OPINION: Rarely, if ever, in human history has the death of one man so deeply affected so many people as the passing of Nelson Mandela.
People of all ages, nationalities, races and religions from all over the world reacted to the news yesterday of the former South African president and anti-apartheid leader's death with deep sadness.
That sense of grief at his loss transcends every border, faith, ideology and political viewpoint because Mandela himself transcended all those barriers.
He represented the potential of the human spirit to not only endure injustice and oppression, but to defeat it. He embodied a dignity and determination in the face of evil that spoke to the essential goodness of mankind, and cut a path for all of mankind to follow.
His loss, therefore, is a loss for all of us.
While that loss will be felt globally, nowhere will it be more personally devastating than in Mandela's homeland.
Millions of South Africans walked with him during his long journey through persecution, imprisonment and emancipation to see him realise the hopes of a nation. They lived the struggle he led, and many are still living it.
While Mandela was a largely symbolic figure in the latter years of his life, the void he leaves will be cause for much anxiety in South Africa. His mere existence was a force that bound the nation together, and his death will inevitably spark much soul-searching, and perhaps even internal tension.
We're often invited to think that Mandela permanently healed his country, and South Africa has emerged as a peaceful, fair and decent society.
The truth, though, is that it has in many ways failed to seize the opportunities its former president made possible. One suspects that Mandela knew better than anyone that his long walk to freedom was only a part of South Africa's journey, and there was much distance to travel to fully realise his dream.
Today, the whole world is looking for the words to pay tribute to one of the giants of human history. If Mandela were asked how we should honour his legacy, though, it's unlikely he'd seek plaudits. He'd say the struggle isn't finished; the fight against the kinds of injustice and hatred he fought during his life is never really won.
The only way to truly honour the remarkable journey of his life, now he has come to rest, is to keep walking in the same direction. The Royal Show is in full swing at Manfeild this weekend, so get along if you can. It's a fantastic event, and one we want to keep in this region, so let's support it and have a great time in the process.
- © Fairfax NZ News