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Nelson Mandela

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Nicky
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He's dead. For any visiting aliens, he was a socialist revolutionary who took over South Africa after the Apartheid.

 

I read a NYT article asking people not to treat him as a saint, and reminding readers that he had some shortcomings. I know a lot of his "shortcomings". I'm looking to do the opposite: find some redeeming quality about him.

 

I'm yet to find anything. As far as I can tell, he's being praised for things (complicity to mass murder, election fraud, implementing socialism and destroying their country's economy) other people (Lenin, Castro, Hugo Chavez, etc.) have been rightfully crucified for, just because the regime before him was racist. 

 

I know we have some South African members, so maybe you guys (or anyone else) know more than I do about him. Did he do anything that can be characterized as good? 

Edited by Nicky
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I do not know for certain particulars, but my impressions from the coverage I have seen(so based on the 'media', without fact finding on my part)is that he was duly elected by a large majority , served one(?) of five years, worked to make sure that racism wasn't used as a catalyst for violence against whites. And that he and his government and supporters are from the left.

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Judged relatively against other third-world leaders, and particularly against someone like Mugabe, Mandela -- at the time he finally got power -- was great. His single biggest accomplishment -- again compared to Mugabe -- is that he did not devour the productivity of his country. Of course, he was socialist like many others, but he could have been much worse. I don't know enough about how his thinking changed over time, but it would be fair to speculate that his post-apartheid approach of stressing reconciliation was motivated by a positive: an understanding of values and a refusal to use his fame to become yet another African tin-pot dictator. 

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You need to go deep into the political mindset to grasp the fervent worship of the African National Congress in South Africa's past and present.

Very basically, I think Mandela was a child -and eventual father- of the movement, and start to finish its most dedicated "cadre".

It explains the evil bed-fellows he befriended. When there was one enemy, apartheid, consuming him, perhaps those even more vicious regimes -ones that armed and supported the ANC's "armed struggle"- appeared ideologically benign to him. I'm guessing.

But his loyalty to his Party also explains why he kept strangely silent all that time after his (single) term in Office, when the Party and succeeding Presidents have been looting the coffers, chipping at the Constitution and implementing policies of (or tacitly supporting) reverse-racist retribution. That silent acquiescence was a moral failing, to me.

In the end, he was always the quintessential pragmatist, I think. An excellent mind which had 27 years to ponder on how to wrest control from the South African whites' power bloc - while not scaring them, with their ideas, skills and capital, away. Similarly, he recognised the importance of winning over the Western Nations (who'd had long, painful experience of African freedom fighter/dictators).

By remarkable force of will he changed from radical firebrand to reconciliator while in prison, evidently. For that alone one might respect him.

All to the 'greater good' of the ANC and country: to this day, the two are perfectly synonymous to our politicians and the majority of citizens.

Relative to that period of fear we experienced when SA had its first democratic elections, sure, it came as huge relief when - nothing happened.

NM's one term in office I recall as the best period I've known since I arrived here. Benevolence, racial integration and good spirits all round.

However - I think looking back, that was the lull before the storm, and Mandela got out of the way for what was to follow- on orders of the ANC.

To get beneath all the sanctification and hype now, to uncover the morality of the man and the politician, is pretty difficult.

Fundamentally Marxist, altruist and collectivist? I'd say so.

(But as these things go in life, I have also the memory of him as a warm and interested human being: In 1990, soon after his release, he arrived in Jo'burg for the first time and attended a hush-hush private function of a group of the top industry, mining and finance CEO's in the country; I was among them as the single photographer. Ignoring all the 'suits' as he arrived he first walked straight to me, greeted me, smiled that famous smile and shook my hand. I was stunned naturally.)

As one hears, there are tens of thousands around the world he touched, with similar disregard for rank or status, in that charismatic manner. He was a 'sense of life' individualist, despite the rest.

Edited by whYNOT
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I'm yet to find anything. As far as I can tell, he's being praised for things (complicity to mass murder, election fraud, implementing socialism and destroying their country's economy)

Can you expand on these, especially the "complicity to mass murder" one? My perspective is the same as Tad's.

