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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A Book Reminds Me.


 Bella attempts to masquerade as one of the cat ornaments on the bookcase.  It works...kinda!

Whereas Mitzi is in her favourite place in the whole world...on my bed, complete with shedding fur!


















I meant to write a post a couple of days ago but became totally engrossed in Nelson Mandela's book "Long Walk to Freedom" which I've reviewed below.

Reading it took me back to my misspent youth (actually I was somewhat older), and the anti-racism protests when the South African Springbok rugby football team visited New Zealand to play the All Blacks.  New Zealanders were pretty tolerant of people of colour, although there were exceptions. There were those who felt the Springboks had nothing to do with their country's laws and others who vehemently disagreed.  I was in the latter group.  There were worldwide sanctions against South Africa for their appalling practice of apartheid and like many others, I felt the rugby tour was wrong.  Consequently, a group of us joined the protest which was noisy but peaceful until the police moved in with force.  The atmosphere changed and people started attacking the police.  I was shocked to see one of my friends hit on the head with a baton and the photo of him lying on the road was front page news that evening.  It was a tumultuous time and looking back, I feel rather sorry for both the All Blacks and the Springboks...all they wanted to do was play rugby! 

There was an incident 20 years earlier in 1960 which made a big impression on me and to this day I've never forgotten it.  I was 16 and on my very first date with a boy I'd met at a church camp I'd attended a week earlier.  After he was vetted by my mother and brothers, I was allowed to go to the movies with him in the city on Saturday night.  I also had strict instructions to be on the last bus home!  After the movie, we were walking to the bus terminus and holding hands as we walked.  I thought I was the cat's whiskers having this tall, good looking and well dressed boy by my side.  As we walked down town, I noticed a middle aged couple coming towards us and saw the woman looking me up and down, an incredibly contemptuous look on her face.  I wondered what was wrong and looked down to see if there was a mark or something on my coat or if I had a ladder in my stockings, although from her face I felt it was more than that, however, I had no idea what it could have been.

I never forgot that look and a few years later while watching the race riots in the USA on the news I saw the same look on the faces of some of the national guard...and the penny dropped.  The boy I was with was Samoan and to anyone who didn't know me or my background, I was white and to this day, I can still see the disgusted look on that woman's face.

I was brought up to be open about my heritage as were others like me.  As I said above, New Zealanders generally weren't racist and no one thought anything about different coloured skin.  At school, Pakeha and Maori kids were in the same class and we all played together.  When we were a little older, boys or girls "liked" someone of the opposite sex regardless of their race and it was quite acceptable. 

I remember my late ex father-in-law, a small minded, bigoted racist if ever there was one.  During the news, coverage of race riots in the US were shown and he sat there making the most disgusting and derogatory remarks while I seethed.  Things came to a head when he used the N word and I exploded.  I tore a strip off him, responding that it was people like him with that attitude who caused so much hate in the world.  My ex sat there and didn't say a word...I think he was too shocked.  Needless to say, the old man didn't like me very much at all after that little outburst, but I didn't give a damn.  From that time though, he was very careful about what he said when I was around and we managed to strike an uneasy truce.

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Book Review:

Long Walk to Freedom.  Nelson Mandela, pub. 1994, Little, Brown & Co (Abacus imprint)

Nelson Mandela was one of the most well known and familiar faces of the 90s and into the millennium until the time of his recent demise.  A charismatic and forthright speaker, he and the African National Congress managed to demolish the vindictive class system which had been in place in South Africa since the Boer War.  It was not without setbacks, betrayal and punishment nor was it easy and Mandela tells it how it was.

It's a big book but compelling reading, written simply and unemotionally.  Mandela tells of his childhood, the opportunities he had for education and of course, his time on Robben Island.  The overriding theme throughout the story was his goal for all people to be equal, whether Black, Coloured, White or any other ethnicity.  He fought for and eventually was successful in getting the right to vote for everyone, regardless of their skin colour.

He spent 27 and a half years imprisoned with only sporadic visits from his wife and daughters due to the bans and difficult travel arrangements deliberately imposed by the police as well as the long distance they had to travel from their home.  It would have been a heartbreaking time but Mandela never gave in to self pity instead making sure he kept his mind occupied and his body fit.  I was amazed at the ingenious ways he and his fellow ANC prisoners found to communicate and get messages out to their supporters.  He was able to befriend some of the wardens who were sympathetic, enabling him to communicate with the outside world.  

I'm sure his time in prison was a lot more unpleasant than what he wrote about but I also had the sense that, in Mandela's case, it wasn't about him but about his people.  His people and South Africa were first and foremost, even over and above his family and he had plenty of time in prison to regret that.

Altogether an amazing story of fortitude, courage and determination; anyone who reads this book couldn't fail to be affected by it.

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Enjoy the rest of your week...the weekend is close!


 

6 comments:

  1. Here here!!! I commend you and your living ways and your look on life!!! Heck, when I was growing up, I had friends of all persuasions and it didn't bother me one bit. My parents taught us kids to love, live and let live. Some of my friends were black, some were foreign...one good friend, Pamela, was Pakistani....I've often wondered just how people would react if I, the white American girl, had a friend from Pakistan come to my home.

    LOVE your kitties!!

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    1. Thank you, Anni. I go for personality not colour. There are people I don't like and we'd never get on regardless of their ethnicity...that's life. But I don't discriminate on race.

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  2. Like your new cat decoration, lol !
    I think racists are just stupid people ! I'll never forget when my colleague an Indian had to go on a business trip to South Africa and didn't get a visa because he was "colored" !
    That was the first time in my life I realized what racism means ! I saw my first black human when I was 19 ! She was with me in the same class in business school. I was fascinated that her hands were pink inside ! She was such a funny girl !

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    1. We're all human regardless of our colour, I can dislike someone who's black but it's always a personality clash...it happens regardless.

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  3. Ignorance breeds racism; unfortunately and sadly ignorance also breeds more ignorance; on and on the cycle goes. Ignorance grows persistently like moss and mould; and, unfortunately, there are many in this world who continue to feed it. One would think that by now....2014...humans would have changed their attitudes. But humans never seem to learn....which is unfortunate for humans and for the world they inhabit.

    Now as for cats....they do learn. Take Bella for example...she learned she has a better overall view of things from her perch on the shelf. And as for Mitzi...she knows the bed is a most comfortable spot. And they could care less the difference in their colour!

    PS....I've given up worrying about shedded fur...I realised I was up against a battle I couldn't win unless I got the shaver out and shaved my two furry rascals; but then they wouldn't be my "furry" rascals; and I don't think they'd like it very much, either! I could give them a mohawk each, I guess....

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    1. Yes, Lee. The human race has a hell of a lot to learn. As for cat hair, it's a fact of life for those of us who have cats. That's why I have very little in the wa of black clothes! :)

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