The passing of Nelson Mandela has been attended with the usual global encomia we have come
to expect from those political leaders who have become international celebrities. Sometimes these extravagant praises and out-sized mourning surpass any real achievement. It is hard to find any justification in Princess Diana’s life for the hyperbolic praise and hysteria that saturated her funeral rites. Many another “leader of his people” or “liberator” has after his death been bestowed with dubious qualities and achievements, while his crimes and flaws are airbrushed from the narrative. That’s why George Orwell famously counseled, “Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent.”
Future historians may temper the current exalted judgment of Mandela, and there is much to remember as the world rushes to beatify him. His endorsement of communists and support for terrorists he made part of the struggle against apartheid should not be forgotten. Nor should be the victims of machete attacks and “necklacing,” the gruesome practice of putting around the victim’s neck a tire filled with gasoline and then igniting it, This form of lynching was a favorite of the African National Congress, of which Mandela was a member.
But after spending 27 years in prison, Mandela recognized on his release in 1990 the pragmatic reality that the dismantling of apartheid and the inclusion of the black majority in governing South Africa meant that the revolutionary justice of the sort that has ruined Zimbabwe, and the command economy beloved by Marxists, both were the road to just another form of injustice and ultimately failure. Continue reading “Nelson Mandela, Western Saint”→
I have been reading both new and classic books this week among the ruins (see photos below).
Martin Anderson, now almost in his 90th year, has written a fascinating memoir about fashioning a cattle and big-game preservation ranch in Africa: Galana: Elephant, Game Domestication, and Cattle on a Kenya Ranch.At one time Galana was believed to have been the largest single ranching operation in Africa, and one encouraged by the Kenyan government to be a model of tourism, cattle production, and wildlife protection.Galana is an analytical but also personal memoir about what Africa was like in its once hopeful and immediate postcolonial phase, and how Martin Anderson in his late thirties came to the Kenyan wild in 1960, when most Westerners were leaving, often for understandable reasons. When I last saw Martin two weeks ago, he was headed to Nairobi, undaunted by the recent Islamic violence at the shopping center, and eager to return to his ranch. When talking with Martin (who appears more like 65 than 89), one realizes that in some sense age is a state of mind — and old age a referendum on a life either smartly or unwisely lived.
Speaking of the bush and the wild, as I was finishing rereading Galana last evening, I got a call from my son about a truck speeding out of the family vineyard alleyway across the road. Yes, I know, reader — same old, same old:
The miscreants had already dumped their trash: chemical drums, paints, solvents, oils, concrete, tires, garbage, and lots of broken fluorescent glass tubes — something a bit worse than the usual toxic brew that is left on San Joaquin Valley property. Continue reading “Reading Among the Ruins”→
If Muammar Qaddafi has really been killed — a big if, since so many of the Libyan rebels’ military communiques have proven premature — it raises a lot of questions, besides being very welcome news in the sense that Qaddafi has the blood of tens of thousands on his hands. Continue reading “The Dimensions of Qaddafi’s Death”→
We are in a long war against radical Islamic terrorism. The struggle seems almost similar to the on-again/off-again ordeals of the past — such as the French-English Hundred Years War of the 14th and 15th centuries, or the Thirty Years War between Catholics and Protestants in the 17th century. Continue reading “Predator-in-Chief”→