In today’s culture of celebrities, the death of Paul Walker and the death of Nelson Mandela are events of almost equal significance thanks to the cultural breed that is more interested in idols, icons, images, paraphernalia, and fame than the never-ending struggle for equality and freedom. This inauthentic consciousness that is continually steered by the culture industry becomes interested in what it is told to be interested in. Sure, you can celebrate Che Guevara as much as you like, but the Che you are celebrating now through some pins and t-shirts is as apolitical as any Hollywood superstar.
If anything, making celebrities of former freedom fighters and leaders of anti-imperial movements serves a fundamental purpose in terms of the image capitalist liberalism wants to portray and market of itself. That is the image of a system that fosters freedom of expression. Of course, you can express anything you want as long as it does not threaten today’s existing order. Mandela’s ANC has long ceased to be a progressive leftist organization, and Che’s international liberation movement has long ceased to exist. Thus, the celebration, marketing, and idolization of them both, along with other figures such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, are now not only safe but also a hugely profitable industry.
Today, the world has vibrant revolutionary movements as well as Mandelas and Guevaras, but mass individuals cannot see these Mandelas and Guevaras or choose to loath them. Today the world is as gloomy as it was in 1960 when both Mandela and Guevara were single-purposely fighting a world system that was crushing and is still crushing millions like them. Today, if you really want to pay any respect to Mandela’s memory, look for those who are struggling for the same kind of causes Mandela struggled for. They are everywhere because, believe it or not, injustice is still everywhere.
P.S. Or how about this: for the sake of your admiration for Mandela, make sure you are not on the wrong side of the Apartheid. If you think there is no Apartheid where you are, then perhaps it is better to go on mourning Paul Walker than any version of Mandela.