Traditions as Legends: Rivonia, or Humanism Miscast
When and Where
There is either failure or omission in the social sciences and humanities to entertain the idea that African political actions have behind them distinct traditions of thought. This is to say that it is often assumed in the canons and beyond that African actions are not grounded in moral predicates that reflect time and the material conditions of the existence of the authors of such actions. One way to cast aside African thought, as well as their ethical and moral predicates, is to present them as legends: the result of exceptional heroic acts of bravery, foresight, and/or humanity. To counter the underlying reflex, I wish to revisit the last paragraph of Nelson Mandela’s “I’m Prepared to Die’ speech. I do so to demonstrate the manners in which the last paragraph stands as an instance and instantiation of a longstanding and uniquely African expression of humanism. Further, I wish to show how the absence of interest and acquaintance with this particular speech is also evidence of the poverty of moral and ethical thought today.