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I don’t give up easily. Especially not on hope. I always see something good. Some hope somewhere. Hope is stronger than the bond of love and the chains of hate. Hope lives even when souls die. Hope never gives up. But sometimes even hope dies. And with it everything else…

I look at my beloved Africa and I see hope. I see the madness in the Niger Delta area and I know that there is hope. Hope in the people living there. Knowing that they don’t want the lives they live. That someday it will be better. There is madness and death but there is also hope.

I look at Sudan and know there is hope. I see the kids dying and the people murdering and I see darkness. But I also see a spark of hope. Just a little candle light fighting the winds of hate and mayhem. I know the smiles of people and the hope in their eyes.

I see the Congo and can smell the hope in the air. I see evil taking our kids and making soldiers of them. Little kid soldiers willing to pull the trigger and end another life and their own. But I see these kids kicking a soccer ball and know hope lies inside.

I see my people dying of Aids… Suffering at the hands of warlords… Wasting away in the sands of hunger… Begging for life in the fields of poverty… I see all that and I still see hope. I see it. I smell it. And I can feel it. It’s in their eyes and in their souls. Hope, love and peace. It is there. Not strong and hardly standing but it is there being cradled in the arms of a mother feeding her malnourished baby and being carried on the heads of African women coming back from the watering hole. Small and weak… but hope is still there. I see a better tomorrow. I see a hope growing at the pace set by African time. It will come to those who are patient. Hope… Lives…

I see hope in Burma and I see hope in Iraq. I smell hope in North Korea and can hear it in Tibet. I can see it in the darkest of places. No matter where it is. No matter how dark and cold it gets on our world. I always see a little hope flickering in the wind. Sometimes it is just a little glimmer of hope. Not much. Just a little look in the eye. Or a hint of a smile. The soul inside shining through for a split second. Hope…

But what happens when I see no more hope? When there is no light fighting the darkness anymore? When hope is gone? What then?

There is a place where hope no longer shines for me. I see nothing. No life. No reason. No smile. No belief. No light. No nothing. I see no hope.

Israel and Palestine…

I see nothing there. Nothing…

I am not picking sides on this one. I can’t. I refuse. I won’t.

My world is not black and white. I am not either for you or against you. I am for justice, freedom, liberty and equality for all. But most of all… Most of all I am for hope, peace and love.

Come… Give me the reasons. Give me the belief. Give me your heart. Give me whatever you want to give me but I won’t believe in you anymore. Either of you. I see no hope and have given up hope.

I see no end to you killing each other. I see no end to you blaming each other. I see no end to either of you. I see no end to kids dying by your hands. I see no end to the blood of the innocent flowing from your rockets. I see no end to you murdering hope, love and peace…

Both of you…

Don’t give me excuses. Don’t give me the school kid arguments of “they did it first”. I don’t give a damn.

Stop!

Let me repeat that slowly for you. Read it carefully.

I… Don’t… Give… A… Damn…

Or put in another way. Just in case you didn’t understand me the first time.

I… Don’t… Give… A… Fuck…

You have excuses for killing the children of the other. You have excuses for murdering the innocent. You have excuses for every person who dies by your hands. But you have no excuse for killing hope.

Collateral damage…

It’s murder when you know it will happen. It is murder when you know that innocent people will die because of what you do. It is murder when you know all that and you still do it anyway. It… Is… Murder…

I see no hope. I see no hope…

It was killed by you. Both of you. Slowly but surely murdered when you put your hands on the throat of hope and squeezed the life out of love and peace.

You are dead to me. I will not give you hope. I will save that for those who want to live. Who want to peace. Who want love. And who want hope.

I see nothing in your eyes. In your face I see no smile. In your words I see no truth. In your hands I see blood. The blood of hope killed.

Both of you…

You two deserve each other. Hatred like this kills. It kills everything inside of you. Until there is nothing left but shells… Go ahead… See how much love that bullet carries. See how much peace are shared in the grenade. See how much hope explodes with each missile. The empty shells are you…

I know what to do when hope is gone…

I walk away and embrace the hope of the innocent. Elsewhere.

Ubuntu – I am because we are…

You two are not part of my “we” anymore.

Only the dead, the innocent and those suffering because of your hopeless war will be me. For them I reach out and say, “I am because you are”. But to those who war – I am not you because you war. You killers of hope.

When hope is gone…

That is when I nurse it an nourish it. Hold it and protect it. Care for it and love it. For those who really want it. And for those who deserve it.

