Despite what you may have heard Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and I have never played bridge together. That is to say, I didn’t know her at all. Not even a little bit. Given this fact, I have, over the years, had to rely on the media to inform me about what sort of person she was, which is all sound bites and clips (taken out of context) and articles laced heavily with opinion and moralizing. I am obviously quite reticent to form an opinion about someone I have never met…
The first tweet I read about the demise of Winnie (having only recently returned to twitter) was ‘Ding dong the witch is dead’. Which I think is somewhat disingenuous of the author. I can’t remember off hand if the song refers to the Wicked Witch of the East or West…. BUT as far as I know Winnie Madikizela-Mandela never practiced magic. Nor was she killed by a falling house (was she?). I also think its safe to say she never kept any Munchkins in bondage or associated with any flying monkeys. So really, to quote the Wizard of Oz is to misrepresent the person.
But maybe they are instead referencing the children’s book that I occasionally read to my daughter before bedtime.
Again I think this seems like a pretty tenuous connection. (in my opinion) But you know, people attempting wit occasionally do strange things. (I know I have)
On the flip side of the coin, there is the kooky almost fanatical hero worship that’s arisen that dips its toe into the same murky pond as people who love Che Guevara (Oh… you did NOT just go there*).
*yeah, unfortunately I did.
It might also just be me or is Winnie WAAAAAAAAAY more popular in death than she was in life? I really had no idea she has such a massive fan base. But then again I live on quite an isolated little planet (with a pinkish hue, where the circus music is stuck on repeat) I hope I’m popular when I die. Although maybe less divisive.
I do think you have to be a little more circumspect when we elevate any human being to the pedestal of paragon of the people. I mean that’s quite a lofty space to occupy, not just anyone should get that honor. After all if we just open the gates it cheapens the accolade.
I’m not suggesting where Winnie should fall on the ladder of human achievement. I am hardly qualified. Perhaps this is something that should be decided by, in the very least, a committee (where tea time includes those little tuna mayonnaise sandwiches with the crusts cut off). I jest, obviously. I do think that anyone that celebrates someone else’s demise needs to spelunk the inside of their brain for a bit and commit themselves to (at least) an hour of introspection (assuming they find anything in there).
In the same way I feel people who can just varnish over any inconvenient truth and are hash-tagging as a form of identity politics need to have very careful look at the narrative that they are committing themselves to?
If you decide that putting a rubber tire over someones head and setting it alight is fair play and that collateral damage and necessary evils are justified in the pursuit of a greater good, that’s fine with me. But realize that there are people who are going to disagree with you. This does not make them any less worthy of respect, dignity or common courtesy.
In all honesty I don’t really know where I stand on breaking eggs to bake a cake. I hope I don’t ever have be put in a position where I have to decide on whether someone lives or dies. If I were disenfranchised and angry it is very likely I would have conceived of something very similar. Or worse even. (I found Ordinary Men by Christopher R. Browning absolutely terrifying)
I do however believe people change, and that the Winnie that was, is not the Winnie that… eh… was. Double past tense. What version of Winnie do you heap praise on and what version of Winnie gets the scorn. Or is it a law of averages? Positives and negatives added together equals… something… with pie.
Of course being carefully neutral is boring. If I were pressed to write an epitaph for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela what would it be?
Here lies Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Homo Sapiens. (so far I think we can agree) After that I’m not so sure. (Maybe I’ll think of something clever later)
When in doubt I like to fall back on Jordan B. Petersons 6th rule for life.
Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world. My house is definitely not in order. So really who am I to criticize? I do think that maybe as a rule we shouldn’t elevate anyone to sainthood. Or hold anyone up as an exemplar.
Maybe we should just concentrate on the living.