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Henry Rollins: No Time to Waste

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Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 4:00 AM

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[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]

See also: Henry Rollins: The Glorious Cold

With only two more shooting days to go, I am almost wrapped on He Never Died. Soon, I will be staggering onto a jet and returning to Los Angeles.

It has been one of the best work experiences I have ever had and has given me a lot to think about. We were in the middle of the day when we got word that Nelson Mandela had died. There was a pause as the news sunk in, but soon work resumed, as it had to.

It is a sad passing, but everyone has to go sometime. I am glad he got so many years, post-incarceration, to enjoy his freedom and stand as an example of strength. As you may recall from a previous column here, a few years ago I was able to turn the pages of Nelson Mandela's first passport after his release from prison. He took quite the victory lap. Rarely can a person be such a single point of light for such a huge part of human history and, with one voice, speak for so many.

Unsurprisingly, Nelson Mandela had and still has many detractors. This is a fact that should not go unnoticed, because I think there's a lesson in it for everyone.

After his passing, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly noted that while Mandela was "a great man," he was also a communist. While O'Reilly provided no evidence to the communist claim, his checked-swing tribute is really not what's important. I have no idea if O'Reilly and others who give Nelson Mandela the thumbs-down are aware of what was happening in South Africa in the time leading up to Mandela's incarceration.

See also: Henry Rollins: Nelson Mandela's Legacy

Like almost every major historical event, context is of the utmost importance when trying to connect the dots. I am not a history teacher, and it's up to you to do your own research. There's a lot to know about apartheid-era South Africa. I am a fair way into David Welsh's massive book, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, which I bought in South Africa a few years ago. It is dizzying to try to arrange what was in place there at the time, what other countries' political leaders made of apartheid, and South Africa's place in the world -- and what they did or didn't do. The Bang-Bang Club by Greg Marinovich and João Silva is an eye-opening read on the subject, as is A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela.

The museums and exhibits available for visitation in some South African cities are incredibly powerful and allow some valuable perspective. Just walking around in modern-day Soweto in Johannesburg is moving. I have made four trips to the country and always schedule time to learn more about its history when I am there.

As to the lesson to be learned, in the days since the passing of Nelson Mandela, I have been thinking a lot about time management and how important it is for me to get things done. After all, Mandela's legacy has come under attack and been marginalized, such as when Rick Santorum, when commenting on Bill O'Reilly's show, equated the "great injustice" Mandela was fighting against with "a great injustice going on right now in this country, with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people's lives. And Obamacare is front and center in that." When something like that is happening, there's not a lot of time to worry about what others think about what you're doing.

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