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Nelson Mandela

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Nelson Mandela is a famous person for what he had done to stop apartheid dominance in South Africa. Courage and truthfulness are what people always hear about Mandela and these traits of his inspire me so much. They make me have to learn about him and admire him. Therefore, he will be an exemplar that I really want to introduce and analyse so that people can see how great he is. According to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, courage is one of moral virtues or character traits. The trait is shown through his practical action in a person’s life so that he or she can achieve the setting goals. Whenever mentioning about Nelson Mandela, everyone always reminds him as a courageous person. This trait of his can be seen in what he had done for South Africa.

In the era when Mandela was young, the rule of white minority led to apartheid which is also known as “apartness”. Crompton (2009)states that “The white minority population in South Africa stood behind the government in bringing about a complete separation between whites and blacks, Indians, and coloreds” (pg 6). So it can be seen that this government was very powerful and very hard to fight back. If Mandela had not had any courage, he would have never tried to fight against apartheid. Since Mandela was very young, he can be aware of the dominance of white people in South Africa though they were minority. At that time, there was an organisation named The African National Congress (ANC) which was founded in 1912. It has the same thought with Mandela so he decided to join in 1943.

This also led to the appearance of anti-apartheid in South Africa. During the time working in ANC, Mandela tried to encourage people to take part in strikes, boycott and protests. However, after a time doing this, he realised that non-violence effects and protests like that did not work at all. That’s why, he decided to take more violent protests and less passive approach to make pressure for government. Another virtue mentioned in Aristotle’s Ethics that can be found in Nelson Mandela is truthfulness or honesty. Even Mandela himself also said: “As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility” (Amukobole, 2012, pg 232). Because he was honest with himself, he never stopped believe in the day freedom and equality will finally come to people in the world, especially South Africa. It also means that he will do everything and wait for the day apartheid ends. After witnessing poverty because of apartheid, his belief was much stronger and it became his goal.

Furthermore, when Mandela was in jail, he was offered 15 chances to get out of the jail if he obeyed the apartheid policies, but he refused these chances because he wanted to be honest with himself that he would not follow this policy and still believed in his democracy thought. That’s why, he had to serve in jail for 27 years. Barlett and Collins (2012) also points out Aristotle’s teleological point of view, he believes that everything is always changing and moving, and has an aim, goal or purpose or telos. I completely agree with his thought because the moral virtues we have will lead us to an ethical life or we should call it a happy life. Mandela did everything for South Africa, started with taking part in ANC, and then he organised strikes, protests and encourage people to join in. He did it because he was aware of the situation and also, he has his moral virtues: courage and truthfulness.

On the other hand, he also got purpose(goals) or telos when doing this. This purpose is to bring freedom and equality to South Africa so that apartheid will definitely be eliminated and people, especially black people can live an equal life with others. He existed and lived for this purpose, so every action, every thought of his always serve for it. It can be shown in the way he works in ANC and 27 years in prison because he refused to accept apartheid. Aristotle mentioned about the golden mean and “his golden mean states that virtue follows when people identify the middle ground between two extremes of unacceptable behaviour” (Oosthuizen 2002, pg21). In these two extremes, one is excess and the other is deficiency. In my opinion, anyone can be affected by the excess or deficiency of their traits. Therefore, Nelson Mandela is not an exception; he was also affected by the recklessness of his courageous virtue.

On Library of Economics and Liberty website, Caplan (2014) argued that Mandela is a “criminally reckless man” and wondered whether he was a communist or a terrorist because he broke the rule of ANC which was organising non-violent protests. Caplan also said that what Mandela did showed that he ignored the safety of million lives of South Africa’s citizens. However, in my point of view, Mandela is still a hero although his recklessness was judged so much. But without it, freedom could not be brought to South Africa and apartheid would never be stopped. Furthermore, Nelson Mandela also shared his thought about his recklessness: “We felt that without violence there would be no way
open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy” and “the violence which we chose to adopt was not terrorism” (Nelson Mandela death: Excerpts of his Rivonia speech, BBC, 2013).

Nelson Mandela is such a perfect exemplar that I really want to follow. What I really admire about him is his courage and he never gave up until he achieved his goals. In my life, sometimes I do not have courage like him because I am still afraid of failure and criticism from people around me. Because of that, I missed a lot of chance and could not achieve the goal I set. Besides, when it comes to difficulty, as most of people, I sometimes feel dispirited and then leave the work I was doing. That’s why I really admire Mandela because of what he had done and his virtues. The more I know about him, the more I have to remind myself to be more courageous and honest to myself and never give up anything. I believe that one day, I will become different and more successful if I follow his virtues. In general, Nelson Mandela is a really great person who gets admiration of people all over the world. He will definitely be a perfect exemplar and inspiration for the next generation to follow. He is a pride of South Africa and to me, his virtues always the thing I have to remember so that I can improve myself as well as my future. Although he passed away at the age of 95, his image will be unforgettable in people’s heart.

Amukobole, M. (2012). Character-centred leadership: Principles and practice of effective leading. Kenya: Evangel Publishing House. Barlett, R. and Collin, S. (2012). Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Caplan, B. (22nd, January 2014). Mandela: Reckless but lucky. Retrieved from http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2014/01/mandela_reckles.html Crompton, S. W. (2009). Nelson mandela: Ending apartheid in south africa. Infobase Publishing. Nelson mandela death: Excerpts of his rivonia speech. (7th, December 2013). Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-10529498 Oosthuizen, L. M. (2002). Media ethics in the south african context: An introduction and overview. Juta and Company Ltd.

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