Friday, December 06, 2013

Hang up your brightest colours

I came late to understand.

This week we will hear much about the life and works of the late Nelson Mandela including, I have little doubt, from those who will try and stuff down the memory hole the inconvenient fact that almost all of the American Right worked their industrious little asses off fighting everything he stood for.
(He was utterly despised by Jesse Helms; that alone would be enough to establish him as a Great Man in my mind. Sometimes it is as simple as who your enemies are.)
For all of his fame - or notariety - it took me many, many years longer than it should have to recognize who the man was; perhaps the greatest statesman of our era.

Mandela held the point of the spear that stabbed to death perhaps the most loathsome political regime since the fall of the Soviet Union. Only the decaying ediface of Maoism and the bizarre undead husk of Kimism in North Korea linger to remind us of the officious dictatorships that once bestrode the world like colossi. Of all of those the apartheid government of South Africa was the only one that we, the United States, was even remotely associated with, outside the usual caudillos of our own hemisphere who hardly count, we've been in that business so long.

Mandela's most famous fight was, though, probably his easiest. The Afrikaner regime was an almost cartoon baddie, booted ranks of thick-necked Boers with elephant-hide whips, for God's sake, like a cut-rate kill-the-Nazis flick brought to-date. If you had any more decency in your soul than Dick Cheney - and I have it on good authority that the Lovecraftian Elder Gods once met with Cheney and were appalled and horrified at the callous evil in the man - it was easy to hate on the apartheid government and cheer on its enemies.

Once that cardboard villainy was dispatched, however, there remained the vast sea of troubles that is "South Africa". Mandela was unable to fully calm those restless waters. But he did what he could and, especially, avoided the Mugabe Trap that has ensnared so many other African leaders. If Mandela's nation does not rise from its troubled past it will not be because of his efforts.

Though I cannot write a touch of the prose that seems to flow effortlessly from Charlie Pierce's word processor, I did want to note that amid the funereal orations and encomiums we will hear we will probably not hear of the burning heart of Mandela's struggle. Beyond his work for his nation the real greatness of the man is that his life, his struggle, as a man of the people reminds us of what we should be living and struggling for; the rights of all of our fellow man and women to live free.
"There are few colonial nations any more. Instead, we are colonized by financial institutions beyond our political control. We are colonized with pens and papers and millions of little digital bursts transferring billions of dollars all over the globe in the blink of an eye. For the most part, we are not kept colonized with rubber bullets and water cannon -- although there is plenty of that going around these days, as militarized law enforcement all around the world is summoned to do the bidding of major corporations -- but rather through sophisticated financial instruments that keep the money and the power moving upward.

There is resistance, as there should be -- the Occupy movement, and what went on in Greece this year -- and that resistance has had its martyrs, like Ken Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria. But it is colonization of a vague and amorphous -- if incredibly powerful -- variety. There are no radio stations to capture, no capitals to fall, no Dublin Castle over which the successful rebels could take command.

But it is a revolution of the mind, no less than Mandela's was, and that is also what we should remember today when we remember that we are, in our souls, a revolutionary people. We have a revolutionary history to honor and uphold. Which was what Nelson Mandela did. He reminded us of that which we need to be reminded, over and over again, about our own best selves. He reminded us because he was the last one of them, the last in the line that began with George Washington, the last one to witness what Lincoln called for 150 years ago.

He was there for a new birth of freedom."


Lisa said...

Pierce waxes poetic, and I like some of what he writes.

But if (as stated) Mandela birthed a "new freedom", then why is he "the last one of them"? Truly free mend do not stop being so because their guru leaves.

Syrbal/Labrys said...

I find it oddly re-assuring AND disturbing that the vehemence of the Right is not stilled a bit by his death…the sheer hostility of their reaction speaks volumes about what Mandela's worth truly measured in humanity.

Freedom, true or not, is something that needs constant maintenance --- and Mandela was not only a winner of freedom, but one who maintained it. Laziness and apathy can let what was so hard-won drain away. Just like rights won by women of my generation, now again so embattled.

FDChief said...

I think he means last in the sense of the latest, not the last-last as in no more. The fall of the apartheid government in South Africa was the last in the line of genuinely transformatory revolutions; every one since then (such as the fall of Saddam) has been pretty tainted.

