July 18, 2010

Mandela Day: Ideas for 67 minute heroes

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” – Simone Weil (philosopher, social activist)

Altruism was favoured in genetic selection in humans because co.operation accelerated the advancement of our species – even though it remains a moot point filtered through the crisp logic of classical economists, curmudgeonly philosophers like Hobbes (the life is nasty, brutish & short chap) and a clutch of confounded biologists and geneticists.
photo  CC attribution: indabelle on Flickr
Sometimes humans just do good things for each other for the hell of it. Yes there’s that little biochemical flush to reward you with happy emotions; but no discernably useful or selfish motivations to guide us doing good for the commons, for a stranger we’ll never see. One of the biggest live examples is Wikipedia, which did people’s heads in when it didn’t descend into drivel as predicted, but truly lived up to the crazy wager that humans could (mostly) be trusted.
We just need a good excuse to step into our heroic boots every now and then.
Mandela Day, the 18th July (by UN General Assembly decree, not just for South Africans) is just such a day. A day to shake out the cape and tune our supersenses into where we can fix a social injustice 67 minutes.

Nelson Mandela has fought for social justice for 67 years. We’re asking you to start with 67 minutes

A Hero is Part Human, Part Supernatural

Fortunately, unlike the great man whose life we’ll be honouring, our quest is only to make the world suck a little less on July 18; no repressive regimes to bring down, blessedly. To count ourselves lucky and to share a little piece of that luck with someone who could use a little.

No one has ever become poor by giving – Anne Frank

It’s up to us to choose what to do with those 67 minutes. These are some of the suggestions that lit up for me.

The Mandela Institute’s Six Suggestions

Madiba’s work beyond politics and statesmanship has been to change the lot of our little ones, to secure health, happiness and education for all children. And these go a long way to supporting a nurturing environment to grow little brains healthily:
Idea 1: Create safe and cheery schools (please check their Magic Classroom project! it’s joyous)
Idea 2: Make and donate toys
Idea 3: Give fun and interesting books
Idea 4: Read together
Idea 5: Tell a story
Idea 6: Support play

School Libraries Project

We may be reading and doing most of our research online and forgotten about school libraries, but the children who don’t have a computer at school or a laptop at home really need BOOKS as reference. If you’re in Cape Town, The Bookery at 20 Roeland Street is the place to offer up your favourite books, textbooks, beautiful Dorling-Kindersley treasures, whatever you believe will enrich a school library to the School Libraries Project.

Got a Super-Power?

Sharing our wealth of resources (whether time, money, talent or strong arms) is always more satisfying when we’re tapping into what we do best, not just helping out as another pair of hands when you could be using your head. Build a site (yes, it can be done in 67minutes), help develop a marketing plan for a young entrepreneur, get inspired by people like Andy Duncan who helped create order in the last spate of xenophobic attacks by building a database to track & deploy resources, or contribute to that counter-intuitive phenomenon like Heather Ford, post positively like Nic Haralambous.

There’s something to fit any gift. If you’re a gifted plumber consider using 67 minutes to find a Habitat for Humanity house to help on, there’s even something for cosmologists and applied mathematicians at AIMS (spread the NextEinstein quest into more corners of Africa) or AIMSSEC and help make school maths less horrific.

..or change for change?

Or get into some online activism and donate to daring homegrown projects that make good with your money like the Broccoli Project (incentivise someone to take their AIDS test by getting food in their tummy) or Jo’burg ChildWelfare’s 100 Doors of Hope project on GivenGain. easy.

Random Acts of Kindness

[these come with a caveat by the way, though random acts of generosity may be rewarding for the giver, the receiver is often not having such a good time. Our brains don’t process random stuff terribly well, and without a reason, even kindness is viewed with suspicion and sometimes rejection (you have been warned)].

Virgin Unite has 67 ideas (Richard Branson shares July 18 as a birthday with Madiba and getting in on the act)
And if you want the motherlode of do-good ideas, try the list at

a hero shows you how to solve the problem – yourself. – Jet Li

We got lucky, thank you Nelson Mandela.

July 18, 2010