5 Lessons Mandela Taught Me

Here’s the thing: hate it or love it, Nelson Mandela is a 94 year old phenomenon of a man. He’s done more for more people in his silence than many leaders have done yelling at the top of their lungs on podiums to full stadia. Because, as the age old adage goes, actions speak pretty loudly.


And now, he finds himself nearing the end of the road, and still not kicking the bucket while the media gives us minute by minute readings of his life-support machines. I try to focus less on what would happen if he died and more on what his life has taught me. I’m going to use a mishmash of his quotes, hip-hop quotes, pictures and random stories because the internet loves things like that.

5: Freedom ain’t Free.
This didn’t mean anything to me until I turned 20 some years old. I grew up with a mother that was an activist during my formative years, who was also one of the African observers during Mandela’s election. She had tried to communicate this point to us as kids, long before Madiba did. But only when I was alone, far away from home, fighting for the same freedoms we fight for in Kenya and wondering why no one was fighting with me did it dawn on me how significant this quote was. Further, I learned that the difference between the free and those who want to be free is not the will to walk but the walk itself.

4: Money ain’t a Thang
Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a workaholic. I would kill myself working aimlessly working without breaks for more and more money. But I don’t work for money anymore. Because in the wise words of a mouse “fast money comes fast and it leaves a lot quicker. These days I work towards something I believe in. Something I can actually look at and say “If all else fails, I left a bruise on the world, right where I wanted it.” To some degree, I learned that from the teacher I used to talk to, but in many case I learned it from watching politicians greed and how it trickles down to least of us. I’m not giving you the cliche “the best things in life are free” dictum. I’m saying we as individuals, as a country, as a continent, as a people, need to increase our worth and our value more than we need to increase what’s in our pockets. I’m looking at you, teachers.

3: Power to the People
I’ve always maintained that injustice is a society in which the people in power have more power than the people. That’s not a political statement, that applies across the board. We as Kenyans may be free from colonialists but we’ve just graduated to a bigger better decorated prison. We are now at the whims of several hundred masters, a corrupted democracy that uses capitalism as a whip to keep you chasing a shilling like a donkey would a carrot. I said the other day that the government is a family owned business and many people thought it was funny. I did too, if I’m honest. But it’s also sadly true. We have let them make state house their house. So while Uhuru is picking up toys from his childhood, asking his mum why the curtains look different than he remembers, ponder on the fact that he is one man and we are 45 million and yet he speaks louder than us. This applies to every single leader we’ve had to date. The power of a singular voice will never be diluted.

2: I Ain’t Never Scared
First time I got robbed, I went home weeping like a little boy. To be fair, I was a little boy. The next time, I didn’t weep but I sulked. The third time, I was pissed and I started swinging my little arms at these big ass thugs with broken bottles. I still have a beautiful scar from that day. I went home apologising to my mother because my bag had been stolen with a shaky voice. After cradling me for a second, she told me that in dangerous situations, it’s more important to overcome your fear than it is to overcome your adversary. She said one was more likely to kill you than the other. The triumph of fear is something we all have to face at some point, but I can’t imagine what kind of ball-sac size you would need to have in order to stow Mandela’s testes. That man faced death over and over and still came out on the other side with his fist in the air preaching peace. I can only respect that.

1: Big Dreams

If you believe then you can achieve. Plain and simple. If you put your entire weight, wit and worth behind your will (with a plan of course) then there’s little anyone can do to stop you.

Get well soon Tata Madiba. If not, your flame will carry on through the many fires your life has sparked.

4 thoughts on “5 Lessons Mandela Taught Me

  1. Pingback: Police, Peace and the Price of Freedom | Diasporadical

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