Long live hope…

cryingangel

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Note: This was not easy to write. I have always stayed away from writing about the Israel-Palestinian war. I have friends there that I love and care for. People I hold dear. People that mean something to me. This is meant for the war itself. Not the people caught in the middle. Not even for those who seeks justification for this war. I know they have reasons. They see reasons. I see excuses on both sides. I see no peace. I see no end. I see people who are willing to kill each other until there is nothing left of the other side. Until there is nothing left anywhere. My ubuntu is with those who suffer no matter what the reasons and excuses might be. But this war… This endless war… Killing hope. I just see no reason for hope anymore. And I pray for them to see hope somehow. But I know not where…

tear_drop_psa-vi

I am sitting alone in my hotel room in New York. Watching the American election. Watching a new President being elected. President Barack Hussein Obama.

I am crying on my own…

I didn’t think this would ever be possible. I am not crying for Obama. I am crying for freedom. I am crying for all those people in America and across the world who lived and died for this. Do you know what this means? To us? To the world? Barack Obama. A black man. A black man has been elected the President of the United States of America.

I know that you elected him because he is the best guy for the job. Not because he is black. But it means something else to us. There is hope. Just a tiny little sunshine in this world.

You fucking Americans. You drive me fucking crazy. You bitch. You moan. You go to senseless wars. And then you do this…

You fucking Americans…

Tonight I love you more than you will know. My soul has been heavy over the last few weeks. Not because of this election. Because of this world. The kids out there dying from dirty water. The men dying in wars. The women dying along the road looking for a better place. The world is one fucked-up place. And it feels heavy on my soul. Too heavy. But tonight you made it a little bit lighter. I know we are not alone. I know we are not fighting on our own. You are with us. At least for tonight. Tonight is ours.

You fucking Americans…

Just when we are about to give up hope. Give up on you. You do this. You give hope back.

This will go out to the world. Anything can happen. Anything is possible. Anything…

Tomorrow we will continue our struggle to make this world a better place. We will fight a good fight. We will take another step. Just one step. But with a bit of bounce in it. Because we can bring hope to those who have given up. We can point to America and say, “See. See what they have done? Never give up. Never, ever give up.”

You fucking Americans…

I am proud to live with you in your beautiful country today. I am honored to share your space. I am not American. But today I am. I am American. We all are. We are the hope you bring when you stand up straight and shine a little light on this world.

You fucking Americans…

I am alone in my room. But I have never felt this close to people outside my beautiful home called Africa.

I am African. I am American.

_41111382_12rutanaralf-thill

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Sorry about the swearing. I try not to use too many swear words in my posts. But not tonight. There was no other way to say what I felt.

 

I come from a country where people were jailed because all they wanted was to be treated as equals.

I come from a country where people were killed because they didn’t agree with policies of hatred.

I come from a country where people were thrown in jail never to be charged – because the government could.

I come from a country where we gave up our liberties because of a false belief that it made us safer.

I come from a country where our true leaders were said to be terrorists because they dared to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves.

I come from a country where the government controlled the media through lies and deception.

I come from a country where the media didn’t tell us the truth because they feared the government more than what they loved the truth.

I come from a country were our leaders told us and taught us more about hate than about hope.

I come from a country where the church walked hand in hand with those who were the perpetrators of oppression.

I come from a country that tortured those who didn’t agree with us all in the name of national security and fear.

I come from a country where we were told that anyone with a black skin or skin with a different shade than pink were somehow different from us and not one of us.

I come from a country where people who disagreed with the government in the mildest of ways were told that they were traitors.

I come from a country where we shouted “kill him” when we saw someone we thought didn’t look or think like us – even when they did.

I come from a country where fear controlled our every thought even though we never knew it.

I come from a country where history was rewritten to fit the story the government ideology wanted us to believe in.

I come from a country where we were our schools taught not science and facts but what the government and church wanted them to teach us.

I come from a country where information were kept from us because being kept in the dark kept our mouths shut.

I come from a country where we looked for blame elsewhere and not at the place where it was – in our homes and in our hearts.

I come from a country where we only allowed “freedom” to those who bowed to the power of government.

I come from a country where people with different sexual preferences were kept from being who they are – through laws and lies.

I come from a country where diversity were seen as threatening and not embraced as Gods way of making us all unique.

I come from a country where freedom was only given to those who looked and spoke and believed the same and not to those who were truly oppressed and discriminated against – women, gay and black South Africans.

I come from a country where we had elections but no one who mattered could vote or be voted for.

I come from a country where we believed that the opinions of those outside our borders did not matter.

I come from a country where we believed that no one but us were right and damn anyone who didn’t agree.

I come from a country where we believed we were in a democracy but we were just lying to ourselves.

I come from a country where the hatred we had for our fellow South Africans ruled our lives.

I come from a country where we created more enemies just so we could cling on to power we never really had.

I come from a country where we were divided and never united even though we called ourselves South Africans.

