Takes one step back to get a couple of things straight: Nelson Mandela, great man, amazing life, commendable example, not a saint but certainly someone whose life touched millions for the better.
But he was 95. He had been in poor health for some time. It was not, let’s be honest, the most startling piece of news to hear that his long life had come to an end.
A time for reflection, of course, a time for commendation – but I don’t care who you are, your passing doesn’t justify the more than a week of blanket news coverage, po-faced political posturing and the worst kind of hypocrisy.
Most of us, if forced to contemplate how we would like our own passing to be marked, would probably opt for something restrained, respectful, a couple of touching songs, perhaps a few words from someone who actually knew you, some drinks and nibbles and then it’s time to move on. We don’t want to make a fuss.
I entirely accept that a whole nation a very, very long way away will have wanted to mark Mandela’s death with due pomp, but I hope that the great man, if he has been looking down on us in recent days, would have been disturbed by the scale of the ceremonials, shocked by the acres of newsprint and hours of broadcast time devoted to a what is, essentially, an item of news in brief, and disgusted by the sight of two-faced politicians flying in first class from all over the globe to have a ringside seat at the big event and get their picture taken – even if they have to take it themselves.
Many of those who jostled their way to the graveside would, in years gone by, have done their best to make Mandela’s life miserable.
Some wanted to see him stay in jail, some even called for him to be hanged.
But all that is conveniently forgotten when there’s a state funeral to be attended.
Part of this is the Poppy Appeal syndrome writ large – world leaders are so petrified of scoring a PR blunder that they all toe the line without thinking.
They rush to make pompous statements even if they never met the man and were never affected by his life.
They head off for the airport and start to jostle for position in the diplomatic dance that accompanies any gathering of this sort.
I like to think that Mandela would be agreeing with me about the posturing and pomp that we have seen in recent days.
Thanks very much, he might have said. It’s nice to know that you think I made a difference.
But whatever I did in my life, there is still a lot of world to fix.
That’s your job now, so what are you doing spending so much time on me when there is so much work to be done?