I learned Nelson Mandela’s life from my high school history because of the word, apartheid. (Thanks to Mahatma Gandhi; he introduced him to us on his cause of Caste System in India.) However, I just scratched the surface of him as my teacher did not tell much details about him as if he was not attached much importance to the subject. ( If I were my teacher, I would have told much more about him.) In fact, I mistook him for a Black-American. Uh-oh! I was still an ignoramus at that time despite the fact that I was enthused about studying history. Few years later, he drew my attention when he was in the news ; he was reported to have passed away. The world was so grieved by his death that he was almost the headlines of all the newspapers and news programs. Only that time did I realize that he was such a big name in the world. As usual, I desired to know him more by reading his life. However, I did not afford to buy his book then. Eventually, my generous-to-fault student gifted me this book. Of course, I grinned from ear to ear with joy. Full of enthusiasm, I started to read it. However, it took me time to finish it and ended up on my study table for a few months. The book is light because of Mandela’s prose but steeped in geographical places and anthropological and political terminologies only South African can almost relate to. Nevertheless, I liked it on account of Mandela’s ideologies, experiences, and speeches he delivered before his people.
I enjoyed reading Mandela’s autobiography because of his light English prose as the indication that he had studied well- typical of a smart student studying in English speaking countries. For your information, South Africa has many official languages, and English is one of them. Thus, not the majority of its population uses the language every day. Another impressive thing about writing his autobiography is his capability to incorporate his various feelings, be they in positive or negative, into his compelling narrations. Sometimes, other autobiographers write with highfalutin, highbrow, and high-flown stories or with unfathomably philosophical insights beyond my understanding (, but still I try to bend my mind to them until I bash my head against the wall ending up into a library of books or surfing the internet. Ones of best examples so far are Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Selected Writings and Poems.) Therefore, reading Mandela’s autobiography can be likened to a teen-ager’s diary. Everyone can take a fancy for his diary unless you are that a political animal. On the contrary, his usage of some political, geographical, and anthropological terms which I am not very much familiar with undermine the said like-a-teen-ager’s-diary element. You might get tired of them , saturated with the words you need to absorb in and turn over in your mind. In fact, it has 859 pages, the thickest book I have read this year. Thus, you have no choice but to turn to Google or to a library of history books if you are a Luddite in order to understand them by heart. That’s why I did not lay a finger on it for a few months. In the end, Mandela’s autobiography, in my hypothetical suggestion, could still be a critically acclaimed book for its two kinds ,A Long Walk To Freedom: Nelson Mandela’s Autobiography: An Abridged Version– expunged some technical words and A Long Walk To Freedom: Nelson Mandela’s Autobiography: Unabridged Version, same with this original version.
Reading his speeches is also page-turning. There’s something about his speeches – they were like causing mass hysteria among South Africans at that time. I tend to read his narrations as fast as I could in order to imaginatively listen to them . As a matter of fact, I tended to search his speeches on Youtube wondering how he delivered them. I would say that Nelson Mandela, along with Malcolm X , has most moving speeches I have read so far.
Mandela’s autobiography reminded me of Malcolm X, another Black -American revolutionary who had somewhat the same cause—racial equality. Malcolm X , based on his best-selling authorized biography, also believed that Black-Americans should be equal to White Americans . He demonstrated against the culture of discrimination against his fellow Blacks. The only differences between their causes were: specifically, Mandela fought against the Apartheid whereas Malcolm X against general forms of discrimination. Still, both of their causes categorically fall to racial equality. Besides, there is one surprising thing that made me jump to my conclusion: Nelson Mandela’s last resort was using violence when he came to the point that diplomatic negotiation did not work at all. In fact, he had been influenced by the idea of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi on civil disobedience. After all , he succumbed to Malcolm X’ slogan , “ By Any Necessary Means.”, which I surmised he had disliked ;rather, admired Martin Luther King’s , “ I Have a Dream.”I guess I can also conclude as well as you agree that , sometimes , in any circumstances even in history, Malcom X’s slogan worked and is feasible as long as this is the last resort as was Mandela’s. On the contrary, in the end, Mandela had proved that “virtue of patience” in the name of peaceful, friendly, and sincere ,as he put it, negotiation can work.
Likewise, Mandela was weaned on communism or Marxism – the political idea that also influenced Malcolm X and Richard Wright, famous for his books, The Native Son and Black Boy. Did this idea also occur to some revolutionaries in a place with insurgent atmosphere because of social injustice? So does to some at the present situation?
Before I finished it, Aristotle had taught me his The Republic, a philosophy book that also deals with the real meaning of JUSTICE. ( I haven’t written my review of it yet.) It has the dialogues among the Philosophers debating over the scopes of justice. As a student of his , discombobulated, mulling over his students’ philosophical explanation, upon reading Mandela’s autobiography, it dawned upon me that justice means equality. In other words, I applied understanding The Republic by Aristotle to Mandela’s book. For instance, for Plato and Socrates, justice is fulfilling one’s appropriate role, and consequently giving to the city what is owed. In a simple way, I want to illustrate the virtue Nelson Mandela believed in my life. I want that life in some aspects is “FAIR”. That’s why, without malice, without this air of pride and pompousness, I want to respect people regardless of their skin color , sex , and race ; I respect in action people with deeply-seated religious beliefs despite I have this Richard Dawkins’s –desire to change the world; I empathize “the destitute” despite that giving alms is not my principle except for “the needy”, but bringing them to their senses that capitalism is an evil, that living in this world is consummate “survival of the fittest”.
Mandela applied his rude awakening to equality to understanding the people he got along with . With this belief, he became a freedom fighter, stalwart, determined, humble with undefeated fighting spirit. That was Nelson Mandela, and in the end, despite the travails he had gone through, he made it to his final walk to FREEDOM.
Obviously, my long review of this book indicates my feeling of fulfillment. I am glad that I finished it after a short while. I do not regret having laid it aside on my study table. Just I let the time permit.
Thanks to my student ( Sr. Angela ) for picking it among the books in a book store, without the idea that I had longed to read it ; she had granted my wish. If I were a pantheist, I would exclaim ,”What a divine intervention!” ^_^
Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )