Shakespeare, Mandela and Immeasurable Hypocrisy

polonius, with devotion's visage and pious action we do sugar o'er the devil himself“A huge translation of hypocrisy,
Vilely compiled, profound simplicity”

(Love’s Labours Lost, act 5, sc. 2)

If it were possible to invent a hypocrisiometer (hypocrisy meter), from now to the day of Mandela’s funeral, the indicator would go out of range. Still, a virtual measurement that would demonstrate a few truths, however self-evident, and dealt with here not in order of importance.

To begin with, the power of myth. A myth stands outside the need of verification – it becomes metaphysical. To question it becomes heresy. Religion is founded on myth, masked under the tautologic power of the word “faith” – that is, I have no reason to believe (the myth) other than I do.

Myth, then, automatically divides earthlings into two classes, the believers and the non-believers. It is well known that men love mystery, miracles and the unexplained. Miracles feed the hope to potentially escape from the individual lot and mystery adds zest to the hope.

But the greatest beneficiary of myth is political power. How wonderful to commit crimes, genocide or mass-murder and cover it up with the mantle of myth. It was the myth of “manifest destiny” that justified the genocide of Native Americans. It was the myth of Sigfried and of the Nordic Gods that justified Hitler’s claims for the “inalienable rights” of the German people.

Furthermore, after the myth is established, even those who vehemently opposed the myth – and even may have tried to destroy it – can claim that the earlier opposition is irrelevant, as the myth trumps all.

Mandela is just one other example – it differs in that the episodes leading to the creation of myth are (hopefully) not yet completely forgotten especially in the United States of Amnesia.

There are two Mandelas. Mandela version 1 and version 2.

That Mandela version 1 deserves the tribute of all who love justice, goes without saying – he, along with other thousands who lost life and freedom, during the persecutions and imprisonments by the hated apartheid regime

However, so-called neo-liberal governments and the corporate-controlled media the world over have rushed to offer condolences for darker reasons. Including heads of states who supported South Africa’s apartheid rule and aided in the capture and imprisonment of Mandela as a “terrorist” 50 years ago.

Obama, who presides over the horrors of Guantanamo and a US prison system that holds over 2.3 million behind bars, issued a statement in which he declared himself “one of the countless millions who drew inspiration” from the man who spent 27 years on Robben Island.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, the standard-bearer of reaction in England, ordered the flag flown at half-mast outside 10 Downing Street and proclaimed Mandela “a towering figure in our time, a legend in life and now in death—a true global hero.”

Billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, who ordered flags in New York City lowered, and even Bill Gates issued a statement.

There is an interesting aspect in all the sanctimonious declarations. What is celebrated is Mandela #2, now an icon, who was guided, according to Obama, “not by hate, but by love.” And this uttering by someone who punishes dissent with imprisonment and drone assassination – let alone military execution of those who dare claim independence for their own invaded country.

What is mourned and celebrated is the role of Mandela #2 in preserving and strengthening the neo-capitalist grip on the country, under most explosive conditions.

On the day before Mandela’s death, a report by the South Africa’s Institute for Justice and Reconciliation issued an annual report showing that twice as many of the people surveyed (27.9 percent) cited class rather than race (14.6 percent) as the “greatest impediment to national reconciliation.”

20 years after the ending of apartheid, the class question has not died (nor it was supposed to die, anyway). Miners and other sections of the black community have come into direct conflict with the African National Congress.

In August of last year, 34 striking miners were massacred at a platinum mine in Marikana, a mass killing whose bloody images recalled the worst episodes of apartheid repression at Sharpeville and Soweto. This time, however, the bloodletting was orchestrated by the ANC government and its allies in the official trade union federation, COSATU.

South Africa today ranks as the most socially unequal country on earth. The gap between wealth and poverty, and the number of poor South Africans are both greater than they were when Mandela left prison in 1990, to be served tea by the then white Prime Minister. 60 percent of the country’s income goes to the top 10 percent. The bottom 50 percent lives below the poverty line. 20 million are jobless, including over half of the younger workers.

In the meantime, a thin layer of black ex-ANC leaders, trade union officials and small businessmen has become very rich from inclusion into boards of directors, acquisitions of stock, and contracts with the government. The reader may refer to the book “The Anglo-saxon Black” to examine and apply to South Africa the set of conditions that led to the election of Obama as president.

Mandela #1 served as a facade for the ANC, which traded on his image to hide its own corrupt self-dealings. Behind the facade, of course, Mandela and his family accumulated millions.

The mourning of Mandela #2 by oligarchic governments and corporate oligarchs reflects their gratitude for his services rendered. In the mid-1980s the country was on the brink of civil war. Counting on the prestige acquired through its association with armed struggle and its socialist rhetoric, the ANC and Mandela managed to contain the mass uprising. They agreed to a settlement preserving the wealth and property of the international corporations and of the country’s white rulers. At that point Mandela became very useful.

Before taking office, Mandela and the ANC discarded most of the movement’s program. They agreed with the International Monetary Fund, pledging to implement free market policies, and removing any barrier to the penetration of international capital

In fact, one of the post-apartheid prime minister even claimed that the South African government follows the economic principles of Margaret Thatcher

Finally, there is one extra benefit from the power of myth. The mythological figure – if still alive – is infallible, and when he fails, it is not his faults but of those who surround him

In the mind of many intelligent African Americans, Obama is a “good man” who cannot show his “goodness”, because he is prevented by his advisors.

And when such mythological beliefs have been implanted even into the minds of people who think, we can imagine the beliefs of those who feed at the trough of the corporate media and/or their associates.

In the play. Katharine does not think much of the letter sent to her by her admirer Dumain.)

Shakespeare at Work. Good quote when hypocrisy is transparent.

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  • Fiorenzo Peloso

    great analysis …
    myth # 1, that one of the fanatics, always and inevitably leads to social conflict and oppression.

    myth # 2, that of the seekers of knowledge, instead always leads to an inner growth

  • Thank you Fiorenzo. Good points.

  • Yes, great analysis. Knowing this interplay of various threads of influence, however, leads me to feel utterly helpless. One wants to ask: what’s the use knowing it? Can’t do anything about it anyway. Perhaps that’s why I/we/people don’t want to know about it.
    In all fairness, though, as the American example has shown, it takes a lot longer than 20 years to change a centuries old mindset, which is what’s responsible for the social inequality in South Africa.

  • Fuldaland. You are right. Knowing about these things increases the sensation of helplessness. Still, however improbable may be an improvement (in the mindset of the 1%, or of humanity at large), I still believe that knowledge (or at least awareness) be better than ignorance. The minimal expected satisfaction (I think) is to be able at least to say to ourselves, “I told you so”.