As I write this my twitter feed is awash with people lamenting the loss of Nelson Mandela. It has been a loss felt the world over, the man who went a long way towards changing the world and most definitely changed a country.
He leaves a mixed legacy. Yes he changed the world, yes he always stood up for his beliefs but to some he will always be a terrorist. For many who only knew of his fight against apartheid, the label of a terrorist will be a surprise. How could somebody fighting for the good of so many people be lumped in among those who commit atrocities in the name of their religion?
It all comes down to belief. Everyone has things that they believe in and that they would fight to the death to protect. However misguided these may be to some, they are what keep us breathing, give us the strength to continue on days we would rather give up and leave it to someone else to do. Unfortunately some people's beliefs mean that others will suffer. Terrible crimes committed in the name of religion and belief would almost have us believe that it is wrong to believe in anything that goes against the status quo.
Just think what would the world be like if the Pankhurst's, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela et al hadn't fought. If they had just lay down and accepted the discrimination, the threats against them and continued struggling on in a world in which they had no voice.
When we hear the word hero today it is likely that our minds may think of caped crusaders keeping the cities safe (thanks for that Marvel). Yet we often neglect to think of the true heroes. The ones who fight for the injustices we cannot fight ourselves. The people who have risked their lives in the fight for equality. The people who put themselves out there to ensure that our children grow up in a world where they really can be anything and anyone that they want.
Unfortunately, we still need more heroes. We need those who are not afraid to stand up for those who need it, who want to leave a legacy of more than being knocked out of the X Factor or being on some god awful reality show. We need to teach our children that there is more to life than being famous for the sake of being famous. We need to help them realise that anyone has the potential to change the world for the better, regardless of who they are. There is so much pressure to conform that we need to counteract it with how much better it is to go against the grain and make a real difference.
Despite how much we may moan about our lives, and despite the fact there are still many children in the UK going to bed hungry, scared or both, we have come such a long way in the past century and it is thanks to these heroes. It is our duty not to let their dreams die. The world needs more heroes such as these brave people who risked so much for what could have turned out to be nothing. Every day that we wake up and can choose where we sit, demand the same pay as our male counterparts (or even go out to work at all) and know that our children are free to play with whoever they choose regardless of race, class or gender, we should be thankful to those who have made all of this possible. The true heroes of the world.
They don't wear capes or fly but they sure as hell can put up a fight.
RIP Mandela. May your legacy never be forgotten.