Defend Truth


True lessons of life: Madiba left us with a road map to how we should live


Jay Naidoo is founding General Secretary of Cosatu, a former minister in the Nelson Mandela government and is a board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

How do we deal with a volatile world that is devoid increasingly of the Path of Truth? We are clearly out of balance with Mother Earth and an understanding of our stewardship role.

In the past week, conversations with young people across the world converged on the person of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Who is he? What is his legacy? Did he betray us? Did he make compromises that has perpetuated exclusion in SA? So many questions.

I stand in the queues, march in the streets, speak to meetings called in his name trying to decode the psyche of the next generation. I listen. I see the bewilderment. Anxiety. Uncertainty. An emptiness. A loneliness.

The world we live in is changing at a terrifying pace. The digital age means people are more connected than ever before. But why the sense of loneliness. One of them, a militant confides to me” “I don’t fit in. I am never good enough. I feel betrayed by a system that excludes me. I feel my lack of progress is my fault. I travel. I meet world leaders. But always I feel like a wallflower. A rubber stamp to what is already decided. I feel powerless.”

The avalanche of technology has changed fundamentally the way we live, play, the very nature of work. As I engage I hear the same refrain: “I don’t know why universities and the whole education system trains us to look for jobs. Artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, the fourth industrial revolution means much of the jobs we do today will in the next decade be replaced by machines and robots. Why don’t they educate us to live in this world, to have the skills to create our own livelihoods and enterprises? To become fuller human beings.”

Others feel the sense of intergenerational betrayal: “We are living in an ecological emergency. We are facing ecocide. We live with a denialism that condemns the future generations. We embrace an insane belief that our Mother Earth has infinite resources to exploit. And when we raise this the response of those in power is always – ‘learn to live in the real world’. I am afraid to bring children into this world when scientific data show the horrors of climate change. But facts don’t matter any more. It’s all fake news.”

All of this uncertainty and volatility is driving a sense of hopelessness and despair that is tangible amongst young people. It digs deeply into the psychological state a trench of depression, addiction and burnout – a numbing life. Social media, as an important tool of mobilisation, becomes a self-inflicting wound of narcissism and even violent and extremist views. It’s an affliction of virtual reality in which the “internet of things” becomes life itself.

The Mandela Centenary week challenged us all. Some were content to eulogise and put Mandela on a pedestal. But many were committed to a more profound exploration of the question – Who am I? What is the meaning of my life?

My personal journey could define me as a man, a husband, a father, an organiser, an activist, a trade unionist or Cabinet Minister or South African. But does this really define who I am? The answer is clearly NO.

What I know now is that we all are Spirit and Matter. When we admire Tata Madiba, we admire his Grand Spirit. The Madiba Magic.

He saw the deep tissue of our humanity. We have become consumed by our physical personality and its demands, and tragically spend our lives in pursuit of things outside who we are. We have been brainwashed into believing that material accumulation is our purpose and meaning of success.

Mandela’s 27 years in jail allowed him to comprehend that the mind is composed of feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes. His intellect was highly developed beyond intelligence. It guided and directed his mind and its emotions, his body and its perceptions and actions. The result – a well-developed, self-managed human being we universally admire.

What he recognised was the quintessence of every human being, the spirit or true self, which resides beyond the realm of the body, mind and intellect. It is the pure consciousness or divine-principle in every human being. Recognising your true identity as the self is recognising your identity with the world.

He manifested what the sage and Sanusi Credo Muthwa wisely enunciated: “We understand that all knowledge and wisdom has One Source. There exists only Oneness.”

This is the foundation of our very own African indigenous knowledge systems. But we have forgotten. Our past wisdom has been obliterated. We are disconnected from the very roots of our being.

So where does this place me in the physical world I have to live in? We are obsessed with being a poor photocopy of a badly made Hollywood movie.

We suffer amnesia. Our mistaken belief that before the last 500 years of living under the shadow of slavery, colonization and economic exploitation that we had no history,” says another youth who has turned to studying to become a traditional leader.

We have erased ourselves and deny our roots and spend time frantically trying to fit into a world that denies our role as the cradle of humanity. That reduces the great civilisations and our indigenous spiritual belief systems of our past to a barbaric and ignorant existence.”

As we reclaim our indigenous knowledge systems as Africans to realise our true calling. Africa has to heal itself by retracing our steps to the beginning of our species as Homo sapiens. Our healing is the healing of the world we live in. We are the laboratory for managing transition and diversity and purpose.

A young leader says: “A commitment to reciprocity means that we tread lightly on our Mother Earth, we give back to compensate for what we take. We respect her boundaries. The world has lost its way. Walls, populism, the rise of racism, religious fundamentalism, homophobia, climate denialism, inequality all point to us losing our humanity and we see the rise of the ‘God Presidents’ who worship power over service.”

So how do we deal with this volatile world that is devoid increasingly of the Path of Truth? We are clearly out of balance with Mother Earth and understanding our stewardship role.

But what about the “sacred feminine”. We live in a world of misogyny where young boys are systematically stripped of their better nature. They are moulded by power. To fit in. To be aggressive. To fit into a definition of “breadwinner” which translates into decision maker and patriarch. Our rites of passage of understanding that we hold the yin and yang of feminine and masculine within each one of us. It is a dance of harmony.

Humanity is at a crossroads. I don’t worry about the future of the planet. Mother Earth has been here for close to four-billion years. As the human species, Homo sapiens, we have been here for about 200,000 years. I worry about the future of humankind. We are now going through the sixth extinction. Five times much of life has been lost, the last time, 50-million years ago when the dinosaurs disappeared under the cloud of an asteroid explosion. Today life is threatened by our human greed. It is at risk of our ignorance and arrogance.

The true lessons of life Tata Madiba left us with is a road map to how we should live. When we identify with our body, mind and intellect, we naturally perceive differences and distinction. When we identify with our true Self, the plurality of the world dissolves into one unifying Reality. Within this realm there exists no separateness. And we understand the thread of divinity that connects us all – humans, animals, trees, plants, mountains, oceans, rivers, land and air. That is the essence of Mandela’s wisdom.

I know who I am. I am the spirit of my ancestors who have traversed millennia of time from the beginning of time. But so are you. DM


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