The world’s most controversial selfie: the very picture of our rude, vain, selfie-obsessed society

President  Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a picture with Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt (C) next to US First Lady Michelle Obama (R) during the memorial service of South African former president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. (Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a picture with Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt (C) next to US First Lady Michelle Obama (R) during the memorial service of South African former president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. (Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
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A sad sign of the times. The world unites to mourn one of the greatest political leaders of all time, a dignified, forgiving man who averted civil war and mass slaughter and created a ‘rainbow nation’.

And, amid all the ceremony at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, David Cameron and Barrack Obama go and clamp themselves cheek to cheek with a glamorous blonde, chime ‘cheese’ in unison and take the world’s most controversial selfie (eat your heart out, Rihanna and Miley).

The blonde ought to have known better, too; she’s Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning. In the next seat, a picture of decorum and disgust, America’s First Lady Michelle Obama studiously ignores the three Cheshire cats acting like kids on the back seat of a school bus.

It was disrespectful; appallingly bad taste. And a sad indictment of the selfie-obsessed, image and celebrity is everything world we now live in. One where vanity and celebrity status rule whether you are black or white, rich or as dirt-poor as millions of South Africans still living in one-room huts in shanty towns, regardless of their freedom.

I wonder, did Cameron, Obama and Thorning rifle through the shots to select the ones with no double chins and crow’s feet visible?

What made three people who were representing their countries and should know a million times better act like teen Facebook addicts?

The mood of the day, an event at which thousands danced and sang in celebration of the man they called Madiba? Maybe.

But for the two men who reverted to giddy, short-trousered gaucheness, I’d hazard a guess it was the presence of an attractive blonde. It’s amazing what a bit of flirtation can reduce a man to.

The only thing I will say in their defence, though, is that Nelson, undoubtedly, would have forgiven them.