could hardly seem to incur the wrath of any political dynasty or persuasion; he became the world’s most touchable God-like figure and South Africa’s white population and it’s black mostly ghetto-bound population had something that no other person in the whole world could promise them ‒ hope.
Mandela’s earthly body will soon no longer be with us but surely he can never be forgotten or erased from the pages of world history.
His impression has, like his suffering, gone too deep, inscribing itself indelibly into all future pages in which the new dispensation, when it arrives, must find itself and its space. Whatever it finds on those pages will have to be written around, not over the works of Mandela, for he personifies the very meaning of hope. May the beauty of his true warrior soul now rest in peace.
Ringbang For Life.