I come from a country where we didn’t have what you have.

Remember… Your are American. And you are because they are. How can you want other people to love and respect America if you can’t even love and respect yourself. Your own countrymen? You make America with your fellow Americans. You define it through your actions and through your words and through your thoughts. Be proud. Walk tall. Be true. Live in hope. Believe in each other. Create your dream. Make it real. Be Americans. And make America yours. Because who you are and what you do and what you say and what you think will define the America of tomorrow.

Don’t waste it. Make it count. Don’t be scared. Always seek the truth. Don’t believe the lies. But most of all. Most of all. Never, never ever hate your fellow Americans.

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Everything that has been said over the last few days, weeks and months… This election. It made me think. Why? Why the hell do I even care? I can’t vote. I am not American. So why do I care apart from some warped idea that I live here and have some interest. Or that people I care for in this world will be affected by this election. I still shouldn’t get so worked up. It’s was only when I started looking back at my own country and the past that I remembered why… Hope. America represents hope. To me and to most people across this world. America is the hope we want to believe in. Hope of a better future. We just can’t see it right now.

We live our lives. Get up in the morning. Brush our teeth. Shave. Have a shower. A quick breakfast. A kiss goodbye. Join the rush hours. Listen to our iPod. Do a job we hope we like. Too busy to stop and look around. No time for lunch. The client and customer can’t wait. We close the office door. Switch off the lights. And head off home. We join the rush hour for our last trip of the day. Read a book. Or the paper. Catch up on the news of the world. We give hugs and kisses when we get home. Eat our food. Bath the kids. Wash the dishes. Do our chores. Flop down in our favourite seat. Watch television. And fall asleep.

We are always so busy. Every day. Every single day. Doing what the man wants us to do. Never stopping. Never looking around. Never taking it in. Just rush in and rush out. No stop. Just go, go, go.

The weekend comes. We had plans. Taking it easy. Doing something with the kids. And the wife. Some family time. But it’s more rush, rush, rush. It’s ballet. It’s dancing. It’s shopping. It’s Gamecube. It’s cleaning the garden. It’s tidying the basement. Painting the porch. Planting some flowers. Mow the lawn. Build a swing. Do the time-sheet. Fill in taxes.

When do we stop and look around? When do we just soak it up? When do we smell the roses? When do we stop and see if we care? When do we have time for living?

Are we still who we wanted to be when we were young? Would we be proud of the person we have become? What do we see when we look at the mirror in the end of the day? Are we full of hate? Are we loving enough? What have we become? Do we like ourselves? Enough?

We all get a bit rough around the edges. A little bit scared. But are we still the same person?

Do you still believe in something?

In something good? Not the bad stuff. Don’t sweat that stuff. Do you still believe in the good stuff? That people are good? That the world is okay? That we can all enjoy each other? In friendship? Do you still believe in your word? Cross your heart and hope to die? In innocence? In just being who you are and want to be? Or have you become burdened by hate, disbelief, disappointment, lies, paranoia, war, money… Have you fallen for what the man told you? Have you given up? Given up on life? The life you knew you would have when you were little? Have you given up little by little and never realize you are giving up everything?

Or are you still fighting for that life you believed in? Know that you can have that? And make it happen for you kids? And their kids? Are you who you want them to become? Or who you tell them you are? Or who they think you are? Who they want you to be?

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Before you go to sleep? Do you like yourself and what you have become?

We make the world. We make our own world.

It reminds me of what Laura said – “I think I’m willing“…

But you know, I wish that I lived in a world where, when someone comes to ask me to help out with R10 for transport because they are stuck, I can freely give. I wish that I lived in the world where I felt safe to give lifts to hitch-hikers and people with broken down cars. Or where I can feel happy giving some change for kids taking up a collection for soccer uniforms or dance uniforms, rather than being worried that the money is going to drugs. Where I can freely give to the lady who asks me for money towards her brother’s funeral or the man who asks me for money for paraffin. Or the old lady from the rurals who comes in to town, only to find she doesn’t have enough money to buy the pre-paid electricity she needs.

I want to live in that world. And the only way I can live in it, is to try.

People are not always honest. People’s intentions aren’t always good. And sometimes giving in these sorts of circumstances just perpetuates the problem. I know this…

But I never want to accept that habitual “no”…

And I am definitely all for wisdom and all for protecting ourselves and our property. Definitely, we can’t be naive.

But you know what, I think I’m willing to lose a cell phone if it means I can spend my life speaking to people rather than brushing them off. Or to find myself played by people with long sob-stories once in a while, if it means I’m sometimes actually meeting people’s needs and making people’s lives better.

