(Human) (Icon) Nelson Mandela Politician


Everyone wants the icon in order to hold it up against our own tawdry times, but then they don’t know what to do with it, politically. I’m not so sure Mandela was the radical that people on the left want him to be. He was a politician. He cut deals with banking, mining and other corporate interests. He embraced Arafat as an emblem of resistance without ever ending diplomatic, economic, and political ties with “Apartheid Israel.” He opposed the war in Iraq, but did nothing to and to resolve the structural problem of endemic social inequality at home. All this disappoints those who would have wanted something more just and more moral from such a god-like figure, but the more complex picture completes by complicating Mandela’s human greatness. He stepped down from power. I’m not unpersuaded by the devil’s argument. The situation in South Africa could have gone much worse, even as it’s not at all clear today how to make things better .


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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