So, its a very sad time. Nelson Mandela has died at the ripe old age of 95. In my opinion, people like him shouldn’t be allowed to die. Ever. Never ever. Because we haven’t learned from history, haven’t learned our lesson, and we need constant reminders that we need to make this world a better place, in any and every way we can. Nelson Mandela is not superhuman, he is what Zimbardo called an “everyday hero”. He is just a man, who has made mistakes, but he also made so many choices to DO GOOD, to BE GOOD, to be BETTER than he was yesterday. Social psychology is a field that has mostly formed from the miseries of human existence. Rarely has any kind of real contribution to the field arisen from genuine, unmotivated, non instigated introspection or outrospection. The legacy we want social psychology to leave is that one of a field that does what it can to make the world better.
What does this all have to do with Nelson Mandela? First of all, many of you might know who he is, but now you will. AUC also wrote a tribute for him as well. He was a lot of things, but he was also a social psychologist. Not really, not in training, but in spirit and thought. He was a social psychologist in disguise. Its hard to forget that he was a flesh in blood man, not a superhero, and that he still put so many social movements into action, in South Africa and all over the world. But no, he was an ordinary man, a critical empathetic and charismatic man, a man who understood the power of social influence. He spent his life exposing how the power of social influence led to prejudice, discrimination, injustice, and then when the tides turned, he used social influence to try to overturn all of the systems and use the power of social influence for good. He was a model for prosocial behavior, when he could have been anything but forgiving, understanding, empathetic, he had every reason not to be. But he used controlled thinking, and utilized so many aspects of South African morals, beliefs, and attitudes to create CHANGE. This is not to say everything is perfect in South Africa, prejudice and discrimination are still rampant, but the status quo being interrupted set off the spark for long term, sustainable attitude change.
People always wonder HOW HE DID IT?!?!?Well, he didn’t do it alone number one. What social psychology teaches us about minority influence, is how amazingly powerful it can be in certain circumstances. Mandela had the qualities of being the kind of leader that could create the kind of group cohesiveness that would lead to consistency and agreement between members on the BASIC ISSUES. He was able to instill trust and avoid what could have been the inevitable backlash of having a cohesive group, that they would turn on the “out group” who were once the oppressors now that Mandela had the power to do so. He focused on trying to have a fair and peaceful transition process, and succeeded in many ways and failed in others. But he DID emphasize that to move forward we need to empathize with and understand the perpetrators of all of that violence and the bystanders who did nothing.
He wasn’t always the emblem of peaceful protest, he supported resistance in its many forms. For a while, a long while and until very recently, he was considered a “terrorist” while simultaneously being glorified for being a peaceful otherworldly altruist. He suffered the consequences of NOT conforming, as he felt the price of conforming was too high to bear.
Terrorist VS Inspiration
He did not only speak out about the injustices in South Africa, but EVERYWHERE. Take a look. 7 Nelson Mandela Quotes You Probably Won’t See In The U.S. Media. Here is my favorite: “The UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system. But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
I could go on and on and on, showing how much of a social psychologist he was in his fight against prejudice, but I will leave some things up to you to find out and figure out. SO, comment on the post with some information on how he used social psychological principles to end prejudice and discrimination in South Africa and all over the world. He wasn’t perfect, but he was more often than not a positive model for prosocial behavior, leading by lived example. One that we all should follow.