Hopefully Mandela's work WAS only the latest and not "the last" in the final sense...

no one said...

sheesh...rolls eyes and hand to forehead...but that's what I get for reading a commie blog. Mandela was just a rats c hair away from objectively being a terrorist and his wife certainly embraced terrorism fully and committed full blown atrocities in the name of the cuse. Both were communists. Both were friends of characters like Qadaffi (before he was reformed) and Arafat. He did seem to come out of prison a little wiser and more civilized. I'll give him that.

I think the real hero in the SA saga is de Klerk for not going all genocidal (er.... excuse me....all Roman...on the Kaffirs' black asses).

MLK, Mandela is not and his movement was nothing at all without de Klerk. Now it's all another black ghetto; like Detroit and an endless list of places where blacks have achieved power.

Podunk Paul said...

Hell, Chief, I thought you banned the troll.

Lisa said...


I can vouch for no one (not that he needs it); he holds up his end of the table, albeit in an impassioned and sometimes provocative manner. He is a frequent commenter @ RAW.

We are not here to be "yes-men", we are here to think, and to speak frankly. He brings valid points to the table: de Klerk was a vital part of this formula. It's like saying Reagan "tore down that wall" -- no, but Gorbachev did. We must see the gestalt, or we have nothing.

A half-truth is a whole lie.

FDChief said...

I've never banned anyone from this site and hope I never will. So long as the discourse is reasoned I don't see any need.

That said:

1. I see that our friend mister No one share's Darth Cheney's and Jesse Helms' opinion of Mr. Mandela. As I said in the post; the quality of a man is sometimes revealed in his enemies. Hmmm.

2. On the subject of "reasoned" discourse: The Mandelas and the ANC were in a deathmatch with one of the world's truly shitty despotic regimes. They killed "innocents", that's your definition of "terrorist"? Well so did Hap Arnold and Curtis LeMay (LeMay was man enough to stand up and state that had the Axis won he'd have been convicted of war crimes). So did the "patriots" who tarred and feathered civilian Tories. One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.

So; horseshit.

"Friends of characters like Ghaddafi..."? I seem to recall that back in the day our freedom-loving country loved us some Pinochet, Marcos, P.W. Botha, Saddam, the Pahlevis, Batista, Diem...

So, more horseshit.

And de Klerk, as Lisa points out, is just as much a "hero" as Gorby was for not defending Soviet Communism to the bloody end; that is, a little less the worthless sod he could have been. He was implicated in all sorts of dirty tricks with the Inkatha people. He was simply a fairly astute politician who saw that it was change or die.

He, and his ilk, have EVERYTHING to do with the RSA being "another black ghetto". Had the post-British governments chosen to bring the black South Africans into their society, chosen to make them full citizens, work with the Mandelas to make them Booker T. Washington instead of Malcolm X the RSA might be a much different place today.

Instead they chose to be the Ugly Boer and forced generations of black South Africans to choose between virtual incarceration (or actual, in Mandela's case) and a life of war.

No, Mandela is not MLK. He couldn't have been. The U.S., for all our racial troubles, has actually tried to become a multiethnic society. The South Africa of P.W. Botha didn't even try.

" endless list of places where blacks have achieved power."

My old roommate at FBNC used to keep a baseball bat behind the door labeled "Nigger Knocker". Am I right in assuming you'd like to borrow that for keeps?

So, in answer to your question, no, Paul, I don't intend to ban this guy. He's like the site jester. Every so often he prances out doffing his little racist hat and jingling his Ronnie Reagan bells and serving up - not so much "valid points", sorry, Lisa - but some sort of served-up-from-the-stewpot-of-movement-conservatism goulash. It's always entertaining and usually give s me a chance to be snarky.

My only question would be; if this site is so eye-rollingly, hand-to-forehead irking, what the fuck are you doing here? Rush in repeats for the holiday or something?

FDChief said...

Here's the problem with that, Lisa.

1+1=2 is a truth.

1+1=3 is a lie.

"Nelson Mandela is a terrorist" is an opinion

No one thinks that Mandela is a terrorist and I'm full of shit. That's his opinion

I think that Dick CHENEY is a terrorist and no one is full of shit. That's mine.

Whatever "truth" is there is in the actions of the men involved but how they're perceived by those around them is a matter of who you are and what you believe.

Was Curtis LeMay a war criminal? Were Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík?

