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His leadership was always based on respect and close touch with the people, even during the long years in prison. "To lead one's people, one must truly know them." In his early days during the defiance campaign, he toured the country, sometime going from one house to another in the townships: "we had to win people over one by one." From the beginning he saw it was foolhardy to go against the people: "It is no use to take an action to which the masses are opposed, for it will then be impossible to enforce."
He describes his role as a "promoter of unity, an honest broker, a peacemaker" and his mission as one "of preaching reconciliation, of binding the wounds of the country, of engendering trust and confidence."
Mandela emerged from his experiences with a consciousness that is truly global in scope:
I was first and foremost an African nationalist fighting for our emancipation from minority rule and the right to control our own destiny. But, at the same time South Africa and the African continent were part of the larger world. Our problems, while distinctive and special, were not unique, and a philosophy that placed these problems in an international and historical context of the greater world and the course of history was valuable
Challenged to dissociate himself from the communists who had a similar global view, he refused to do so, despite pressure from the government, the international community, rival organizations like the PAC, and many in the ranks of his own ANC. Although he had begun his activism as an anti-communist and even broken up communist meetings in his early years, his autobiography richly illustrates how he came to value the contribution that communists make to the struggle and the strength that comes from an alliance with them.
The reader is invited to compare this picture of the steps of consciousness development of Nelson Mandela with those of the other great peace activists described in the earlier edition of this book. I believe that the reader will find them so similar that it gives support to the possibility of a global consciousness for a culture of peace which can develop in cultures through the world.
At the present moment of history it is possible that an additional step is being added to those of consciousness development: a step of vision. Mandela exemplifies a new generation of peace activists whose actions provide a vision for a peaceful world. Not content to struggle against the vicious, anti-human system of apartheid, Mandela and his fellow activists in the ANC had the courage and foresight to develop the Freedom Charter which provides not only a vision for South Africa, but by extension for the rest of the world as well. (footnote 1)
As Mandela describes, the Freedom Charter was developed by a process that evoked suggestions from ordinary people throughout the country. The responded to a call asking them "How would you set about making South Africa a happy place for all the people who live in it?" The Freedom Charter "captured the hopes and dreams of the people, and acted as a blueprint for the liberation struggle and the future of the nation."
The vision in the Freedom Charter is remarkably similar to that of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was formulated in those years by the United Nations. It is at once specific and universal, practical and visionary.
The vision of the Freedom Charter was further elaborated later by the ANC in preparation for the first free elections in South Africa. As Mandela says, "Some in the ANC wanted to make the campaign simply a liberation election and tell the people vote for us because we set you free. We decided instead to offer them a vision of the South Africa we hoped to create."
Today, to paraphrase Mandela, peace activists can do more than just be against the war system, but they can at the same time act to bring a universal vision closer to reality. In opposing the culture of war, today's activist can help construct a culture of peace.
(end of Chapter 1)