Eddie Daniels


Mr. Daniels is one of the most powerful individuals I’ve had the privilege of hearing speak.  I first listened to Daniels at the film series on October 28th, and again in the course ANT 220: Introduction of Cultural Anthropology on November 4. 

With the ever growing influence of media, most Americans are no stranger to an ‘amazing’ story.  Every day, we are told about incredible people, how they have survived a tragedy or changed the world.  Sometimes, movies and books are made about these people, nearly de-sensitizing the viewer of these stories.  I consider Daniels to be one fo these amazing people, having survived more than most can imagine, and he continues the fight for human rights today.  This being said, I was not prepared for how different of an experience listening to him speak in person would be from hearing about his life from an outside source.

Daniels shared several stories, from both his youth and time in prison, and is very humble about his experience with the Liberal Party in South Africa.  Born ‘colored’ in District 6 of Cape Town South Africa in 1941, the apartheid government had a strong impact on Daniels and his family.  Unable to finish high school so he could work, Daniels had many jobs in his youth, including deep-sea fisherman, diamond miner, and photographer.  However, Daniels saw the injustice that South Africans who were not labeled ‘white’ faced.  Generation after generation of farm workers were paid in alcohol, forcing alcoholism to become a problem in many families and communities. Children, such as Daniels, could not finish school because their families needed them to work.  Eventually, people were even forced out of their homes, because the white government would claim those districts as ‘white’ districts.  This happened with District 6, forcing Daniels family to move from their home. 

Wanting to make a difference and searching for people he relates to, Daniels begins to stand up against the government.  This caused many of his friends to abandon him, no longer inviting him to parties or holidays.  Looking for hope and a new group of friends, Daniels finds the Liberal Party in South Africa.  The Liberal Party was a small group, only 56 people, compared to the large African National Congress, who had members such as Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo.  For three years, Daniels and the Liberal Party have great luck, until all 56 members were arrested and questioned for sabotage against the South African government.  After being held in detention for 92 days, Daniels was tried and found guilty.  Now, he was facing a 15 year sentence on Robben Island, Daniels did not know if he would survive. 

During his 15 year sentence (1964-1979), Daniels in befriended by Nelson Mandela.  A political prisoner on Robben Island, such as Daniels and Mandela, lived in much worse conditions than even a murderer.  Daniels could only receive one letter and one visiter every six months; the letter no more than 500 words, the visit no more than half an hour.  To sleep on, they had a thin mat and three thin blankets.  Their cells had no more than a bucket, for a toilet, and these blankets which much remain folded during the day.  Also, the black prisoners faced even worse conditions.  Because the black prisoners were not served the daily bread the colored and Indian prisoners received, Daniels would help organize a redistribution of bread.  Careful to avoid the guards, Daniels used a small hand mirror to watch the prison halls while he collected the bread to ration to all the prisoners. 

Hearing Daniel’s share this story, about something so simple as daily bread, emphasizes exactly how wrong the apartheid was.  How can a political prisoner be considered more dangerous than a murderer?  However, this aspect of apartheid is shared by many governments, perhaps even the United States to an extent.  Is a person who is a threat to the entire government more of a danger than a person who is a threat to other people?  In the United States, the First Amendment allows its citizens the freedom of speech, assembly, press, and protest.  These rights were not given to South Africans under apartheid, especially to any person who might have something negative to say against the government.  Imagine if the thousands of college students in America protesting on the behalf of South Africans be placed in a small cell for 15 years.  Thankfully, we do have these rights, but perhaps some injustice still exists.  Is the killer of a political figure more dangerous than the killer of an average person?  Their trial would certainly gain more press, and they may would likely receive a harsher sentence.  How can the death of one person ever be considered more tragic than the death of another?  Obviously, this is a very extreme scenario, but it still holds truth.  These questions have no right answer, but we should not forget how easily the extremist government in South Africa was able to succeed in imprisoning any person who spoke out against apartheid.

I feel very lucky to be a student at a university that searches for guests such as Daniels to enhance my experience as a both a student and a human in a diverse world.  I feel a strong respect for Daniels, for his survival of apartheid, and his willingness to share the story.  Hearing Daniels certainly made me more grateful of every privilege I’ve had in my life, while encouraging me to more conscious of the injustices which occur on both a local and world level.