I wish there was a formula or a rule book for how to deal with these situations. But there isn’t.
And I know that I can be a bit of a sucker, and I sometimes have a problem saying no. And I know that I mustn’t give from guilt or from being manipulated.

But the great gain of treating people with dignity and giving where I can and feel is best, I think I’m willing to risk a bit, and lose a bit, for that.

Are you willing to risk a bit? To be who you want to be? And what you want the world to be? Laura is.

Look in the mirror. Tonight when you get home. At the end of the day. And ask yourself those questions. Look yourself in the eyes. Don’t blink. And see if you still believe yourself. And if you still believe in yourself.

At the end of the day. Do you like what you see? What you have done? What you have become? Be that person. Care a little. Risk a little. Love a little. Hope a little. Live a little.

Don’t let the man win. Don’t let them win.

Be.

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Barack Obama. It gets people talking. Just mentioning his name creates debate. But we know where I stand. I know he is the right person at the right time for the right job. But the debate will continue on whether he is the right person and whether he as the experience and whether he is who he says he is. But let’s bring it back to basics. Let’s remind ourselves what this is all about. And to Barack – never ever forget what this is all about.

1. It’s about race

Don’t let anyone tell you that this is not about race. That America has moved beyond race. This is all about race. But for all the right reasons. Let’s never forget Harold Ford Jr. He was one of the first guys I looked at and thought – wow, this guy could be it. But Tennessee decided no.  But this time America has the opportunity to show the world, and itself, that it has moved beyond race. It doesn’t matter – and it shouldn’t matter. It should send the message to people like greyrooster99@bellsouth.net who emailed me a few times after my last piece on Obama and wrote in his last email: “You’re a f*cking traitor and should be hung from the nearest tree. Drop dead you sorry piece of sh*t.” Obama is America’s chance to tell the world that people like that is not part of the American psyche. Obama – never forget this. People will look at you a bit more closely than the usual. But that is okay. We want people to pay close attention. Because you will show them what an American President should be about. Race counts. But by the time you are done as President – it won’t. You have the opportunity to be remembered as one of the greatest Americans Presidents. And not the first African American President. We don’t want you to be remembered for that – because that is who you are. Redefining race in the race to become the next great American President.

2. It’s about the future

Everyone else reminds us of the past. Mac is essentially a good guy. But he is about the past. The difficult times of the past. The past where he became a hero in a war many people didn’t want. He stands for many of the things that are good about America. But that is the good things of the past. And he reminds us that he lost against a man that reflected an America of the past – an America at constant war. Cold War or real war – it doesn’t matter. It is a past that is over. America can redefine the world. But does it want to redefine the world at war? Or a world of peace and prosperity? And Hillary reminds us of a more recent past. A past where Presidents divided people. President Bill Clinton was loved by many, but he also brought out the worst in the conservative and right-wing politics we still suffer from today. Hillary will be a reminder of that past. A past where the American people remain divided between Democrats and Republicans – and every ugly bit that goes with that. What America needs is a future it can look forward to. A future of hope and a future of change. A future where Americans can be what they are – a powerful nation united for the good of the world. Obama – never forget that you must redefine the future. Take America to a better place and a better future all Americans can be proud of again. 

3. It’s about America

Yes, this election is about America. It is about the heart and soul of America. It is about a President that can be an American President. And not a Democratic or Republican President. And not a President of the few. And not a President of the corporate world. And not a President of the rich and privileged. And not a President of horseless cowboys and fake toughness. No. America deserves better. America deserves a President for all of America. An American President. Elected by the people and for the people. Obama – never, ever turn your back on the people. America needs you. Needs you to make them proud of their President again. Fight the vested interest each and every day – and in every corner. Americans love a good fight. Americans will always be behind you as long as they know you are fighting for them and not fighting for a corporate or party interest. America deserves better. America deserves an American President.

4. It’s about the world

But it is not only about America. It is also about the world. We, the world, need a strong America. But we need that strong America to be on our side. On the side of justice and peace. Not an America that divides the world and who leads the world into war. The world hasn’t been this divided since the Cold War. America must be better than that. It must be – that is the burden of leadership. It must be better than the radicals of the left and the radicals of the right. It must be better than the radicals of religion and the radicals of terrorism. That is what the world expects – an America that can point us in the direction of peace and prosperity. An America that can rise above the challenges thrown at us day in and day out. An America that can be the beacon of hope in a world divided. People across the world respect and love what Americans stand for. But we don’t know how to feel about what America stands for today. We know that Bush is not America. But we also want to know what America means to the world and what the world means to America. The world needs America to be on the side of the plain and simple people. We can’t survive the wars you make against the extremist of the world. But we can’t survive without a just and friendly America either. Obama – never forget that America needs to take its rightful place in this world. We expect it and America needs it.