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This is a rather large article that takes a pretty harsh stance against him. It was actually shared on facebook by an "objectivist" friend. I got a little annoyed with him because it was a few hours after his death was announced. 

 

http://www.thenewamerican.com/world-news/africa/item/15888-saint-mandela-not-so-fast

 

Of course he wasn't "perfect", but as bad as socialism or communism is, it's much better than the alternatives many faced, and much more viable at the time than ideas of capitalism or democracy.

Edited by Ben Archer
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In the early 1990s, when South Africa switched to majority-rule, "post-socialist" thinking was pervasive. This was post-Japan, post-Asian Tigers, post-Reagan/Thatcher. In addition, China and the U.S.S.R. appeared to have thrown in the towel on communism. It's a good guess that this had some impact on the thinking of South African intellectuals as well.

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This is a rather large article that takes a pretty harsh stance against him. It was actually shared on facebook by an "objectivist" friend. I got a little annoyed with him because it was a few hours after his death was announced. 

 

http://www.thenewamerican.com/world-news/africa/item/15888-saint-mandela-not-so-fast

 

Of course he wasn't "perfect", but as bad as socialism or communism is, it's much better than the alternatives many faced, and much more viable at the time than ideas of capitalism or democracy.

Ben: Doubtless a strong conservative slant to that article, but as far as I know or recall the facts are right.

The Western, left-liberal media played a big role in Mandela's image - and so did we in the Press here. During those years (60's - 80's) any white S. African who opposed apartheid was considered and proudly called himself 'Liberal'.

As the article has it, the SACP is a political partner of the ANC - along with COSATU, the umbrella body for all Trade Unions: the infamous Tripartite Agreement.

Although the SACP has a small voter base, it has a powerful effect inside government, ideologically.

S'nerd: The country was so backward in those days, and cut off from the world, that Socialism had no base (except by underground intellectuals) - so "post-Socialism" hasn't happened yet. I wish. The State is still in the early times of implementing it, though they don't call it that..

Edited by whYNOT
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(But as these things go in life, I have also the memory of him as a warm and interested human being: In 1990, soon after his release, he arrived in Jo'burg for the first time and attended a hush-hush private function of a group of the top industry, mining and finance CEO's in the country; I was among them as the single photographer. Ignoring all the 'suits' as he arrived he first walked straight to me, greeted me, smiled that famous smile and shook my hand. I was stunned naturally.)

As one hears, there are tens of thousands around the world he touched, with similar disregard for rank or status, in that charismatic manner. He was a 'sense of life' individualist, despite the rest.

Sounds like he was charismatic. Socialist/fascist leaders usually are. Doesn't make them "individualists" though.
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Of what little I know of Nelson Mandela, it can be said that all members of South African society were permitted greater access to public expression after his work was completed, in contrast to before. While I agree with his critics that his philosophy was severely flawed, the element of communism was muted by the well-timed demise of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War. Wars rage on throughout Africa, with or without ideology. Mandela seemed to have had a mitigating effect over the potential for violence during the meteoric changes happening in South Africa in the 1990s. When a national government holds ethnic (or race, if you prefer) discrimination as an official policy, it is violating the natural rights of individuals of that ethnic group. Give Mandela credit where credit is due.

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Judged relatively against other third-world leaders, and particularly against someone like Mugabe, Mandela -- at the time he finally got power -- was great. His single biggest accomplishment -- again compared to Mugabe -- is that he did not devour the productivity of his country. Of course, he was socialist like many others, but he could have been much worse. I don't know enough about how his thinking changed over time, but it would be fair to speculate that his post-apartheid approach of stressing reconciliation was motivated by a positive: an understanding of values and a refusal to use his fame to become yet another African tin-pot dictator.

What did this effort for reconciliation consist of? As far as I'm aware of, the only race related laws passed under Mandela were the racist job quotas, which already forced 15% of the white population out, and will no doubt do the same to many who still have the means to leave.

