On 18 July, 1988, some of the biggest names in music performed at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Concert. Of course, Mandela himself was not present at the London concert staged in his honour, due to the fact that he remained in prison where he was set to remain for life, stemming from a sabotage conviction dating back to 1964’s Rivonia Trial.
The concert itself was a culmination of a growing global anti-Apartheid movement throughout the 1980s, which saw Pretoria increasingly isolated from the wider world. In its own way, the community of world renowned musicians helped to promote the anti-Apartheid message among those who otherwise had little interest in politics, justice or human rights. Music and the voices of musicians raised in support of Mandela did in fact end up making a difference.
Mandela was eventually freed from prison in February of 1990, before becoming South Africa’s first president elected on a basis of democratic majority rule in 1994.
Mandela was imprisoned by a judicial system that was manifestly unjust and likewise, today, Julian Assange is condemned to a de-facto prison cell (it is simply disingenuous to call it anything else) in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy. Assange remains cut off from the outside world because the world’s most power nation and its allies seek to condemn and almost certainly execute Assange as an agent of espionage – a traitor by any other name.
In reality, Assange is no more a traitor than was Nelson Mandela. Both men sacrificed the best years of their life on the basis of defending principles which in both cases ought to be universally acknowledged as ethical, moral and correct. But while the wider world had come to rally behind the cause of freeing Nelson Mandela by the late 1980s, in 2019, the wider world with a few valiant exceptions remains silent about Julian Assange. Tragically, even some of Assange’s erstwhile supporters appear to have sold him down the river for a proverbial 50 pieces of silver.
Even at a time when the physical and sometimes mortal sacrifices of journalists and activists make mainstream headlines, Assange remains ignored by the corporate and state owned media of the western world, even though the revelations he published are without a doubt the most important in all of the 21st century.
One of the few but valiant individuals who have continually stood up for Assange and his cause of freedom is Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters. Waters is in many respects, the most vocal, the most stalwart and the most impassioned public defender of Julian Assange. During his recent ‘Us + Them’ tour, Waters projected messages in support of Assange to his audiences throughout the world, thus introducing this just cause to well over a million people who might have otherwise been on the dark side of the moon when it comes to knowing about Assange’s principles, his struggles and his sincere commitment to truth, justice and peace.
Recently, Waters has voiced his support for a peaceful demonstration for Assange to be held in Sydney. In an age where otherwise powerful voices use their platform to support either “safe” causes or no causes at all, Roger Waters has continually stuck his neck out for the world’s most important issues that are objectively censored by western mainstream media.
— Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) February 11, 2019
But just as the Apartheid regime in South Africa silenced any news which told the truth about Mandela and the ANC, so too are “unofficial” outlets getting the word out about Assange in spite of an official campaign of censorship. That being said, there is far more that must be done to counter a narrative that has allowed Julian Assange to experience the physical and mental decay that would be enough for most prison guards to receive universal condemnation for inflicting.
Those who do not exercise what remains of their right to free speech in order to sound a clarion call for Assange’s defence are ultimately no better than those who have turned his refuge into a dingy prison cell upon which the light of day does not shine.
Because time is ticking on Assange in more ways than one, it is utterly essential for a large scale Mandela style concert to be organised in a major city, in order to inform the wider public about Assange’s condition, his struggle and the wider struggle for truth and justice that he represents.
I personally can think of no better individual to stage such a Concert For Assange than Roger Waters, a man who has already travelled much of the world performing deeply politically and socially relevant music whilst highlighting Assange’s plight before concert goers across multiple continents.
There must be a Concert For Julian Assange and it must take place while there is still an opportunity to convince the powers that be that they must do what Apartheid South Africa eventually did and free their most unjustly incarcerated political prisoner.