A Glimpse into the History of Johannesburg and Legacy of Mandela

 

A Glimpse Into the History of Johannesburg and Legacy of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi

Learning about the history of South African Apartheid and somewhat experiencing it.

Travel Tips:

  • Roaming around Johannesburg while gaining an insight into its racist issues and divide.
  • Being approached for “selfies” with my Kaiser Chiefs jersey and confronting racism as an American tourist.
  • Discover the legacy of Mandela and Gandhi in the Mandela Museum, Mandela House, Apartheid Museum, Soweto and the Cradle of Humankind outside of Johannesburg
  • Stay in the Once in Joburg Hostel

Our final day together had been spent visiting the museums and landmarks of Johannesburg while learning about the journeys of Mandela and Gandhi. The sites included the Mandela Museum, House, Apartheid museum, Soweto and the Cradle of Humankind. We had a long drive out to the Cradle of Humankind that showed relics of our ancestors and a proposed evolution. They claim Humanity was born in Africa all people are African. Perhaps that is right but recent research shows that this may not be correct.

Both Gandhi and Mandela spent time in prison, 17 years for Mandela. He gives Gandhi credit for paving the way for peaceful demonstration and was inspired by the Satyagraha campaign led by Gandhi. Satya means truth and Graha love – spiritual solutions in a material crisis. Some of my favorite quotes were

“I am not the least thankful to be released. I prefer the solitude and peace of prison. It gave me time for meditation”

“Never submit to any arbitrary action”

And for Mandela

“In judging our progress as individuals we tend to judge on social position, wealth, popularity, the standard of education but internal factors may be more crucial in assessing onces development as a human humility, generosity, purity absence of vanity, readiness to serve your fellow ma -qualities within reach of every soul.”

“People too weak to follow their dreams will discourage you.”

“Nonviolent passive resistance is effective as long as your opposition adheres to the same rules as you do,” Mandela stated in his autobiography,

The lesson I took away was that if you want to effect social change, you need to commit your entire life…and deal with any repercussions that might result.

This really resonated with me. While I’ve pursued my financial goals and building companies, I haven’t had a deeper meaning to ascribe to. This was something I needed to find and dedicate the last part of my career to.

Saying goodbye to my Team4Tech friends was disheartening as I readied myself to venture out alone. Our final day together had been spent visiting the museums and landmarks of Johannesburg while learning about the journeys of Mandela and Gandhi. The lesson I took away was that if you want to effect social change, you need to commit your entire life…and deal with any repercussions that might result.

This really resonated with me. While I’ve pursued my financial goals and building companies, I haven’t had a deeper meaning to ascribe to. This was something I needed to find and dedicate the last part of my career to.

I hung out in Johannesburg at the Once in Joburg hostel –  a new swanky hostel for travelers. I spent a few days planning my travel route through eastern South Africa. The area was clustered with art galleries, global eateries, and music spots, although we were warned against going out at night as things could get sketchy. There was also a myriad of street art and once could for an hour or two looking at all of the graffiti. The receptionist mentioned to be careful at night and not to stray far. But I didn’t heed her comments.

One night I needed a SIM card, so I walked down to the supermarket a few blocks away and a guy yelled at me in the street. “Why are walking around at night? Aren’t you scared?” I told him I was from the USA, Hotlanta in fact, and its no different. He was a bit perplexed. I was used to it. On the way back, I dropped him a coke and bag of crisps.

One thing that was very different in Johannesburg than in the US was the anger in the eyes of Johannesburg’s homeless – they were the eyes of people who’d been hurt. I thought perhaps this was because they’ve never been given an opportunity or chance in life. Of course, I was just putting myself in their shoes trying to understand what caused this.

Some of them were just teenagers, hustling the streets for a Rand. They seemed too young to be angry about life but realized they’d probably encountered inequality that I couldn’t even imagine. Envy, jealousy or being upset are just temperamental while anger ferments inside you when you feel you have nothing left. I could nothing for these people but just observe.

This is when I started to really understand empathy for others. Thinking about a story about why they were so angry to want to hurt others made me create stories about them. This, in turn, helped me to try to understand them without actually speaking to them. This was really the point where I started to understand what empathy actually is, not what I thought it was.  I used to think, “yeah, I get it. Your life is a lot harder than mine or let me help and give advice. If you do X, Y, Z you will do better” That wasn’t empathy. That was privilege or arrogance I though.

That night, I reflected more deeply about my own self. How silly I could be about getting angry over meaningless business discussions back home. How silly it was to get angry at myself over decisions and things. Not only shouldn’t I be angry, I no longer felt the right to be angry. Certainly, I wasn’t the only angry person in the USA. We just elected one of the angriest humans on earth as president. Anger was a problem in our country but it wasn’t the anger that I saw in the eyes of South Africans. That was venomously caused by trauma, mistreatment, and lack of opportunity. Whereas in the USA there was a lot of disappointment due to the loss of economic opportunity in certain states with a bit of envy and maybe even racism sprinkled on top.

Mandela once said: “That day when I stepped out of prison and looked at the people observing, a flush of anger hit me with the thought that they had robbed me of 27 years. Then the Spirit of Jesus said to me, ‘Nelson, while you were in prison you were free, now that you are free don’t become a prisoner.’” He was obviously an unknowing Zen master, always courageous and polite. He’d learned how anger can imprison you and narrow your mind so darkly that you can’t see the light. I wanted to learn more about anger in my development as a person. For it had haunted me and while I couldn’t yet laugh at it or stare it down, I wanted to learn more.

While I was itching to get out and see the rest of the country, I was also a bit scared after what I’d seen and experienced. Perhaps fearful of the unknown. Would I be okay exploring on my own? I didn’t know but I wanted to try….and to see if Steve Biko was right: “There are few men of love only cold men in this country.”

I decided to head to Lesotho on my way to Durban. I grabbed a rental car, steered to the ‘wrong side of the road’ as I laughingly thought in terms of my US frame of mind. It was a seven-hour drive to Lesotho, mostly through barren landscapes interspersed with farms. I stopped in Kroonstad to buy a chicken sandwich and asked the cashier what it was like driving to Lesotho. She said “fine, it’s beautiful there!”, making me wonder why I’d ever considered there might be an issue. On the drive, I got lost in the Free State district and drove down the road of someone’s farm. As the sunset, I pulled over and had a chat with the farmer. He said we don’t see Americans out here, I replied we don’t see sunsets like this over there. He smiled. I took a picture and went on my way until I reached the Lesotho border at night.

Street Art in Johannesburg
Prison cells in Johannesburg
Gandhi Quotes

 

 

 

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