Thursday, January 23, 2014

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

I regret not reading this book earlier. It's more than an autobiography, it also traces South Africa's journey to racial equality.

Like the title says, this is about the road to freedom. The very very long walk to freedom. Mandela spent about two decades in prison for this. Think about it, two decades. I'm only two decades old. Or should I use the world "already"? But anyway, what I'm trying to say is that he made a great sacrifice for his country.

But what I find most admirable about Mandela isn't his imprisonment - it's how he has no bitterness towards the Afrikaners. The Afrikaners, if you're as ignorant as I was and didn't know, are the descendants of Dutch Settlers. They were also the group responsible for legalising apartheid. And life under apartheid was terrible. Really really terrible. And yet, Mandela worked with these people and saw them as part of his country.

It's really a testament to how amazing Mandela is that he found the good even in his jailers. Yet at the same time, he's not naive. He was the one that initiated an armed struggle when he realised that non-violent protest weren't working. And he was the one who reached out to the government that imprisoned him in order to try and heal this country.

While this is a long book, it's a book that everyone needs to read. The writing is clear and easy to follow along, and trust me, you'll walk away from the book understanding the need for racial equality. It's a message that hit hard, since Singapore is a multi-racial country, and especially since we had that riot at the end of last year. Singapore as a country was founded on the principles of meritocracy (it was why we got kicked out of Malaysia after all), and I really hope that we continue to aim to be a meritocratic country.

And on a personal note, if it wasn't for Mandela and the ANC, I never would have met one of my closest friends. So thank you Mandela and all your comrades in the ANC.

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