I Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City

by Timothy Corcoran
Contact

I’m sure there are many people, particularly the younger generation, seeing their Tumblr, news feeds and Facebook walls blow up with Nelson Mandela tributes and who, while recognizing the name, still wonder what’s the big deal. We’ve all read in our history books about some of the heinous treatment of one people by another and because these are history books we get the sense that by and large humanity has evolved past such acts. Sure we hear short snippets in the news of atrocities such as genocide, slavery and ethnic and religious purges taking place today, but they always seems to take place in far off countries and often among people that don’t look or act like us so it feels pretty distant. Sadly, this is human nature.

I grew up in era where Apartheid was legal in South Africa, and proudly so, at least as characterized by some of its country’s leaders. While South Africa was far away and many of its people didn’t look like us, many of the leaders spouting support for institutionalized hatred looked a lot like us and spoke our language on the newscasts. With the emergence of cable news and 24-hour news cycles, it was hard to escape the reality that people like us were still pursuing heinous policies against others. During my formative years apartheid moved from being a distasteful policy perpetrated in some far-off land to the forefront of our consciousness.

For many US generations, college has been a place where political activism takes hold and it’s no coincidence that some of the most compelling moments in political protests, such as those against the war in Vietnam or those in support of Civil Rights, took place on college campuses. But my ’80s college generation wasn’t exercised about much. We complained about the labeling of “dangerous” music and our musical heroes produced music videos expressing fear of nuclear war, but for the most part our economy was humming along and we were apathetic. Until apartheid. I can’t say that I joined marches or protests against apartheid because I don’t recall any being organized at my school, but I can say we cared, and cared deeply.

There are no conversations as fascinating and wide ranging as those that take place in college dorm corridors at 3 AM, punctuated by kids who are invincible, who know just enough of politics and world events to be dangerous and who are still supremely confident that they have all the answers to solve the problems foisted upon us by earlier generations. We would debate apartheid and declare that had we been in charge we would never have allowed it to take root, and if we could have our way now we’d eradicate it, though we didn’t know how. These conversations crossed racial, political and socio-economic lines, in part because many of us hadn’t yet established our own personal ideologies and selected our lifelong news sources that would comfortably reinforce our own biases. From our business and economics classes we understood that the issues were probably more nuanced than “simple” hatred by one race of another — and make no mistake, there were business and world leaders and emerging leaders of our own generation supporting apartheid at that time, or at least not condemning it because South Africa served their commercial interests. But for most of us, it was a black and white issue – pun intended, but no disrespect intended.

Our musical idols provided some measure of assistance, by refusing en masse to play Sun City, at that time popular stop on many global concert tours. And we radio station geeks would both play the relevant anthems (“Little Steven” Van Zandt and Artists United Against Apartheid I Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City comes to mind) and refuse to play music from artists who continued to tour South Africa (I’m looking at you Elton John and Queen, among others) though admittedly our gnat-like memories faded when hot new songs by these artists were released. But to the extent we cared about global politics and human rights in that era, apartheid was the subject of our activism. And Nelson Mandela figured prominently in the conversation.

Mandela was released from prison after I graduated, and while the task of earning a living replaced my late night world-problem-solving discussions, none of us could help but be aware, and impressed by, the towering intellect, passion, strength and, yes, compassion, of this man who had spent nearly three decades incarcerated for his stand against his government’s injustices. Nelson MandelaLet’s ponder that for a second. There are notable movies illustrating how those incarcerated for long periods often struggle with returning to society. And of late there is a seemingly constant stream of wrongly-convicted prisoners released after DNA evidence clears them, typically years if not decades later, and unfailingly the vibrant young people who went to jail emerge as broken shells after a lifetime of imprisonment. And yet Mandela emerged with an unbroken spirit, ready to catalyze the movement to finally ban apartheid. He then led his country after an election in which he earned over 62% of the votes, one of the most stunning reversals of fortune I’ve observed in my lifetime. He did not act alone. There were, of course, many others, whose names won’t be recorded in the history books, fighting apartheid. But Nelson Mandela is not, for me and for many (and hopefully most) of my generation, some distant history book reference; he’s the embodiment of what one person can do to fight injustice on a scale that seems impossibly insurmountable.

For that, I am pleased to have been a witness. And I hope my daughters, nieces and nephew, some of whom are of mixed race, and others in the younger generations take a moment to study and reflect on Nelson Mandela’s accomplishments (some already have). There’s been some muttering about the disproportionate air time devoted to a popular film star who died tragically this week and what an injustice it is that Nelson Mandela’s passing isn’t generating nearly as much viral attention. I bear no grudge against the media, or the young film fans, who can’t get enough news of their deceased movie star. But trust me, when all is said and done, Nelson Mandela, both his life and his passing, will have a far greater impact on our social consciousness than any other news we’ll read this week. He was, and is, that important.

He had his failings, as we all do, and we’ll begin to hear of his imperfections, and rightfully so. It’s important to note that our icons put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us, and have weaknesses just as we have. But that doesn’t detract from what he accomplished.

Thank you, Nelson Mandela, for what you’ve done and for showing us how it’s done. Rest in peace.

Written by:

Timothy Corcoran
Contact
more
less

Corcoran Consulting Group on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.