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The Campus Impact

Have You Heard from Johannesburg:  From Selma to Soweta

The fifth part of the film focuses primarily on the the protests of American university students.  The students were protesting the investments their schools’ had in South Africa, believing that divestment from South Africa would force the South African government to end the policy of apartheid.  Starting on Columbia’s campus, and spreading across the United States, the students faced a lot of critisism, and even arrests, the students’ protests eventually prevailed.  Many universities did divest from South Africa, although Columbia University never does.

Another feature of this section of the film is the increase in attention South Africa recieved from world news sorces.  While the South African government is doing everything in their power to prevent news of protests to reach South African newstands, journalists in America, Great Britain, and other power nations were concerned withthe increasingly terrible apartheid regime.  This increased awareness around the world, which incouraged more people to become involved in the protest of South African investments and goods.

Although I understand the intent of the student protesters, I can not completely support them.  Obviously, the policy of apartheid had long needed to be put to an end, but I am not sure if cutting off support with South Africa was the best way of pressuring the white government.  By divesting, many black South Africans inevitably lost their jobs, making a bad situation worst.  I understand that ultimately, the pressure of large corporations on the South African government was a major part of ending apartheid, but I wonder if this is the only way.  Obviously, nothing about the past can now be changed, but perhaps the working and living conditions of black South Africans could have been changed without causing so many to lose their jobs.  Also, after the establishment of a new, free South Africa, Mandela initially faced trouble convincing corporations to again invest in South Africa, this time a contry with a possibly unstable government.  If these investments had not been lost, the new government would have had one less hurdle to cross.  I understand why divestment was a good choice, perhaps the right choice, but perhaps this was not the only option.

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Guest Speaker Eddie Daniels

I regret to say, I have not made it to the last two parts of the film series.  I am greatly anticipating this weeks film, Have You Heard from Johannesburg: From Selma to Soweto.  Here’s the trailer for this part of the story:

The last part of the film I saw is Hell of a Job, which follows the life and trials of Oliver Tambo.  Covering the early history of the ANC, Hell of a Job looks at the actions being taken towards a free South Africa from both inside and outside the nation.  During this part of South Africa’s history, support was hard to find.  The United States and Great Britain were tied up in the Cold War and unwilling to get involve in yet another conflict.  Also, the Soviet Union did offer Tambo and the ANC support, giving the United States even more reason to be hesitant to lend any assistance.  Story Five, From Selma to Soweto, spans from 1977 to 1986, as progress is finally being made towards an end to apartheid.  Based on the description at the Have You Heard from Johannesburg website, during Story Five, South Africans finally receive support from the United States against apartheid, thus beginning the end of a the apartheid regime.  I’m looking forward to seeing the interviews of those people directly involved during this period in South African history.  What strides to a free South Africa are the most successful, and what opposition is received from the South African government. 

What I’m looking forward to even more than the film is guest speaker Eddie Daniels.  Here’s a great article about a visit Daniels made to Bowling Green State University in 2005, which helped me learn some background about the former political prisoner.  Not only will I be hearing Daniels speak at the film this week, but I am lucky enough to be in a class he is speaking to next week, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, ANT 220.  Daniels spent 15 years imprisoned on Robben Island, and I am curious to learn about his perception of Nelson Mandela, ANC members, the other prisoners, and the apartheid regime in South Africa.  I feel it is important to hear and share the stories of Daniels and his peers in the fight for a free South Africa, because these battles should not be forgotten.  Daniels should be very interesting to listen to, and I can’t wait for this Thursday’s film.

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Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

“Invictus”, the poem by English poet William Ernest Henley.

Directed by Clint Eastwood and staring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, Invictus was a wonderful movie, yet I am not sure how well it can be compared to Carlin’s novel Playing the Enemy.  Both are very powerful, portraying Mandela as the strong leader he is and pulling at their audiences’ emotions.  However, the changes made for the movie format are fairly drastic, although well understood.

In any movie, in order to captivate an audience no more than a few key characters should be developed, for the length of a movie does not allow for the same amount of character development as a book can.  Invictus chooses to focus on Mandel and Pienaar, with some focus on Mandela’s family life, his security team, and the people who worked for them, as well as Pienaar’s family and fellow Springboks.  In fact, some of the story was even exaggerated from the book.  The book played Mandela as unstoppable and superhuman, while the movie showed his as being a mere human, tired and aging.  Also, while the book rarely mentioned Pienaar’s family, aside from him coming from a typical Afrikaner background.  However, the movie took the opportunity to use Pienaar’s average Afrikaners family, including a racist father, to show how the Mandela managed to change the opinions of many of the South Africans.  Where the book was able to portray the general mood of South Africans, black and white, by introducing a range of characters and sharing how Mandela impacted them, the movie choose to focus on only a few of these characters, but develop them more. 

