Monday, December 16, 2013

Mandela’s Evolutionary Politics

It can be hard to identify with the goodness of the great. The bar is set too high. Figures like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela are almost superhuman. And there are those who  even attempt to find flaw in them if only to make them more fallible and hence human. Gandhi tested the temptations of the flesh by sleeping next to young girls, Martin Luther King was a rakeNelson Mandela liked violent sports like boxing. Mother Teresa befriended dictators. But following the recent eulogies for Nelson Mandela one is likely to be caught up short, recognizing the extent of his achievement. Even among names like King and Gandhi, he stands out due to the revolutionary nature of the legacy he left. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was the way that South Africa dealt with horror of Apartheid. And what was it? An attempt to replace retribution with memorialization. But The Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be looked at not only as a revolutionary phenomenon, but an evolutionary one to the extent that its legacy demonstrates how natural selection finally favored altruism as a survival mechanism. There are those like the South African writer T.O. Molefe who point out that the significance of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s is overshadowed by that economic inequality still plaguing South Africa’s blacks (“Mandela’s Unfinished Revolution," NYT, 12/13/13). However, imagine if there had been a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as opposed to the Nuremberg Trials after the Second World War and imagine if murderers like Eichmann were allowed to walk among us? It’s a horrifying prospect and yet one that South Africans have lived with ever since Apartheid fell and Mandela came into power.

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