“Nelson Mandela expanded our capacity to rethink politics in terms of empathy, forgiveness, and values. His life offers many lessons which are of relevance to us more now than ever.” Comment. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:

  • The question expects us to draw values from his life and struggles examine their relevance in contemporary times and how can we ensure that we don’t forget his values by discussing what lessons can we implement in India.
  • In the introduction, introduce Nelson Mandela and the stellar role he played as a moral and political leader.
  • In the body discuss his greatest achievements – rethink politics in terms of an ethics of empathy, a politics of forgiveness, and a revolution of values. Discuss the values he espoused – freedom of speech, fight against atrocities, politics of empathy etc and how his teachings are relevant in contemporary times for the world in general and India in particular.
  • In the conclusion mention the key lessons that you draw from his life, which you feel is relevant in our current political climate.

Answer:

Nelson Mandela was a man who cherished the ideal of a free society all his life. During his lifetime, Mandela dedicated himself to the freedom struggle of the African people, and in doing so, fought against White and Black domination in South Africa. But more than anything else, he fought for democracy as a plural society in which all races, languages and opinions could live together in harmony, and with equal opportunity. South Africa’s transition to democracy, under the leadership of Mandela, was a great work of political creativity and moral wisdom. 

As an activist, as a prisoner or as a leader in government, he remained intensely conscious of his moral and political responsibilities as a man in search of excellence.

Lessons to be learnt:

  • Individually:
      • He extended and expanded human capacity to rethink politics in terms of an ethics of empathy, a politics of forgiveness, and a revolution of values.
      • Mandela had very clear objectives in that he was committed to ending apartheid and a terribly unjust society. He knew that the road would be paved with enormous difficulties. But he never gave up.
      • Whether in politics or in relationships, compromising and negotiating are essential tools. According to him “You mustn’t compromise your principles, but you mustn’t humiliate the opposition. No one is more dangerous than one who is humiliated.” 
      • Reconciliation and negotiation were far more effective and powerful weapons and that should never be forgotten
      • Although lives are marked by illness, tragedy, misfortune and pain, people should never get discouraged. Those negative experiences can teach more than anything else. And they can teach that you have to remain faithful to your values and ethics. Mandela wanted freedom from apartheid, and while he changed strategy, he never changed that one principle.
  • India and the world:
    • His subtle style of leadership has many lessons in it for today’s leaders. His idea of leadership was as much about delivering results as it was about uplifting those who worked and strove with him.
    • His experience of discrimination ensured that he never allowed immediate situations to overshadow the true purpose of his activity, to create a world where there is space for everyone to live a life of dignity.
    • Today, as the world battles climate change, religious bigotry and rising intolerance, world leaders have much to learn from this South African hero. His fundamental message was that unless we learn to put aside our differences and work together, we will never create a better world.
    • It is only through forgiveness and a genuine desire to move ahead that enemies can turn into friends. Whether it is India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, or any other political and regional hotspots around the planet, the leaders of these nations would do their people a world of good if they applied Mandela’s words of wisdom to their respective situations.

 

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