“An Ideal for which I am prepared to die” – Nelso Mandela

by Ruby Chingu

Nelson Mandela died yesterday. Like millions of others, his death was sort of expected, considering he had been ill for so long, struggling with old age. I haven’t read his books. Now that the news of his death are everywhere, many people around me suggested some titles, which I am planning to buy.

I admire Mandel for his belief and conviction in democracy and a harmonious and just society. I think not many leaders believe in that.

The other day in my constitutional law class, my professor said something I disagreed, or chose to disagree, considering my opinion could be wrong. He said something like, “democracy is supposed to bring changes, not radical or fundamental changes”. He sounded a bit pessimistic, being such a renowned thinker in law and politics. Perhaps, he, too, like so many Malaysian intellectuals, is disappointed in Malaysian political scene. Honestly, it is quite a circus. Racism-based arguments still sell, religious supremacists rule the day, so many irrational fights are based on emotional and lame reasons. And local newspapers are such a joke with a few notable exceptions.

He has seen about 40 to 50 years of Malaysian politics. I have seen about 5. Maybe I have yet to be crushed by the harsh reality and still retain some optimism and idealism in me to think that democracy is not supposed to bring changes – small or radical. Democracy, for me, is the change. It is not a thing, not a political medium. It is a political belief that one lives by.

My thinking, though, may change in twenty years. Instead of aiming so high, I would most probably end up like so many other Malaysians, quite disillusioned with Malaysian politics that still differentiate Malays, Chinese, Indians, natives of Sabah and Sarawak etc etc.

FYI, Malaysian government, there is not such thing as an Indian race. I’ve seen hundreds of Bollywood films and not once I heard Shah Rukh Khan or Aamir Khan said that they are of the Indian race. They are of Indian nationality. They have Indian citizenship, that is why they call themselves Indian.

But of course, what are we Malaysians without the habit of stereotyping others…?

There is a a paragraph from Mandela’s speech I find to be very inspiring. I shall put them here because I want to read them again and again.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” – A statement to the court during the Rivonia trial, April, 20, 1964.

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