May 31, 2020
#OP | Today more than ever we are called to reignited the “Ubuntu” in us

I first heard about the significance of the Ubuntu philosophy when I watched a youtube video about 10 years ago. Singer Zolani Mahola from freshlyground was explaining exactly what Ubuntu meant and it sounded so beautiful and hopeful. But when the video ended, I did not take a smidge of what I had learned in that video to incorporate in my life.

It is always fair when other people give an appreciation of who you really are, however I do not see myself as extremely selfish and insensitive of other’s pain. Could I be more caring, definitely! But it is also comforting to have people come to me and thank me for things I have done for them even though I did not realize the magnitude of my actions. For that, I would say I have my kind moments but I could do more.

In 2017, after reading the history of the word “Kumbaya”, I thought about “Ubuntu” again to see how much of an impact it made to the world. I wrote a piece about it. Actually I wrote about the impact of three words, “Kumbaya”, “Ubuntu” and “Hakuna Matata” with a feeling of pride that words that are actually deep-rooted in African culture are acquiring great meaning in modern societies. You can read the piece here.

I started my piece by referencing the bible and the fact that we all spoke one language at first and with that, we were always looking to further our knowledge and abilities. And God noticed that as one people with one language, nothing that we, humans, sought after would be out of reach. And that’s how God confounded our speeches, to scatter us over the face of the earth and avoid the building of the “Babel Tour”.

As a Christian, I believe everything God does is good. Sometimes I fail to understand and I catch myself questioning him but I am just human. I believe that the moment people started speaking different languages, they also started having different thoughts which grew into cultures and built the diverse world we live in. I think it is a blessing.

However, although God decided to break our language, he still left us with our human essence to always try to be together and that’s why we are using tools to improve our ways of communication, from building roads to connect cities, to making music to connect souls. And the bible did not stop teaching us about humanity, loving each other and coming together.

That human essence is basically what “Ubuntu” inspires. “Ubuntu” is said to be an African philosophy which embodies humanity towards others. It loosely means “I am because we are” and calls on us to mirror our humanity for each other.

For thousands of years now, the world has been challenged by so many vices that reached new heights in 2020 with the deadly and most devastating pandemic COVID-19. COVID-19 is not the deadliest disease; it is not even incurable – although there is not a known cure yet, people still recover from the disease – but it is the only disease that was able to change the course of life on a global scale in a short period of time, and successfully challenged our human need and/or ability to be one. COVID-19 forced us to place a physical barrier between people in addition to emotional turmoil (fear, uncertainty, depression…).

The most basic example of humanity, holding someone’s hand, hugging one another, eating together, playing together, being together physically, is vanishing. But today more than ever we are called to reignite the “Ubuntu” in us.

The latest news regarding police brutality in the United States and the recent resulting deaths of 2 male and 1 female victims brought an additional uproar that is condemning the oppression, the abuse and suppression of certain communities. Although this is something that has been going on for centuries, the recent events seem to have awaken the sensitivity of many more humans to, at the very least, openly expressing their feelings. But why now?

Is it because the ravages of COVID-19 are forcing us to acknowledge and feel the pain of others? Many are still confined, economies are drastically crumbling, cases of infections and related deaths are still rising every day, hardship is felt in a less discriminatory pattern. It seems the layers of greed, and self-centeredness are shredding from our souls and we are becoming more sensitive to our pain, to the pain of loved ones and the pain of others we don’t even know. We are maybe just now, perhaps in a very shy and unpurposeful manner, opening ourselves to becoming more human the “Ubuntu” way.

However, the latest reports have also clearly revealed that many of us are actually just taking advantage of the situation and adding to the harm that already exists. It is believed that the many American rioters are not there for the right causes, and bring more violence and disorder than anything. There have been human rights and exploitation concerns for the COVID-19 vaccine to be tested on Africans when they are less affected. Numerous vices joined forces with the COVID-19 pandemic, showing no sign of salvation ahead for humans. But it is in these times that we need “Ubuntu” more than ever.

For Ubuntu to be called an African philosophy sounds a bit sketchy at first because it assumes that all Africans know what it means and abide by its principles, which is not the case. And making Ubuntu an African concept is discrediting the diversity of the African continent and the humanistic qualities of non-African cultures. Upon my research on the topic, “Ubuntu” is advertised as the way all Africans live, but as much as I want that to be true, it is just not. I have travelled to many African countries and you see a balanced amount of all sorts of things. Africa has always been portrayed as a hospitable place but that is not the whole story.

