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What did being free mean to Mandela as a boy and as a student? How does he contrast these transitory freedoms with the basic and honourable freedoms?

Last updated date: 22nd Mar 2024
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MVSAT 2024
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Hint: The context of the above question has been taken from the chapter “Nelson Mandela Long walk to freedom”. The chapter is a narration by Nelson Mandela. It is a narration of the ceremony when Nelson Mandela assumed the post of the president and his reminisces of freedom.

Complete answer:
The freedoms that Mandela wanted as a boy were not complex. He did not have the hunger to be free because as a child he was of the view that everyone is born free. He did not know that freedom was something that a person had to ask for because as a child he could do everything that he wanted. For him, as a child, freedom was about running in the fields near his mother’s hut, swimming in the clear stream of his village, roasting food under the night sky and riding on the back of slow-moving bulls.

By the time he became a student, he became aware of the fact that his childhood freedom was an illusion. He became aware that his freedom had already been taken. A person always longs for things that she/he doesn't have and it was this realisation that made him crave freedom. As a student, his ideas of freedom were of being able to stay out at night, read the subjects and books of his interest, go anywhere he liked etc.

These freedoms were further revised as Mandela became a young man. Now he wanted the freedom to keep his earnings with himself, marry and have a family. He now wanted the freedom to live a life that obliges law and had no other interference. His gradual understanding of freedom also made him aware that it wasn't just his freedom but also the freedom of other people like him, that was abridged.

The transitory freedoms were the freedoms that he wished for, as a young boy and student while the basic and honourable freedoms were the freedoms that he wanted as a young man.

Mandela contrasted transitory freedoms with the basic and honourable freedoms on the basis that transitory freedoms were limited to personal choices but the latter extended to everyone in general; the indivisible freedom.

For Mandela the basic and honourable freedoms included :
1) Life of dignity and self-respect
2) Lawful life

It was his acknowledgement of these freedoms that made him join the African National Congress. And consequently, he became the first black president of South Africa after 3 centuries of rule by white people.

Note: South Africa witnessed apartheid (racial discrimination in political and economic systems) from 1948 until 1994 until Nelson Madela took over as president. He was an anti-apartheid activist, lawyer, and former political prisoner (for 27 years in jail). The main theme of the lesson is Freedom from racism.
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