5. It’s about you and me

This is the Last Chance Saloon. People are giving up on democracy. It is a joke in Russia. It is a joke in Zimbabwe. It is a joke in Iraq. And it has been a joke in America since 2001. People are losing hope. Losing hope that good people will run our world again. Because everywhere they go they see lies and more lies. It would have been called propaganda if it wasn’t for the facade of democracy. People like myself look at the world and hope and pray we can have another Mandela. Another Kennedy. Another Ghandi. Another world leader to be proud of. Another world leader that can give us hope of a better world. But more importantly – a better us. Obama – this election is about you and me. I put my trust in you. I am a cynic. I don’t think the world will get better. I just do what I do to make sure it doesn’t get too much worse. It feels like we are treading water. Not actually drowning. But not moving. We know that we will tire and eventually die fighting the waves of injustice, hunger, illness, poverty and war – all the worse things we face each day in this little globe of ours. Yes. I am a cynical and angry African. Angry because the world is not as complex as they would like us to believe. Angry because the problems we face are not that difficult to solve. Not if we all stand together and follow a leader we can believe will give it a good shot. Angry because our leaders laugh at us behind our backs. Yes. I am a cynical man. But I believe in you. I believe you are the man you say you are. But this is the last time I will do this. You will be the man and President we want you to be. You owe this to us. You owe this to me. You owe me the same belief in yourself that I have. You owe me another chance to believe in our leaders. You owe yourself a chance to be the leader I believe in. Obama – never forget that this is about you and me. My belief in you as the last chance for our political leaders to make me believe in them again. Don’t disappoint me. I don’t think I have it in me to believe in another one again. It’s you and me, Obama.

I know that this is a heavy burden to carry. The burden of hope. Hope of a better world. Hope of a better America. Hope of a better President undefined by race. Hope of a better future. My hope in you. But I know you have it in you. Stand strong and we will stand with you. We are the voices you hear when it goes quiet. We are the faces you see when the lights go out at night. We are you. Be strong. Be us. Be with us. Don’t ever forget the burden of hope. Our hope.

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I have been on the road for the last few days. One conference after the other. And it has been interesting. Okay, sometimes it was interesting. One of the conferences I attended was in DC and was hosted by the sustainability guru John Elkington. John founded… hum, SustainAbility. Catchy phrase nowadays. But it wasn’t when he started it back 20 years ago. John is a good guy. I know him a bit and went to DC to catch up with him and a few other people I knew I would meet up with at the meeting – the usual suspects. Jane Nelson works in the same city as me, but we only see each other at conferences. And, of course, we always promise to get together for a cuppa when back at work. But we never do – just share hugs and kisses when we meet up at the next conference. But us Africans need to stand together – even if it is at conferences. We are generally the only Africans in the room. She’s from Zim and I am from a little further south. Again, I digress. But I had to do a bit of name dropping first.

John and his gang did some research with Globescan on the perceptions people have of the environment. And one of the many findings was that people in developing countries are more hopeful than those on developed countries. Yes, Africans are more hopeful of the future than Americans. And everyone was puzzled about this. How could this be? Americans have everything – big cars, big televisions, big meals and big egos. Well, I was tired by this time as I have been on the road for a few days. And they made the mistake of asking me (and others) to comment and interrupt whenever I felt like it. Yes, now they had an angry and tired African on their hands. So I decided to use the chance and interrupt at every possible occasion. That meant I interrupted on every new slide they showed us. But for now I will focus on this survey result that had them baffled.

Like a good African I scribbled a few thoughts on a piece of paper and offered my infinite wisdom. (You could hear the crowd do a single large sigh – an unbuntu sigh). John humored me though. So why are Africans more hopeful than Americans about the future? Not that difficult. Let me try and give you four reasons. I am sure there are more – so feel free to fill in the gaps. And you might not even agree with me. So throw them my way as well.

1. Lower expectations.

Yep, we have lower expectations than others. We just don’t expect politicians to solve our problems anymore – not after so many years of not getting the results we expected from our elected leader. Many of us live under politicians that won’t solve our problems. And we have become aware of this. We don’t live under the illusion that they will provide running water, electricity, food, healthcare or stop fighting. Okay, Americans and other Westerners have had a few stinkers for leaders as well. But at least a few harmless politicians pop up every now and again. We suffer from political leaders that just won’t do the right thing. Make no mistake – we have some excellent leaders in Africa. But even their hands are tied. Where are they going to find the money to even start solving the problems? And if they try and get money? They have hell to pay through privatization and selling off the crown jewels. And it is not only the politicians – we know we will get even less form those outside Africa. All help will come with strings attached that will only pull us further down. No. We have low expectations because we know that others will not solve our problems.

