If the Good Lord could tell us the ten greatest men and women who ever walked the earth since His creation, I suspect Nelson Mandela would be on the list. It is a gift that Mandela remains with us today, and it is a a time to reflect.
There is rage in the streets and (real) change in the air throughout the Middle East from Egypt to Tunisia, and from Yemen to Algeria. There is the grand convening at Davos, where the elites who did so much to cause the crisis that crashed the world and paid themselves so handsomely for their work, gather in the spirit of self-congratulation and mutual praise. And then there is the news of Mandela, who remains with us after the prayers of countless millions were answered.
These three events are related to the defining issue of our age, a generation of young people throughout the world sold short by their elders whose selfishness exceeds their patriotism, and the occasional ability of a man or woman, in this case Mandela, to tower above the times.
Mandela: a man of unlimited nobility, decency, spirit, and love for the many who suffer and the things that are truly important in life.
It is common for the trendy to talk about the "Twitter revolution". There is some truth to this, but there is a far larger truth. If you look at the faces in the crowds of Cairo, you will see young people demanding their birthright of opportunity that has been stripped from them, with rapacious shame, by their elders.
We witness this here, in different form. Of course if we wage an unwise war in Iraq and pay for it with giant tax cuts for the wealthiest. Our young will inherit not only our debt but our collapsing bridges, our underfunded schools, our potholed roads and our warming earth that was not even mentioned when we discussed the state of the union.
Of course the last refuge of the old who cheat the young is to propose we cut THEIR social security but not our own! What is happening in Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, and Tunisia (and recently in Iran, and soon in other places) is that the young are revolting against the pain inflicted by the old.
Mandela towers above this.
Mandela: the father of freedom in Africa. The voice for freedom everywhere. The prisoner who was jailed for almost three decades. The freedom fighter accused of being a terrorist by small minds on the far right, who emerged from three decades in prison with a spirit of great goodwill, and a determination to make life better for his people, and all people, in his land, and all lands.
Mandela: a brilliant attorney who could have made his fortune (like many who recently worked for Obama) foresaking public service to make vast money from Wall Street firms, bailed out banks, and high priced speeches to hedge fund conventions.
Mandela: the George Washington of a free Africa, the Oliver Wendell Holmes of human rights, the one man who truly resembles Abraham Lincoln, the man of kindness, the man of courage, the man of wisdom, the man who puts the good fortune of others ahead of making great fortunes for himself.
When I watch the elites who gather at Davos and the days of rage of the young on the streets of Cairo, I also think of:
Mandela: I consider it an honor to live in two centuries in which he lived, to have supported his cause when he was in prison, and to be blessed to hear the words of one of the greatest men and women who has ever lived.