McLaughlin Inaccurate In Portrayal Of Mandela

To The Reader’s Forum:

Columnist Dan McLaughlin, in his December 7 P-J article on the legacy of Nelson Mandela appears to speak in the old, tired language of rich, white, Western neo-colonialists. These neo-colonialists totally forget, or at least conveniently ignore the fact that, like on every continent, many territories were occupied by foreign settlers who extracted riches for self-interest (or in South Africa’s case initially the Dutch East India Company) and exercised often brutal power over the indigenous population.

Thus, the likes of a Mandela is not seen as a “freedom fighter” or “political activist”, but is termed, in McLaughlin’s words, a “violent radical” and other pseudo-derogatory terms such as “socialist” and “friend and supporter of communist dictators all over the world”, or, heaven forbid, the “Che Guevera [sic] of Africa.”

Yet, were not the Dutch colonials the real terrorists in South Africa? Who created “apartheid” and a police state to control almost every movement of the local population? Who purposefully failed raise the local population from poverty? Who hanged, shot or otherwise murdered innocent civilians when they did try to organize in peaceful protest? McLaughlin complains that Mandela’s early years supporting militancy are being “whitewashed from the picture”, yet, pun intended it seems that McLaughlin is one who wants to “whitewash” the fact of colonial terrorism inflicted on the local population.

McLaughlin said Mandela rejected “economic freedom and individual rights.” However, the only people free to develop South Africa economically were the Dutch colonialists through the oppression of “apartheid.” Historically, a reason revolutionary indigenous people tend to embrace “socialist” or even “communist” philosophy and/or economics is that they have suffered under the aggression of “capitalist” oppressors. The world is full of similar examples throughout Africa, Central America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, in many cases, the answer to colonialism turns out to be brutal local, sectarian, dictatorial control. They have learned well from their oppressors.

In the end, as was stated by Mandela himself, attempts at violence to end apartheid were wrong. He learned to be a true leader while in prison. It was stated well in the Post-Journal editorial from December 9 that “no doubt [Mandela’s] effort to end apartheid in South Africa and his presidency of that country afterward made him a great leader.” In my mind, there is no confusion that Mandela’s legacy is a good lesson for the world to follow.

Paul Demler