I'd say no, but that's my opinion.

The "truth" is that both killed in cold blood, both were "assassins" who used death to strike fear into their enemies - isn't that pretty much the textbook definition of "terror"? Was what they did "right"? Was it "good"? How you answer that has a lot less to do with "truth" and a lot more to do with who you are, and how you stand relative to what they did...

So, yes; there are truths, and lies. But not all statements and nearly all opinions are neither fully one nor the other; they are "the truth as I see it".

no one said...

"No one thinks that Mandela is a terrorist and I'm full of shit. That's his opinion"

A number of years ago I sat down and had a beer or two with three SA soldiers that HATED the Mandelas. I was on the Mandela as hero side of the fence until I was told what was actually going on over there. It was terrorism.

Now you can say that what constitutes terrorism is just a matter of semantics. In fact we can justify anything by playing the semantics and moral equivalency card. Right?

Notice, I used the term "objectively" in my first comment. You turned it all into a matter of subjective perspective because you seek to promote your opinion as fact.

Lisa said...


With all due respect, everyone branded him a terrorist. Even Colin Powell claimed to be surprised (playing the clueless toady), as did Condi Rice (ditto).

Please read Jean MacKenzie's piece @ Global Post for the Real U.S. policy towards Mandela:

The Real US Policy Toward Nelson Mandela

newhill farm said...

Chief, as for the charge of "racism", you point out to me any where in the world where a black majority has gained control and created anything resembling a functional decent society - say somewhere you'd like to move to with your family - and I'll plead guilty.

Otherwise you're just pleading "because equality"

Podunk Paul said...

From Wiki:
A mid-sized country of just over two million people, Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Botswana was one of the poorest countries in Africa when it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, with a GDP per capita of about US$70. Botswana has since transformed itself, becoming one of the fastest-growing economies in the world to a GDP (purchasing power parity) per capita of about $14,000,[1] and a high gross national income, possibly the fourth-largest in Africa, giving the country a modest standard of living.[6] The country, being a member of the African Union, also has a strong tradition as a representative democracy and has the second highest Human Development Index of continental Sub-Saharan African countries.[7]

rangeragainstwar said...

i find your comments re; no one as dismissive and inappropriate.
His view is every bit as relevant as any mans.
I think the point that we're missing is that former terrorists do gain legitimacy as national leaders.
Jerry Adams, Begin and Sadat all ate at the White House on our tax dollar and all were T's at one time or another.
Obviously our rhetoric of never dealing with T's is a real rubber yardstick and is ignored when politically expedient. Reagan proved this point in spades. No pun intended.
As for Botswana-i'll pass on going to any African or Mideast country.
It's probably more accurate to call the mideast =tribes with flags rather than countries.
I'll stay home and tend my own garden.
jim hruska

rangeragainstwar said...

Botswana life expectancy has dropped from 65 to 35 due to aids.
The country exists on a very narrow economic base.
Not exactly a workers paradise.

no one said...

As a parting shot, I will once again point out your hypocrisy, Chief. You are for gun control in the US - black rifles, no magazines above some small capacity. When someone like me says the 2A not only allows us - but WANTS - us to have these things so we could fight our government should it become tyrannical, you scoff, snort and chortle. However, when the Madela's engage in the same you praise as heros. You believe in violence as a neans to an end as long as it isn't done in Portland. Fine for those jungle bunnies, but not for us white civilized folk. But I'm the racist?

Podunk Paul said...

I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but “life expectancy in Botswana declined from 65 in 1990 to 49 in 2000 before increasing to 66 in 2011.” This has occurred in spite of fact that a quarter of the 15- to 49-year-olds test positive for HIV.
Meanwhile, segments of the U.S. population have experienced catastrophic declines in life expectancy. White woman without a high school diploma lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008. Males in the same group lost three years. Not since the flu epidemic of 1918 has there been such a decline. Life expectancy actually increased during the Great Depression.
The U.S. is, of course, a country governed by white people.

rangeragainstwar said...

My source was wikipedia.
merry christmas to all the normal suspects.

FDChief said...

"...that former terrorists do gain legitimacy as national leaders."

Which proves the point, jim, that "terrorist" is a convenient label to stick on someone fighting for something you don't like.