My favorite scene from the movie was when the Springboks lead a rugby practice with a group of young boys from the community.  The boys were all black, and the Springbok team was at first reluctant to take time out of their busy schedule to lead the practice.  However, with the encouragement of their captain, Pienaar, and their only black teammate Chester Williams, the team becomes very enthusiastic about the practice.  This practice is a turning point in the community.  From this point forward, all South Africans are supporting the Springboks, not only the white fans.

Internet Sources:

“Invictus” text

Full Cast and Credits

Springboks Picture

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The Game That Made A Nation

Even after reading the NY Times review, the book still was not what I expected.  Although the main focus of the story was the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the build up to this point was very interesting.  The author of Playing the Enemy, John Carlin, tells his audience about the journey Nelson Mandela made through prison, a free election in South Africa, and building a relationship with the sport known notoriously for having an entirely white fan base.  Mandela truly is a political genius.  He knows exactly how to play his opponent, whether it be the the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks, or white South Africa.  Yet, ‘to play’ is not exactly the right verb.  ‘Playing’ implies Mandela was somehow taking advantage or even brain-washing, but this is not at all the case.  Instead, Mandela would learn about his enemy, then relate to them, charm them, and win them over.  Mandela was completely honest, every person he spoke to gained a sense of Mandela, then were able to look past his skin color to judge what kind of person he is.  In this passage, Carlin describes what Mandela did while in prison to continue his fight for a new South Africa.

“The first challenge was to get to know his enemy… He had two tools at hand: books- through which he learned about the history of the Afrikaners and taught himself their language- and the Afrikaner prison gaurds, simple men, occupants of the lowest rung in apartheid’s great white labor preferment scheme.” (27)

Not only this, but Mandela would take the time to find a more personal connection with every person he spoke to.  When first meeting his new commanding officer after he was transfered from his cell on Robbin Island to Pollsmoor, he knew Major van Sittert would be more difficult to win over than his previous officers.  Before this point, Mandela knew very little about rugby, because the sport was considered an Africaner sport.  However, Van Sittert was a known finatic.  Thus, Mandela read the rugby pages of his newspaper in preperation, and he was immidiately able to start a conversation about the sport, including key players and recent scores.  Mandela had no problem abolishing Van Sittert’s prejudice against black South Africans.

And this is how the novel continues.  Story after story, anecdote after anecdote, of Mandela’s political strives.  Amazingly, Mandela was able to put his time in prison to very good use.  He stayed in excellent physical shape (jogging in place in his cell for an hour each morning), met many influencial South African leaders, and learned the game of rugby.  The way Carlin ties all of these accomplishments together, using rugby as a commonality, gives for a unique story.

One of my favorite parts of the story was when Francois Pienaar, the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, the Sprinkboks, first meets with Mandela.  Most of the meetings described are between Mandela and a diplomat, a fellow ANC leader, or a South African politician.  Yet, Pienaar is, with the exception of his sport’s fame, a much more average person.  He was “a typical Afrikaner” (159), Mandela’s words, not the author’s.  While waiting to meet Mandela, Pienaar describes his fears.  “I was incredibly tense as the moment arrived when I would meet him… I was really in awe of him.  I kept thinking.  ‘What do I say?  What do I ask him?” (160).  During the meeting, Mandela discussed rugby and how powerful the sport could be.  Although never saying anything directly, Mandela wanted to use rugby to bring together all South Africans.  By using a primarily white sport, Mandela could show the Africaners that black South Africa was willing to support them.  Pienaar heard the message Mandela was hinting at: “Get out there and win, wear that shirt with pride, certain of my support” (164).  I love this aspect of the story, because Pienaar is just a guy, playing a sport he loves.  He’s not a politician or a revolutionary, yet Mandela still has a role for him to play.  I am about as far as one can get from a rugby player, but knowing that Pienaar could make such a difference playing a game he loved makes me believe anyone can do so.