So how does this translate into more hope? Easy. If your expectations are this low you know that tomorrow can only be better. You expect nothing so hope can’t get any lower. We start off at a low expectation, and there is only one way from there – up. Do you expect tomorrow to be better than today? Of course, because I expected nothing from today and got nothing. Tomorrow won’t be any worse.

2. Nothing to lose.

Of course Africans are hopeful of a better tomorrow because they have nothing to lose. Very similar to the expectations argument. No luxuries like televisions, cars, ample food, health, jobs or safety. You know that tomorrow will be beter, because it can’t be worse than today. You have nothing today. So how can tomorrow be worse?

It’s the problem with having such a strong middle class like in America – too much to lose. Any threat to what they posses – and hope goes out the window. The middle class will feel that tomorrow will be worse because the housing market is down and they could lose their jobs in the unstable economy. But if you don’t have that house and that job? How can tomorrow be worse?

(This relates closely to my argument that any revolution will only be successful if driven by the poor. Because they have nothing to lose but life itself. But so much more to gain – like life itself.)

Of course expectations and nothing to lose are closely tied together in hope. We don’t expect anything and we don’t have anything. But tomorrow can only be better. Because we might actually get that clean water from a tap and not have to walk for miles. And we might get that medicine instead of seeing our people die. Or the rain might come and save our crops. Our politicians and foreigners wanting to help might get it right and actually give us something to fish with. And the school might open for our kids to have a future. That’s the hope – our kids can’t possibly have it any worse than us. Can they?

3. Natural entrepreneurs.

We see it every day. Woman sitting next to the road selling their fruit and veg on the roads in Africa. With a hundred competitors on each side. And feeding a large extended family. Feeling sorry for her? Don’t. See Bill Gates. She is running a successful business with no financial support from anywhere. No business training. Hardly any schooling. She has everything working against her. But she runs that business like Bill can only dream of running his. Cost effective to the last cent. She is Africa. She is an entrepreneur. And entrepreneurs always see a better tomorrow. Always plan for a better tomorrow. Because tomorrow we trade. Without aid.

4. Ubuntu – we care for each other.

We know tomorrow can’t be any worse. Why? Because today wasn’t that bad to start off with. I have my neighbours and my friends. We look after each other. We live and breathe for each other. We hide each other when the warlord comes. And we look after the children of the dead when death comes. We have ubuntu. We are one. That is the greatest hope we have. That when tomorrow comes we will still be standing next to each other. Looking after each other. Sharing the pot with my neighbour. And we will all eat from that pot. Share the last bit. Because I am nothing without them. That is the hope. That being together brings tomorrow. And tomorrow can’t be that bad if we still have each other and can still live and play with each other a bit longer.

And in the West? There they live for themselves. Their closed off properties with the doorbell to ring. And the telephone to warn them we want to come and visit. And their television fence that keeps them indoors and away from others. And their cubicle jails at work. Just them by themselves. They don’t need others. That’s what they believe. But can they live like that and still have hope? Hope for what? Thank God the writer strike is over. Hope might be linked to that pen for them.

See – not rocket science. Africans have more hope than Americans. Easy as pie. We have nothing, but we share with others. Because tomorrow I will have because other will have. And maybe. Just maybe. Someone will get that bloody water to run from that tap they promised. Or the rain will come. And the medicine will arrive. And our leaders will listen to the sound of hope. The sounds of women selling their goods and the children playing in the street.

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Let me be honest here. I am not a fan of Mandela. No. It would be an understatement to say that I am a fan. He means way more than that to me. So much more. He is Madiba. He is the “father”.

The father that inspires me. Inspires me to be the best I can be for others. The man who showed me that one person can make a difference. A difference that is good for others and oneself.

He is the father that made us a nation. A flawed nation, but a nation nonetheless. Like any good father he loves us for who we are and who we can be. He disciplines us when we are wrong, but he loves us unconditionally. We might rebel every now and again, but we know we are his children. We know because he served us for 27 years while in jail. Never waivering in his belief that we can and should be better than what we were. And we don’t always know why he loves us and cares for us. But he does. He loves us warts and all. Like a father should.

He reminds us of our place in the world. He made us part of a larger family. Reminded us of our place in this world. Our responsibility to others in this world. Told us to take his family motto of love to the world. To never be quiet when we see injustice done. No matter what the consequences might be. And the world loves him for this. The world that believes in love, peace and responsibility.

He is ubuntu. Believing in others more than himself. Serving others and caring for others not because he has to but because it is what makes him Madiba. Like breathing. He just does what should be done. No hidden agenda. He is because others are. He is us – the us we want to be.

To call me a fan would be an understatement. Get it?

