What Nelson Mandela taught me, via Scarface

Posted: December 5, 2013 in Personal
Tags: , , , ,

By Nelson Mandela, I really mean any freedom fighter, but it seems fitting to apply it to the great man in his passing.

Mandela taught me that the bravest feat of all is standing up for what you know is right when the Establishment, and its forces, and seemingly most of the population, think differently, and are prepared to take away your freedom and even life to prevent you spreading your message.

It’s easy to portray Mandela as ‘beyond human’, and ironically this is exactly what the Establishment wants, for it allows us to believe that none of us could possibly hope to lead a life as meaningful as his, nor inspire great change as he did.

Mandela’s message to me is to stand up for what is right not when it’s convenient and safe, but always. Every time you find yourself in a room full of racists and stay silent to keep the peace, you’ve let yourself down. If you think the con-artist down the road scamming benefits is justification for forcing sick and disabled people into penury, you’re on the wrong side of the argument. Every time you witness someone being bullied and walk by hoping to stay out of it, you’ve let cowardice override your principles. This is what Mandela reinforced: that to stand up for what is right, sometimes you need to take a beating. It’s not nice and it’s not desirable, but it sometimes can’t be avoided. Getting assaulted or thrown in jail might hurt in the short term, but in the long term you will look at yourself in the mirror with pride.

Sometimes it seems as if going along with the powerful can be the only way to go. It’s safer and quieter, after all. Except, in the long run, it may come back to hurt worse than you could imagine, Scarface style. Your big bad friends or the government that has protected you may see your worth to them diminish, and then it will really hurt. The truly principled not only inspire more loyalty from people around them, they rest easy with themselves.

Or, as Audioslave put it: “If you’re free, you’ll never see the walls”.

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