Note that this isn't US style, "soft" affirmative action, where a few institutions here and there get encouraged to favor a black job seeker, but a better qualified white applicant can overcome the hurdle. These are hard, universal rules. The overall, big picture result is that, as long as there are unemployable blacks, an equal proportion of whites also cannot be employed. No matter how qualified they may be. And it worked, to some extent. There are tens of thousands of whites living in abject conditions in SA as a result (clearly as a result of this policy, there is no other possible explanation). It didn't work to the same extent Apartheid racism worked, because most whites affected didn't hang around to let it. But it's still a crime of massive proportions.

I understand that this is what Liberals call social justice and reconciliation, but it's not. A person who passes a law telling you that you aren't allowed to be hired for jobs you're qualified for, because you have the wrong skin color, isn't looking to reconcile. He is looking to hurt you back. Or rather, he's looking to hurt somebody of the same skin color as the object of his hatred, back.

Whether this was his hatred, or him appeasing the hatred of his supporters, or no hatred at all but a genuine belief that this aggression is actually an act of justice, makes no difference to me. It is the moral responsibility of any human being to recognize that racist aggression is never an act of justice, not even in response to past racist aggression.

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Of what little I know of Nelson Mandela, it can be said that all members of South African society were permitted greater access to public expression after his work was completed, in contrast to before.

Before Mandela, the President of South Africa was Frederik Willem de Klerk. He became President as the leader of the anti-segregation wing of the ruling party, and liberalized South African society, by ending racial segregation and lifting the ban on political dissent.

There clearly was freedom of speech before Mandela came to power. Mandela was released from jail AS A RESULT of that freedom.

Are you crediting Mandela for de Klerk's "enlightenment" and subsequent victory in party elections in '89? What specifically did Mandela do to make that happen? How did he cause National Party members to elect a guy who wanted to end Apartheid?

 

While I agree with his critics that his philosophy was severely flawed, the element of communism was muted by the well-timed demise of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War. Wars rage on throughout Africa, with or without ideology. Mandela seemed to have had a mitigating effect over the potential for violence during the meteoric changes happening in South Africa in the 1990s. When a national government holds ethnic (or race, if you prefer) discrimination as an official policy, it is violating the natural rights of individuals of that ethnic group. Give Mandela credit where credit is due.

That's what I'm looking to do. But so far, no one offered any concrete reason for it.

Neither have you. It's true that South Africa doesn't have a civil war raging. It's also true that Mandela was in charge for five years, in South Africa. It's also true that, before that, a long line of minority Presidents were in charge of South Africa. Seven of them, to be exact. And after Mandela, there were two more.

That's a total of ten, not a single civil war between them. Whole lot of crime and AIDS, especially for the last three (in fact one of them famously declared that AIDS isn't caused by a virus), but no civil wars. All you've done is arbitrarily assign the credit to that lack of civil war to the eighth guy on the list. Why? Wouldn't the minority government, which kept South Africa stable through the Cold War, deserve most of that "credit"?

What has he actually done to earn this credit? That's what I'm asking.

Edited by Nicky
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Is it? In what way?

Personally, I find Apartheid worse than anything Socialist, and at the least, he was instrumental in accomplishing the end of Apartheid. Also, you really seem to think that we know as much as you do about Mandela.

 

"As far as I can tell, he's being praised for things (complicity to mass murder, election fraud, implementing socialism and destroying their country's economy)"

I also am still wondering about this. I agree Mandela is overpraised, but it sounds like you're overdemonizing. I looked at the Wikipedia page too, I don't find much that's even linking up to your claims that he did things as bad as Lenin, Castro, or Chavez.

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I agree that the truth of Mandela lies somewhere between demonizing and sanctifying him.

Nicky also raises important doubts of the consequences of his first and only term in Office. Already then, some cracks were beginning to show (his diatribes against the Press, for example.)

The question I see is how much did Mandela ride the wave into a democratic South Africa - and how much WAS he the wave.

Going by the rush of emotionalism right now, everyone believes the latter.

The forgotten man was indeed an Afrikaner liberal, FW de Klerk, who set the scene for the future - for one, announcing a special YES/NO Referendum for whites to change the Constitution. They responded with a 2/3 majority. That was the last all-white election in South Africa.

The forgotten people then, were also the white citizens of this country back then.

