Nelson Mandela Foundation


Ariel Dorfman

June 23, 2010 – I like the idea of 67 minutes dedicated on Mandela Day to making the world a better place, closer to our dreams, farther from our nightmares. And 67 minutes every day after that.

An hour! It’s easy, almost mechanical, to ask people for one hour of their time: a comfortable category, a confined interlude, something you start and then finish by the clock and can then forget.

But add seven – oh, add that magical prime number, and everything changes. Those seven extra minutes insinuate a breakdown of intellectual safety and effortless contentment, constitute a real challenge.

Oh, the things we can do in those extra seven minutes. Take seven virtues, seven vices. Think of spending 60 and then 7 minutes each day trying to tame a different vice: gluttony, for instance, where we eat more than what we need, we eat what the other lacks, what so many others lack. Think of pride, where we put ourselves above every other sentient being, think we are better and therefore more deserving. And greed, don’t get me started on the primal sin of our time. Think of how much avarice we can diminish in ourselves and the world if we only set our minds to the task, if we offer up an hour every day and then an extra seven minutes, sixty plus seven. Think of how we could make the planet slightly more tolerable, doing one small thing to defeat the desire to accumulate and have so much more than our fellow humans.

And if we want to get apocalyptic, 67 minutes a day could avert the opening of the seventh seal, just 60 and 7 minutes a day of attention and care from each of our billions of humans to the environment, could make sure we do not destroy the mothering earth under the seven wheeling heavens or succumb to the seven plagues. Just 67 minutes of commitment could banish seven years of famine, could ensure seven times seventy years of plenty for all.

As for myself, on July 18, 2010, I will be travelling to South Africa, on my way to deliver the lecture that bears the name of Mandela – and I promise, as soon as I arrive in South Africa, a few hours after I step off the plane and take a nap for – yes, exactly 67 minutes – I would like to be whisked in front of a group of South African children in Cape Town and tell them a story about rebellion and kindness and how the imagination will always be stronger than tyranny, how they mustn’t be afraid to rebel against injustice. And repeat the experience and the story a few days later in Johannesburg. There may be 67 youngsters present, or maybe seven, or maybe more or maybe less, but each one, one by one by one, contains the future, theirs will be the hands destined to keep at bay the seven fires of hell, it is to them we must bequeath a world blessed by the seven goddesses of peace and joy and beauty.

Ariel Dorfman will deliver this year’s Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on July 31, 2010.


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