According to my morning paper, Nelson Mandela, who turned 89 this past week, has gone completely senile.
Well, actually, the paper didn't say that but it's the only conclusion one can draw from the announcement that the former President of South Africa and the man who was a central figure in the fight to end Apartheid has compiled a "group of elders" who will come together on occasion to help solve the world's problems.
This, of course, sounds very nice. In many cultures, although not in the caucasian world, Elders are looked upon as people who, through their years have gained wisdom and insight and can guide younger people in times of difficulty. Clearly, however, this is not the case with the names Mandela has chosen to associate himself with.
Among the less obnoxious names are Richard Branson - billionaire businessman with a flair for innovation and good-humoured self-promotion. Okay, I don't mind Branson. There's also Peter Gabriel, the former frontman for the 70s arts band Genesis before embarking on a successful solo career. I liked Gabriel in both incarnations though I don't think he's even that old and he's certainly never done anything particularly wise or outstanding that I'm aware of. There's also Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland. She, too, ain't that old and since she once served as UN Commissioner for Human Rights, she's obviously not that wise, either. There's also Muhammad Yunus, billionaire and Nobel Prize winner for his Green bBank which gave microloans to the poor. Don't have anything against him. Bishop Demond Tutu is also on the list, not the least one imagines, because he and Mandela go way back - I'm not particularly a fan of either because both have been highly critical of Israel while ignoring human rights violations by numerous other nations and, of course, the palestinians, showing a clear lack of objectivity.
Then there are several people I've never even heard of, or if I have heard of them, it was only in passing. They include Gro Harlem Bruntland, environmental envoy to the UN - whoopee! Also, Ela Bhatt, Indian women's rights activists. Well, East Indian women certainly do need a human rights champion, so she's probably okay.
Then, there are the downright insane. Li Zhaoxing, foreign minister of China, one of the world's most regressive nations and a major violator of human rights. He's right in there with Jimmy Carter, asshole extraordinaire and quite possibly the worst president the US has ever had, certainly the worst of the 20th century. And, topping them all: Kofi Annan, former UN head honcho, who oversaw numerous genocides while his family and cronies lined their pockets at the expense of the unfortunate and downtrodden.
This is no council of elders. This is a council of people who should exit stage left and stay exited. If anything, a few of them should be subjected to the Eskimo way of dealing with the elderly and infirm...that is, left to float away to the next world on an ice floe.
God forbid any members of younger generations look to this collection for guidance.