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#85: Why do I remember Nelson Mandela being controversial? ALSO, the Mandela Effect


Dec 10 1996: South African President Nelson Mandela signed a new constitution into effect, which completed the transition from an apartheid state into a democracy. Now, to explain; for those of you who don’t know what apartheid means (no shame!!) it is literally an Afrikaans word that means “apartness”. This is where this idea originated.

Apartheid is a social policy/political structure (if you will) which governed relations between South Africa’s white minority, who managed to rule South Africa, and the nonwhite majority. The apartheid state officially sanctioned racial segregation, as well as political and economic discrimination against nonwhites/People of Color.

The administration of the South African President FW de Klerk actually saw the repeal of legislation supporting apartheid; at this point, in 1993, a new constitution was adopted. The next year, in 1994, national elections were open to people of ALL RACES (yes that’s how bad it was) and Nelson Mandela won, becoming leader in a *Black majority government*. This is important to a democracy, because the country was majority Black/People of Color (nonwhite).

I do want to note, because I think it can be lost a bit, that President FW de Klerk is officially credited with bringing the apartheid segregation to an end, as well as making the transition to true democracy (aka majority rule) with the assistance of our man Mandela. He and Mandela actually share the 1993 Nobel Prize for Peace for their collaborations to destroy the racial segregation of South Africa. I note this not to discredit Mandela and the importance of his role, but rather to highlight the collaboration that was necessary to achieve this feat, and also to ensure due credit is still given to President de Klerk for recognizing what needed to be done, and doing it (even at the expense of his own profit and power).

Why was Nelson Mandela controversial?

-African National Congress, his organization, was closely allied to the South African Communist Party

-Briefly a member of the Communist Party

-A long history of speaking out against violence, and then he launched a (largely ineffective) armed struggle to sabotage the apartheid.

So the associations of him to Communists, especially because the United States was viewing him through the contextual lens of the Cold War/anti communist era, in combination with now the association with violence where people began to label him a terrorist- it really damned his perception in the US.

PLUS, there’s the fact that the US actually supported the APARTHEID REGIME. First of all, the apartheid regime was also anti-communist, and being Cold War this was important. Plus, economically people didn not want to impose sanctions or cut off trade between the two controls. President Ronald Reagan actually vetoed a bill to impose sanctions on South Africa for apartheid.

It’s always been super interesting to me, that the majority of people today tend to see him as heroic, as a trailblazer, as all of these things. He became President of South Africa, unified a divided country, overthrew an apartheid and existed in this really interesting back and forth dichotomy of peace maker and freedom fighter, capitalist and nationalist, communist and non-communist, literally all of the above. Which I think also makes people feel like he was fake, like he wasn’t true to himself or his beliefs, but if you ask me makes for quite an impressive and successful politician and leader. Unlike what we so often see today here in the US, you have to be able to bend, you have to be a friend to all, and you have to be able to change and evolve in order to have long lasting success.

Finally; I want to highlight the Mandela Effect, since it is named for him, after all.

The Mandela Effect is a situation wherein a person, or a group of people (In my experience, typically a good sized group) have a shared false memory. The term was coined when a woman named Fiona Broome created a website dedicated to her memories of South African President Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s… when in reality he did a ton more stuff after he was released (including being president of South Africa) and passing away in 2013.

Broome actually found a community of people who remembered specifically that there was international news coverage of Mandela’s death in the 80s; like almost identical memories.

Broome then goes on to call this an event that never occurred in THIS reality, which brings up one of the most popular explanations for the phenomenon just because of its mind-fuckness: the concept of alternate realities.

The idea of alternate realities stems from quantum physics and string theory, which is a theoretical framework explaining the universe and reality in terms of strings (have you seen Interstellar?) that vibrate in 10 dimensions. This isn’t really something we can easily conceive of, which is one of the reasons Interstellar makes my stomach hurt.

So, within string theory basically our universe is one of potentially infinite other universes (ok, or do you watch Rick and Morty? Hell, Spiderman???) known as the multiverse. Literally Spider-man. So basically, this ties in to the Mandela Effect in that theoretically people or memories could accidentally cross over throughout dimensions/timelines on accident.

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