So far as mister no one's "opinions", yes, they are as valid as mine. But you notice that I don't waltz into his joint rolling my eyes and putting my hand to my forehead and talking opinions that are basically racist smack. Do that here and you get smacked back. Period. My fucking house, my fucking rules.

Now - the question of black people and fucked up places.

I'll be the first one to agree that a LOT of places "run" by black people are fucked up. South Africa is one fucked-up place. So is Zimbabwe. Hell, so is Detroit.

But what we don't know is how much of that has to do with being "black". If being "black" meant you're too fucked up to govern yourself there would never have been Songai or Mali Empires, no Zulu or Swazi nations, no Ethiopia.

Most of the "black" nations in Africa as well as our own black people have a 200+ year history of being hammered out of shape by everything from slavery to vicious racism and back again. What that has done to their societies, their families, as well as to a lot of them personally we have no idea.

I'm not saying this to let "black people" off the hook. But for no one to say "fucked up like an endless list of places where blacks have achieved power" is to ignore that the blacks gained that power after generations of fucking-over by...white people. By the time they gained power how fucked up were they? How much of that fucked-up-ness is "them" and how much is the warping that happens when you get worked over for ten generations?

I mean...look at Russia? Fucked up? A bit? And black people there. China? Despotic? Inhumane? Miserable? Sure, lots of it. No blacks there, either.

Hell, look at some of the poor white parts of our own country. Poverty, inbreeding, violence...everything a black township in Soweto has only with 100% less blackness.

So, sorry - I got no time for that shit. Mandela and Desmond Tutu and that generation of South Africans did the best they could, and that was pretty damn good, considering. Their successors don't seem to be able to do anywhere near as well, and that's a damn shame.

But for a bunch of us nice, well-fed white boys to slag off on the man who spent years in prison trying to break the power of as bad a government as ever ruled?

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

FDChief said...

"Fine for those jungle bunnies, but not for us white civilized folk. But I'm the racist?"

"Jungle bunnies"?

Yep. Case closed. By their works shall ye know racist asshats.

Sorry, pal. You don't get to come in here talking that stuff and then hiding behind weasel words. "Objectively"? Horseshit.

If you lie down with the Cheneys and Helmses you get up with fleas.

Bye, now.

FDChief said...

"When someone like me says the 2A not only allows us - but WANTS - us to have these things so we could fight our government should it become tyrannical, you scoff, snort and chortle. However, when the Madela's engage in the same you praise as heros."

This is exactly the sort of thing that makes our man "no one" the licensed fool around this joint. Honestly, I should start charging for the minute I spend reteaching him the stuff he slept through in Civics class.

But here goes.

First off, the Second Amendment has nothing to do with "fighting our government" - beginning with the basis of republican citizenship; we ARE our government (and I note in passing that if more people on the Right would get off their teabagging asses worrying about Obama coming to get their fucking guns and start helping us commie fight the fucking hedge funds coming to get our fucking jobs and pensions we'd be a hell of lot further towards being in actual charge of the damn country...).

Had the Framers intended your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment they'd have welcomed the Whiskey Rebellion. Instead, they invoked the militia act to put it down.

Militia! let's begin with the first section of the amendment; "A well-regulated militia..."

Got it?

So the Second Amendment says you can keep and bear be in the MILITIA. (FYI, the Militia Act of 1903 is the applicable statute here, and establishes the ARNG as the "militia".) So your shootin' iron is there not for you to fight off Teh Black Helicopters, but so you can turn out when the Mexican Army tries to retake Brownsville.

So much for the "Second Amendment".

As for hero-izing Mandela and his ANC pals, there's no equivalence there at all. The ANC wasn't the South African government and, in fact, by South African law blacks were not citizens of South Africa.

So Mandela's people weren't doing anything like what you describe. They weren't using a "right" to combat tyranny of their government They were fighting a war, a war with an enemy nation.

Mandela himself wrote in 1985 that the moment that the South African government allowed true democracy there would be no need for violent action.

And, more to the point, he pretty much delivered that, him and Tutu and the other ANC leaders. The massacre of Afrikaners never came.

I will give your boy de Klerk credit for one thing; he 86ed the SA nuke program. That's what sub-Saharan Africa needed, nukes...

Anyway, do feel free to jest elsewhere than here. I have better things to do and free men such as yourself shouldn't have to endure the socialist bandwidth of this joint.