Mandela is not a source of my inspiration, nor a guide in life.


During my formative years - 1963-1988 - Burma was a closed society. We had hardly heard of S. Africa, Mandela, apartheid. We heard more about the Arab-Israel conflicts, the Communists, the Vietnam War, etc than anything else, including the ANC. In the first half of my tender years, Mandela was a name or vocabulary I would not recognize if someone wrote it on a piece of paper and showed it to me. In other words, Mandela did not show me in any way, shape or form how to live or be an activist. 

So, I am not going to join the fawning global literate masses and the ruling elites in singing the praise of Nelson Mandela. He was a great man alright. 

Buddha Dharma has far more profound impact on my life than anything else, man or systems of thoughts. 

My parents injected in me an uncompromising love of truth. The late Aung San served as a model to be frank, brutally honest and no-nonsensical. Radical Burmese leftists and coup leaders of 1976 were an early political inspiration to 'do the right thing'. Early armed student revolutionaries from the All Burma Students Democratic Front motivated me to get involved in activism abroad, and the left-over Burmese exiles in the USA of the 1962 and 1975 waves of dissidents revolt in Burma introduced me to activism. 

Besides, the sight of 'little things' like disabled persons or a blind woman struggling to do mundane things like crossing the road, or opening the door inspires me. The little known but all too common tales of migrant workers leaving their children at home to earn living wage overseas looking after other (richer) people's children inspires me. My activist American colleagues and adopted 'brothers and sisters' have taught me more about struggles for fairness and justice than the ANC or any of its leaders. 

I am not belittling what the ANC accomplished or not accomplished in S. African majority; I am being truthful that Mandela and ANC didn't do much in terms of how I live my life, how I conduct myself as a human, a good one at that, and what it means to live one's political (and social) conscience. I am glad I am not part this fawning global throng.

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