December 7th, 2013

corinium

Afterwards

This morning's Telegraph has a front page picture of a dark-skinned woman and a very blonde young man embracing in the street outside Mandela's house. It would be nice to believe this is a fair representation of the new South Africa.

A line from A Tale of Two Cities keeps popping into my head. Sidney Carton gazes out from the scaffold and sees "the long ranks of the new oppressors who have risen on the destruction of the old." This is a truth of revolutions. You get rid of one disgusting boss class only to replace it with another. The ANC elite is an incompetent kleptocracy- and the pile is topped by a President who very narrowly escaped doing time for rape. Meanwhile the townships remain as poverty-stricken and crime-ridden as they always were.

Marina Hyde has a nice piece in the Guardian about how we're all Mandelians now- including those of us- like Elton John- who once played Sun City- and David Cameron- who as a young man enjoyed a South African freebie paid for by a PR company that lobbied against sanctions.

An angry young man was sent to prison.  He was one who in the recent insurrection had committed murder. To gloss over those murders is to cheapen what happened next. In prison the anger leached out of him and he emerged- after a quarter of a lifetime- as one who forgave as he hoped to be forgiven. He reached out to his enemies- and on the back of a regime that was flagrantly unjust helped establish another that was less so- if only by a hair's breadth. Few human lives make much difference in the world. This one did and will continue to do so. His story will be told- accurately, inaccurately- as history, as myth- again and again and again.