Friday, June 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela

He is a living legend. I read his book, "Long Walk To Freedom" and was inspired by his struggles as well as sacrifices. He turns 90 on July 18.
Mandela served as his country's first democratically elected president from 1994 to 1999. In recent years he has campaigned on behalf of HIV and AIDS awareness and has long called the battle against AIDS a basic human right.
In 1964, a court sentenced Mandela to life in prison for plotting to overthrow the government by violence. He spent the first 18 years at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town, South Africa, and later spent time at Pollsmoor prison and Victor Verster Prison, closer to the mainland.
While in prison, Mandela became recognized as the most significant black leader in South Africa and he became a potent symbol of resistance in the anti-apartheid movement. Mandela consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.
South African President F.W. de Klerk released Mandela in February 1990 after 27 years in prison. The African National Congress elected Mandela president the following year.

But Age is ... wishful thinking!

A lot of ink has been spilled on the topic of age and how to deal with it. I tend to believe that when people were living in caves, during the stone-age, they never worried whether they look their age or not.
No man ever came back home, from a rough day of hunting with primitive means, to be asked by his wife: "Honey, does this dress make me look fat?"
Things changed during the Middle Ages, I guess, especially for the aristocrats. Having all this time on their hands, the nobility class invented make-up.
Obviously, they couldn't get enough of it on their faces. Restraint was not exactly an adopted policy in anything during those wild times.
Oscar Wilde noted that too many ladies in London remained 35 for a very long time! Today you would be lucky if you hear a lady admitting that magic number in the first place!
The desire to stay, look and feel young is deep rooted more than ever in our collective psyche (whatever that is); it is becoming a major, burning obsession that is almost taking over our lives.
We live in a culture that is simply obsessed by youth, for purely commercial reasons, I must say. Entire industries, from movies to cosmetics to pharmaceuticals, are making billions of dollars simply by whipping up fear among consumers. Fear from looking, feeling or getting old.
In the US, people have been trained, many years ago, to avoid mentioning the word "old" altogether.
The question about age thus becomes, how "young" are you? Prompting surreal answers such as: "I am 80 years young!"
If we are not obsessed with looking young, how could we tolerate a TV title such as: Nip -Tuck?
An ad agency in Lebanon is using the image of flat tummies of young female models to advertise a certain flat screen TV brand. Do I really need the endorsement of a young female, albeit with a flat stomach, to pick an appliance that happens to have a flat design?

Media image
When you are constantly bombarded by media images that glorify all that is young, regardless of context, meaning or value, you get what I call "Youth-fatigue".
This syndrome hits, for example, when you read about a fashion model that makes millions of dollars by splashing her face on magazine covers while bragging that she was born in 1991!Give me a break!
While risking sounding like a United Nations devotee, I must say that pure genetic luck shouldn't give her millions while millions live on less than a dollar per day! In short, I think someone out there is making tonnes of money by seducing us all into fighting a losing battle against age.
Mothers can't compete with their teenage daughters, the same way fathers can't compete with their teenage sons.
No cream, operation or hair-replacement technique will make the trick! It is the law of nature that each generation must give way, let go and move over for the new ones to go ahead. Age is not a bad thing, after all.
It is simply inevitable; like death and taxes! Alfred Hitchcock was asked once how he felt when he reached 70.
His answer was: "I am not 70 - I am 35 twice!"

(Ahmad Zahzah is a media consultant based in the UAE.)

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