Qunu, South Africa, was a childhood home of Nelson Mandela. It is now the resting place of his body. His soul has been shared with the world.
Water Closet for 12-20-13 Mandela
The rain is falling on the singing dancing crowds at Mandela’s good-bye celebration. There are few tears seen for Mandela, Madiba, Tata. Across the world and seasons the waters are falling here in the form of gentle snow. In our river side shack called the Water Closet, if there are any tears, they are for us who always wanted to be brave and bold but have found ourselves lacking.
We are told rain on such a gathering is a good sign in South Africa. The heavens are favoring the event. Water cleansed by the sky comes anew for crops and all living things. As the South African summer approaches rain must be especially valued. Here snow is important to provide our plants and soils with protection during a well deserved winter’s rest.
Taped to the wall above a desk where this is being written is a faded now yellow-brown early 1990s news photo of Nelson Mandela. It is a profile of him speaking without the famous smile. He seems to be looking out the window at our falling snow. Most days he has been ignored by the old Closeteer who reverently posted his picture two decades ago.
Yesterday the Closeteer received an article from a friend about Mandela’s interest in education and science. The author, Professor Calsetous Juma, tells us that a condition that greatly concerned Mandela was Africa being woefully behind in science and technical education. We wonder if this isn’t a hangover from its colonial past when the people were shamelessly exploited. What easier way to keep a people subservient than to keep them uneducated. In the recent movie “Twelve Years a Slave” this is emphasized as the policy that was brutally carried out in America during our own long apartheid period. When Africans do provide good schools for all we hope the best of their old cultures will be integrated. The graduates should avoid rampant capitalism having buzz words like “growth” and “consumerism”. We hope they will be guided by the spirit of the late Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, another highly educated African, a contemporary of Mandela’s. She, the famous tree planter, also won a Nobel Peace Prize.
You’d think our educated people here in the states would welcome rain and snow and sing in harmony as it falls. Alas, our TV weather folks seem to idiotically try to please the pretty anchors, male and female, who giggle about being inconvenienced by precipitation of all kinds as well as cold temperatures. They remind us of the silly souls who make a show of fearing spiders, snakes and mice. Perhaps we are unkind; they and theirs are three or four generations off the farm. Food magically comes from distant places in plastic.
As a boy Madiba knew no plastic in Qunu, his childhood village where he is buried. It looks dry there, a place that welcomes rain. Let his messages about education go out and rain upon all the people and their land wet or dry. Let the educated he so praised clean the rivers of the causes of diseases, such as river blindness and schistosomiasis; control the causes of malaria, sleeping sickness and Guinea worm; prevent the spread of AIDS; and set up systems to provide clean water. Let them continue to do agriculture in sustainable ways. Of course the ability to do all these good things requires peace. Mandela has shown us the way. Maathai has shown us the importance of trees in restoring damaged land. Let more wise educated leaders peacefully direct us all.
1 From song “Singin’ in the Rain” by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown that was made famous by Gene Kelly in movie by that name. This title is from the song’s last line. “I’m singin’ and dancing in the rain!”