Left alone, with the genuine outpouring of good will from white to blacks, great things would have been accomplished - with no more than rights to liberty. The State had other ideas - and we now have anger, entitlement, suppression by race... and rising unemployment (27%, I think) and poverty. With a new elite of fat cats who've helped themselves, through graft, cronyism and nepotism.

(That 15% minority is now 9% -btw, Nicky: I wonder sometimes how much Progressives relish whites "getting what they deserve". The ANC certainly does. Forgetting that these are now the grand-children of any who 'might' have supported Apartheid. The bright and talented have to take their chances elsewhere in the world. Opportunities for careers are dwindling monthly, for them. This is racism, too.)

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What did this effort for reconciliation consist of?

I was referring to what I'd read many years ago about the "Reconciliation Tribunals". The wikipedia has an article here. I think the mood-setting is more important than direct concretes. Another leader could have shifted toward being much more vindictive. 

 

I was comparing Mandela relative to other third-world leaders. Counter-positives are tough to argue, but it is s good guess that -- one way or the other -- South Africa would finally have got majority-ruled, and that -- given world-wide egalitarian ideology and actual past oppression -- the majority-government would have instituted some redistribution along race lines. Another toss up is how dictatorial the new black leader would be. On these counts, Mandela's time in office scores pretty well compared to someone like Mugabe. If Zimbabwe is an outlier, compare his time with African and Asian countries that got independence much earlier from the British. Many of them turned rapidly toward state-owned industries and so on. Here, Mandela (and South Africa) got lucky, because the ideology of the times had shifted.

 

On reservations, I agree that they're bad. I do have empathy for some type of one-time redistribution in cases like this. I think the country as a whole needs to own past problems -- whether it is paying back old debt, or social-security. I don't know what razor one would use to draw a line between too little and too much. Forty acres and a mule? When India got independence, the government decided to give a one-time hand-up to people of the lowest castes by instituting a time-boxed (10 year) system of reservation. I don't have much against the idea in theory, but the political reality turned out extremely bad, and South Africa should take a lesson from India. Firstly, the term was extended repeatedly, and continues to be in place over 50 years later. Secondly, various ethnic groups petitioned to be added to the group of previously discriminated-against, and politicians ket increasing the scope. Skip 50 years and a higher percentage is reserved, and previously "upper-castes" have a hard time getting into college, because there is so little left for them. 

 

Perhaps no re-distribution mechanism can ever stay one-time. Perhaps there's nothing to be done but to say: "We won't discriminate going forward from today". Politically, I wonder if that was viable in a South African context.

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Personally, I find Apartheid worse than anything Socialist

I don't. Not unless I have an actual reason to.

The Apartheid regime was characterized by economic discrimination, and some political restrictions to ensure its survival. Apartheid followed the basic model of colonization, but without the support of an external superpower. Not exactly LFC, but hardly the worst thing that could've happened to South Africans (as evidenced by what happened to other Africans after colonization ended).

Socialism is characterized by the total removal of economic freedom, forced indoctrination, widespread political restrictions to keep it in place, and, usually, a big fence to prevent escape: socialism is a country sized prison.

If these two were my only choices, I'd rather be black under Apartheid than any color under socialism.

Edited by Nicky
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Socialism is characterized by the total removal of economic freedom, forced indoctrination, widespread political restrictions to keep it in place, and, usually, a big fence to prevent escape: socialism is a country sized prison.

If these two were my only choices, I'd rather be black under Apartheid than any color under socialism.

Fortunately, as far as I know, none of this ever happened in South Africa. Really, your facts about him that are negative, I can't find that those are accurate in the first place, except that he's a big communist sympathizer.

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What's being missed here is that South Africa under the Nationalist Party was certainly socialist, de facto.

Economists, including one Andreas Wassenaar proved this ages ago.

Don Caldwell, one of the small group of libertarians in South Africa, wrote an excellent book: 'No More Martyrs Now', validating that fact, but showing too how the ANC was continuing down the same path as the Apartheid State, by policy and ideology.

Therefore, to a large degree, a false alternative.

Socialist 'business as usual'- in effect, then until now.