So why do I even start comparing Obama to Mandela? I don’t know. I have been watching him and listening to him. And something in him spoke to me. I couldn’t put my finger on it. But I think it is because he reminds me of my own father – Madiba.

And not just because they look alike. Yes they do and it has nothing to do with them both being black. They have the same shaped head and thin long jaw. No wait, it’s the mouth and the eyes. Those mouths are the same – just look at those lines next to their mouths. It is a carbon copy of each other. It comes from easy laughs and smiles. And the eyes. Notice how they look at you when they talk to you. They look at you and you can see in their eyes that they actually believe what they say. Of course it helps that they are also build the same. Lean and tall. But I think the younger Mandela would take out Obama in a fight though – just look at those early boxing photo’s. But they look the same.

Make no mistake – not everyone will like Obama. And that is a good thing. Mandela wasn’t liked by everyone. Not everyone in this world saw him as the peacemaker. They kept him in jail dude. How could they like him when he told them that what they did were wrong? People have ego’s and self-interest to look after. And Mandela challenged those. Of course you can’t find those people anywhere now. They just don’t exist anymore. Denying that they ever disliked him – except behind closed doors. They are gone – just like those who hated Kennedy and MLK when they were alive. They just hated Mandela for what he stood for. Someone who asked them to be better than what they were. Asking them to change and get out of their comfort zone. And those same people will hate Obama and what he stands for. Asking people to change and be better than what they are. And many of those people who hated Mandela were those in power. Those who benefited from the system. And those would be the people who will hate Obama most. People who benefit from the system. And those who are trying to tell people that the system benefits everyone. Of course they are wrong. Some people benefit more than others. And some people have more power than others. And those in power will hate Obama the way that Mandela was hated by the Apartheid regime. They don’t want change because they are happy where they are – in charge and in it for their own benefit alone. You watching Washington? But great leaders don’t waver just because people don’t like them. Mandela didn’t and Obama shouldn’t. Stick to the plan. Stick to what your heart and mind tell you are the right things to do. Those who hate you today will be quiet tomorrow.

Don’t expect Obama to be perfect though. Mandela wasn’t. Mandela made some huge mistakes. Just look at his original position on HIV/Aids. That was a big mistake. And Obama will make mistakes. Who doesn’t? Show me a leader and I will show you mistakes. But great leaders will overcome this and learn from their mistakes. It is not the mistakes that counts, it is how you respond once you realize that you are wrong. Leaders make mistakes. Great leaders learn from them and work through their mistakes.

I don’t get the “Obama is a great speaker” bit that Hillary is trying to sell people. He isn’t. He stutters and don’t have an easy flow. But he is great at saying the right things. That’s why they care about what he has to say. That’s why they listen. Because he doesn’t talk to them, but with them. People can sense that when he talks. He means what he says and it matters. Mandela was the same. He was the worse speaker you can think of. Same stuttering and lack of flow. But people listened because they knew that what he said mattered. Because he was talking with them. And they could feel that he meant what he said. They knew that they were in the presence of something great. They knew that they were in the presence of someone who will make them better than what they are. That was Mandela and that is Obama. They talk with us and about us. In the same fallible way we talk.

Great leaders lead. They are born to do this. They didn’t decide one day to become this leader. They just lead because it is their destiny. They will tell you that it will be difficult to go where they want to go, but that the end would be better. They don’t try and tell people about every policy and every detail of how they will govern. No. They paint people a picture and tell them to follow. And the most difficult part is when they have to take people to places where they don’t want to go. Outside their comfort zone. Mandela did that a few times. When popular leaders tried the populist routs and targeted the white communities. They shouted slogans like “kill the farmer, kill the boer” and “one settler, one bullet”. And Mandela stood up and berated them in front of everyone. Asking them who is the leader? Who will lead people to a better place? That it is easy to shout slogans, because it spoke to our worse fears and thoughts. But that real leaders go forwards and take people with them – sometimes kicking and screaming. I know. I was at some of those rallies. And Obama does the same. He berated the Clintons because they were starting to do the populist thing – insulting Obama and trying to drag him into a bit of mud slinging. And he almost fell for it. He almost got involved in their fight. But he remembered what this was all about. It’s about America and the future, not about Obama and the Clintons. And he berated them because that is not the way you lead. That’s the way you herd cattle, not the way you lead.