In fact, every human being is born with the ability of being essentially good. Africans cannot be better than everybody else. Whether we like it or not, Witchcraft and slavery is also part of Africa’s heritage. But I do believe there was a better, kinder Africa before European intrusion.

I recently came across the address of Lord Macaulay to the British parliament about India which is believed to apply to Africa as well. Lord Macaulay  wrote:

“Unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”

Africa was stripped away from its “Ubuntu” way of living the moment it allowed foreigners to impose their way of living. And the pressure to play a part on the global scene is furthering Africa’s dehumanization. The dualistic world in which we are leaving is also allowing the good to come with the bad. If we can’t have one without its opposite, does it mean there will never be harmony without disruption? If that’s the case we could never be one, as it takes one unwilling participant to break a whole cycle. And if some are always looking into taking advantage of others, how much should one take before revolting?

I can relate with being good to people who end up taking advantage of my kindness. I have to say those experiences changed me. They made me angrier and meaner. In Africa there are what I want to call the “Abusers of the spirit of Ubuntu”. It is widely believed that the African hospitality is particularly genuine. While explaining the “Ubuntu” Philosophy, Nelson Mandela said:
“In the old days when we were young, a traveler through our country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops the people give him food. That’s one aspect of Ubuntu.”

Hospitality is a major aspect of African culture however something that is supposed to be a kind gesture is becoming an obligation and that is what I call abusing Ubuntu. In fact, an Ubuntu abuser would come expecting you to give him food and be upset at you when you don’t. And that’s the mentality of some less fortunate people they want you to exercise Ubuntu towards them but they feel that they don’t have to in return. They do not care to know how you feel or if you have any problem, all they want is for you to assist them because you seem to be more privileged.

I remember asking a work associate of mine why he never offered me anything. Why was I always the one buying him drinks? He told he does not do it because I have more money than him that’s why I should offer him drinks. I was so intrigued by his way of thinking because gifting should never be a matter of whether you have more or less than the next person. Gifting is just about performing a kind gesture to someone you esteem. The goal of gifting is being kind and not showing the value of the gifter.

On another instance, I went to the bakery to buy bread. We were 3 in line to pay for our food, a black man, a white man than me last. When the lady at the cashier served the black man she was okay, but when it was white man’s turn, she was extremely nice. Then when it was my turn she came back to being less warm. I remember the black man fussing about that telling the lady that it makes no sense for her to treat the oppressor better than her own brother and this is the kind of behavior that is killing our nations.

But this is how a lot of Africans behave in a lot of places; they treat foreigners better than their own people. Foreigners would say they are very nice, when in reality they act that way because they hope to have a tip or are infatuated by French or American people. Africans still have an inferiority complex which prompts them to act different when they are in front of a particular group of people in order to gain acknowledgement from them. I even saw such behavior from reputable African personalities who just folded in front of people of other races who are not even half as successful.
But “Ubuntu” is not selective kindness. It doesn’t suggest to be more kind to certain people because of favor or because they are your family. In a 2010 article on thedailybeast.com, Liberian peace activist, Leymah Roberta Gbowee while addressing Mass Rape that African women are victims of said :
"Most women only take action when their own communities are threatened. This must stop if we are to tackle the ills that are plaguing our African society. We must ignite the spirit of “Ubuntu”—“I am what I am because of who we all are.”
Ubuntu does not pressure nor does it expect anything in return. “Ubuntu” is empathic and compassionate toward other humans. While talking about Ubuntu, African entrepreneur, Getrude Matshe said,
“If every single person on this planet heard that there is an earthquake in Haiti and we each gave $1.00 to Haiti, that would be a country restored in one day”. 

It means that for the Ubuntu system to work, we should all be involved. If the world was about helping each other we wouldn’t be playing the blame game on who brought the COVID-19 pandemic. We wouldn’t be politicizing every circumstance. We wouldn’t be questioning the integrity of people’s actions. If the world was one, we would be exercising a lot more empathy and compassion. I do not know if we will ever get there. However, it has never been clearer to me that it is the “Ubuntu” way of living that will save us.

When promoting change, we always talk about the fact that it takes one person to make a difference. Perhaps it is true but in order to fully exemplify the “Ubuntu” philosophy, it will take us all to be the “one” that will make a difference. I am challenging myself today to be a little kinder every day. And you?

0 messages:

Post a Comment


Be Social w/ Afroziky

About | ©Afroziky 2020