For those who want to believe in the brief South African fairy tale, you might bear this in mind.

Mandela's inestimable role in the once "Rainbow Nation" has been tarnished by the moral pygmies in the ANC since him.

None more than Jacob Zuma.

Edited by whYNOT
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Sounds like he was charismatic. Socialist/fascist leaders usually are. Doesn't make them "individualists" though.

It doesn't necessarily, no. But you know about mixed premises, and how his "sense of life" can conflict with a person's "metaphysical value judgments"?

Consider Andrei Taganov in We The Living.

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softwareNerd:  Your #17 was most thoughtful. Briefly, 'some' redistribution had a just and moral place.

A "sunset clause" as it has been called, for an indisputable period of time. The advantage of numbers, alone, would have equalised - and then expanded - the economical benefits across the races in favour of blacks..

 

A Brit journalist a few years ago called SA an ineptocracy, citing that it was the only nation ever, in all history, that required Affirmative Action to forcefully advantage the MAJORITY over a MINORITY. A huge irony.

 

What we have, however, 20 years later, is a still accelerating Black Empowerment program (BBEEE), with ever- increasing powers of legislation and penalty over shareholders, employment, equity, etc,etc.

 

Even this is not meeting the 'desired targets' says the State; next step being touted by extremists is nationalization of mining groups and banks.

Immoral consequences must have had immoral premises.

Edited by whYNOT
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softwareNerd:  Your #17 was most thoughtful. Briefly, 'some' redistribution had a just and moral place.

No, redistribution along racial lines doesn't have a just or moral place. In a just society, restoring crimes is done between the criminals and the victims, not between "criminal races" and "victim races". Even if all blacks were victims of Apartheid, it's still not true that all whites were criminals. And yet, any quota punishes all whites, even the ones who were born after Apartheid.

Besides, affirmative action in the private labor market doesn't even "redistribute" anything, it's the equivalent of bashing someone's head in for no gain. Banning a white person from getting a job won't magically make blacks able to do those jobs. All that achieves is prevent those jobs from getting done.

The difference is, the 40 acres and the mule weren't taken from "the white race", they were taken from the actual criminals: the slave owners.

Edited by Nicky
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No, redistribution along racial lines doesn't have a just or moral place. In a just society, restoring crimes is done between the criminals and the victims, not between "criminal races" and "victim races". Even if all blacks were victims of Apartheid, it's still not true that all whites were criminals. And yet, any quota punishes all whites, even the ones who were born after Apartheid.

Besides, affirmative action in the private labor market doesn't even "redistribute" anything, it's the equivalent of bashing someone's head in for no gain. Banning a white person from getting a job won't magically make blacks able to do those jobs. All that achieves is prevent those jobs from getting done.

"The meaning of economic freedom is this: that the individual is in a position to choose the way in which he wants to integrate himself into the totality of society." [L. von Mises]

 

If one starts from this, it's relatively easy. But to get to that point - in a society which always denied free association and integration to a populace, for generations - is incredibly hard.

It's a long way from there to here.

We can't know the could-haves and would-haves, but we do know that a lot of people who flourished might very well not have; and a lot of people who didn't flourish, might have - but for Apartheid. (And which ones...?)

What you say is of course rational, and something I've thought about for a long time. All I can see now is that a blanket dispensation, for a limited time frame, was necessary.

It looks like dreaded compromise, to be honest.

Edited by whYNOT
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In the end, he was always the quintessential pragmatist, I think. An excellent mind which had 27 years to ponder on how to wrest control from the South African whites' power bloc - while not scaring them, with their ideas, skills and capital, away. Similarly, he recognised the importance of winning over the Western Nations (who'd had long, painful experience of African freedom fighter/dictators).

 He was a 'sense of life' individualist, despite the rest.

So was Andrei (a sense of life individualist) but he worked for the wrong cause. 

 

Mandela is hailed in Western Nations as the person who almost single-handedly ended Apartheid. Apartheid was going to end nonetheless, it seems that Mandela's greatest achievement was to not drive out the whites instantaneously. He created that calm before the storm that allowed Rainbow South Africa to extract reparations from White South Africans. 

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