Mandela always put people first. He told us that South Africa is about the people in South Africa. No matter where they come from or the color of their skin. It was always people first. And we could sense that. We could sense the way he cared was something we have never experienced before. That he cared more for his people than he cared about himself. That it was about you and not him. And I hear that and see that in Obama. That this is about the American people. No matter where you come from or who you are. This is your time. This is the time for Americans to take America back. To take it back to the place that we all love. Yes, we all love. Because no matter where you are, people across the world loved America and what it stood for. But we haven’t had that America since Kennedy died. It’s been all politics since then. Every President trying to leave a legacy. And the easiest way that those Presidents got their legacy was through wars or paying people off through tax breaks or aid. They forgot what America stood for. And in Obama we see the opportunity to take America back to the place that we all inspire to become. The land of the free.

A land of hope. Mandela gave us that. He gave us hope for a better tomorrow. A better tomorrow for us and our children. He showed us that we can be better than what we are. That we can have a better tomorrow. That it won’t always be easy. But that we can have a better tomorrow through hard work and a steadfast vision. Mandela gave us hope for a better South Africa. And we are better. Better than at any stage in our history. Not perfect. Just better. And that’s the hope. We are not stupid. We know that life will never be a walk in the park. That’s life. We live and learn. And hope we have more enjoyment than struggles. But it is a hope of a better future we can believe in. Not a false hope of a perfect future. And that’s what Obama is giving America. Hope. That is the most powerful thing that he is giving America. Hope for a better future. And the difference is that it is not only a hope we can believe in, but a hope that we know he believes in. Politicians always try to give us hope. But we are not stupid. We can hear in their voices that it is a hope they are trying to sell us. Not a hope they believe in. But Obama gives America a hope he believes in. He is painting a picture, not trying to sell an empty hope.

And of course Mandela was all about change. Change in the type of leader we had and change in the type of government we had. Obama won’t have to change a whole political system. But in a way his challenge is even more difficult. He doesn’t have the opportunity to get rid of all the old dead wood in government. No, they will remain in power. But he has to fight them day in and day out. Get them moving – kicking and screaming. But he can do it as long as he stays true and he remains open and honest with the American people. But change will come. The real benefit of change in Washington will most likely only come after he has left office. When the new breed of leaders come through. Those who saw this path of Obama and decided to take change to Washington. But Obama will plant the seeds and we will continue to eat the fruit when he leaves.

And like Mandela Obama will have very little experience in running a country. Leaders don’t need experience. They just need to employ the right people to make it happen. They paint the picture and others will make it happen. Mandela had no experience. 27 years in jail does not give you any experience to run a country. But he is the greatest leader the world has seen since Ghandi. And talk about Ghandi – what experience did he have? A bit of traveling in South Africa? And Churchill? He was a journalist in South Africa before he took up politics. And the same with Kennedy – not a lot of experience for such a young man. Great leaders are born, not made. Experience is needed for a Vice President and the Generals. Not for those who must lead a country.

In a way experience can be counter to what we really need. It muddies the water and creates white noise. You want someone to have experience in Washington where all the problems are? That just makes them part of the problem. Not the solution. Did you want experience when you got married? No, you just wanted someone to love you and help you figure out this complex world. Love was the only experience you wanted. Obama has just the right amount of experience in Washington to know that it doesn’t work. And that he should do this before he gets sucked into that system as well.

Obama is America’s Mandela. He speaks with us and not to us. He gives us hope we can believe in and not a packaged hope ready for a quick sale. He gives us a future we can believe in and that he believes in. He gives us back our rightful place in the world, not one forced upon us and them. He gives us leadership to take us where we need to go, not always where we want to go. He gives us belief in us as people because he believes in us. He gives us the experience of leadership, not the leadership of the status quo. He leads us, but don’t herd us. Most of all. He gives us the inspiration to be better than what we are. He inspires us to be better than what we are and better for each other. He has shown us a future we can believe in. A future where America is free. And an America we and the world can love again.

We used to shout slogans whenever we saw Madiba. It was our way to honor him. Viva Mandela, viva. Long live, Madiba, long live. Viva Barack, viva. Long live, Obama, long live.

Note: If Obama is Mandela does it make Hillary Mbeki? Yes. Like Mbeki she will be loved by some and hated by others because of her ideological bias and political baggage. She will divide people more than bring them together. And like Mbeki she will reflect the old school politicians. Those with ties to the past leadership and ties to the political system. Those with the experience of doing nothing. Those who the system say they hate, but love because nothing will really change. But like Mbeki she will be a good manager of government. But it will be a government of limited change. Only change around the edges. A few policies and practices. But not change of the system that created the problems to start off with. And like Mbeki she will not give us hope or inspire us. She will manage the country and do no worse than other Presidents. But you won’t look back and remember her in the same way you will remember Kennedy, Ghandi, Madiba or Churchill. Your children will look back and learn about her. But as a President that did good things and bad things. Not as a President that defined who we are and who we can be. But with Obama you might. You stand a chance. With Obama you might actually make the world believe in itself again.

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