This blog is stepping away from the political realm for a minute (for the most part). I wanted to discuss a concept many people don’t even know exists. It is called “ubuntu.” There have been many champions of the ubuntu philosophy. One of the most respected people who discussed this issue is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Archbishop Tutu explained that –
“Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
I discovered this phrase when my father asked me to prepare a musical slideshow for a sermon. I do this periodically for him. In this case, he wanted the content to be centered on this idea of ubuntu. I had never heard of it, so I did some research. I watched some video of Archbishop Tutu’s explanation. I really fell in love with the idea that ubuntu expressed.
It starts with humans being interconnected. A man named Maslow once created a hierarchy of needs. Based on his work, Alderfer’s Hierarchy of Motivational Needs was created. This theory lists three basic categories of needs. The primary level, existence, has the highest priority. This is followed by relatedness and finally growth needs. One organization of Alderfer’s Hierarchy describes existence as including the basic emotional needs and includes connectedness. I believe that ubuntu describes this very concept. We have a basic, primal need to for our connection with others.
As I have been studying this, I have been driving people crazy saying the word ubuntu. Archbishop Tutu had fun with this word in one of the videos that I watched during my research. This video probably has, what I consider, the definitive explanation of ubuntu.
“There is no such thing as a solitary individual. We say, ‘a person is a person through other persons.’ That we belong in the bundle of life. And I want you to be all you can be, because that’s the only way I can be all I can be. I need you, I need you, to be you, so that I can be me. And that’s why, you see, when you dehumanize another – whether you like it or not – inexorably, you are yourself dehumanized.”
I see the concept as having two big implications. First, the personal implication. I need to be the very best that I can be…so that the world around me continues to improve and be the very best it can be. This concept can be applied to so many fronts. The individual front is just the beginning. Apply the concept to the business front and you can explain the need for corporate social responsibility. Do we wonder why we get so upset when we see corporations act greedy and under perform? It is because they are not living up to their potential and it is affecting the world with which they are connected.
The next implication is the connection with others. To ensure that I can be the best that I can be, I need everyone else to be the best that they can be. I have a responsibility to myself to support others. By holding them down, or dehumanizing them, I am actually holding myself back and dehumanizing myself. What a novel concept. We must uphold others to ensure that we can continue to stand up ourselves.
Now, what you can’t forget is that these others may not be what you think they should be. It is not your job to make them into what you want them to be, but to provide them support when they need it. If you attempt to hold back who they are, you are holding yourself back by extension.
So, you can see where I’m going with this. There have been many issues lately that have torn the people of the U.S. apart. They are fighting about immigration, spending, health care, and even the religion of the President. In most cases, I believe that the fight comes from the intent to make things better. The problem is that people are beating each other down to make their point. Holding with the idea of ubuntu, they are also beating themselves down. Think about it…have you ever heard anyone say something like, “Obama is a Muslim,” or anything to that effect? Aside from the fact that he’s not, the question remains – why would it matter? If he were a Muslim, why would we not hold him up and support him to be the best President and Muslim that he could be? In turn, that would help us be the very best citizens that we could be. That’s not saying that you have to agree with everything he says and does, but why not be supportive and constructive? It can only make you better.
So, back away from the political ideas, I’ll touch on the religious implication of ubuntu. I can’t write anything better than what Archbishop Tutu said in his sermon:
“Jesus did not say, ‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw some. Jesus said, ‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw all.’ All. All. All. All. Black, white, yellow, rich, poor, clever, not-so-clever, beautiful, not-so-beautiful. It’s, it’s one of the most radical things. All! All. All belong. Gay, lesbian, so-called straight. All, all are meant to be held in this incredible embrace that will not let us go.”
This is truly an inspired vision. I post this simply as a way to play my part in ubuntu. Think about this for a bit. Watch some of the videos of Archbishop Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and many others who speak of ubuntu. Think about how it can apply to your life, and how you view others. And, most importantly, pass it on.