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Hell of a Job

Wow!  What an incredible film.  I am amazed at what a strong person Oliver Tambo was, especially before he gained support from the Soviet Union and Christian churches.  In the discussion led by Dr. Gasman, she asked the question what makes Tambo different from us, you and me.  I think this question has two broad answers.  One answer involves how Tambo differs from us, the other how we differ from him.  First, Tambo has a natural advantage over the average person.  He has charisma, strong leadership skills, and an optimism unmatched by most.  However, many more people have leadership abilities and optimism than use these skills to their advantage.  This leads to why we differ from him.  Standing up for what you believe in is hard.  Fighting back is hard.  Not only is it difficult to stand up to your friends and family, or find the resources, time, money, and support that is necessary, but, if all of this is overcome, your tireless efforts still may never see any results in a year, decade, or even lifetime.  Tambo, and the other ANC members, were able to see beyond all of these obstacles and hope an end to apartheid was in the future.

Another aspect of the film I found interesting was the involvement of the United Nations.  The film portrayed the United States and the United Kingdom as having condemned South Africa to many years of further discrimination.  In high school, I participated in Model United Nations, and sat on the Security Council at a few conferences I attended, so, to an extent, I understand the functions and rules of the Security Council.  The Security Council is unique from the General Assembly or other councils because it has super powers:  five permanent members, any one of whom could prevent a resolution from passing.  The US is a super power.  The other seats are filled by rotating members, who have voting rights, but not veto power.  Also, nations involved with the issue being discussed may be invited to sit in, but are rarely given voting privileges.  A nation may also use an abstention, where they neither vote yes or no.  This gives a nation, particularly the super powers, the ability to show their disagreement with the resolution without dooming it to fail. 

The film mentioned only one resolution, which was unsuccessful due to the lack of support by the United States and other super powers.  However, I found it hard to believe that only one resolution was attempted by the Security Council in relevance to the apartheid. Usually, issues are brought back again and again until a change is made. 

On the UN Security Council website, I searched all resolutions passed by the Security Council between 1960 and 1975 with ‘South Africa’ in the title.  I found 15 results.  Most were legislation to ban apartheid.  Of those results, none had any ‘no’ votes, but only five were passed unanimously.  The United States held their vote from four of these resolutions, including resolutions to work towards an end to apartheid.  This shows the US, or any of the other super powers, were not quite condemning South Africans to many more years of unfair treatment, but they also did not show whole-hearted support.  A range of reasons exist for an abstention from a vote.  One reason suggested in our discussion is the US had good reason not to sever ties with the South African government.  We have many resources and investments in South Africa, which could be lost if the US took a stance against their government.  However, the US also voted yes on many resolutions, showing this must not have been the sole reason for withholding their vote.  The abstention may have resulted from something a simple as disagreement with the wording or an allegiance with another nation.  Also, the US was involved in several other conflicts at this time and may not have wanted to, or had the resources to, get involved with South Africa’s problems.  Between the Vietnam War and Cold War abroad, and the Civil Rights Movement at home, the US probably did not want to be involved with another potential conflict.  This still does not excuse the behavior of the US and other western nations, such as France and the United Kingdom.  South Africa should not have been ignored for as long as it was.

As I learned from the film, the ANC stretched much farther than the South African borders.  In fact, if Oliver Tambo had not fled South Africa, the fight to end apartheid would have played out much differently.  Similarly, if the young Mandela and his peers had not turned to violence, thus being given a lifetime sentence, they may have never mellowed enough to accomplish a free election for South Africa.  We could spend our time on the what ifs, but this will not put an end to the problems of today.  What if the US had shown more support?  What if the ANC never turned to violence?  What if the Soviet Union never support Tambo and the ANC?  It is because of each and one of these actions that the apartheid was brought to an end; no use will come from wondering if the end could have happened sooner.  However, learning about the great people and decisions they made could help us end the inequalities which still exist in South Africa, the United States, and around the world.

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Have You Heard from Johannesburg: Before the Movie

Although I was unable to attend the first part of the movie series, I look forward to tonight’s film.  Here’s the trailer:

Have You Heard from Johannesburg:  Hell of a Job covers the years 1960-1977 of South Africa’s history.  I think this portion of South Africa’s history is possibly one of the least understood by many people, especially due to all the that was occurring in America at that time.  For America, the 1960s and 70s were a time of the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement; concerns were not of South Africa.  As a result, most world history, particularly that of South Africa, is overshaddowed.

This being said, I think this time period will be one of the most interesting to learn about, because of its contrast to more recent history.  Leading up to and after the end of apartheid, the leaders of South Africa, including Nelson Mandela, were careful to avoid violence and accept the ideas and opinions of all colors of people.  However, this more calm mindset did not come about until after years of deaths, executions, and imprisonments of the ANC’s leaders.  This film discusses the ANC in its youth, and I am curious to see what decisions, good and bad, were made by the young revolutionaries.

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