What is Ubuntu and Why is It So Important for Humanity?
“Africans have a thing called ubuntu. It is about the essence of being human, it is part of the gift that Africa will give the world. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being willing to go the extra mile for the sake of another. We believe that a person is a person through other persons, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanize you, I inexorably dehumanize myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. Therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in community, in belonging.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Ubuntu (oo-boon-too) is a concept, a philosophy, a way of living in Africa. An expression of love and respect for all humankind, and an understanding that we all need one another.
Reverend William E. Flippin, Jr writes:
“The philosophy of Ubuntu derives from a Nguni word, ubuntu meaning ‘the quality of being human.’ Ubuntu manifests itself through various human acts, clearly visible in social, political, and economic situations, as well as among family.”
“Ubuntu ngumtu ngabanye abantu” (“A person is a person through other people”) is taught from an early age among Africans. It is a proverb describing a world view that we owe our selfhood to others – that we are first and foremost social beings, and that, no man/woman is an island (or as the African say, “One finger cannot pick up a grain.”)
“Ubuntu is, at the same time, a deeply personal philosophy that calls on us to mirror our humanity for each other,” Flippen states. ” When we act upon deeply feeling a sense of being connected to others by our common humanity, when we truly regard self and other as one, when we cherish human dignity, all of our relationships and the level of our behaviors and actions are raised to a higher plane. When we understand and practice Ubuntu we will realize that each has vital role to play, which must be held in balance, no one dominating the other. We must ‘Break the walls down. Build the body up. Bring the people together.'”
An anthropologist visiting a Zulu tribe in Africa bought a lot of sweets on a trip into the city. He put all the sweets into a basket, attached a beautiful ribbon, and placed the basket under a solitary tree. Then, he called the kids of the tribe together.
He drew a line in the dirt and said the kids should wait behind the line for his signal. When he said “Go!” they should hurry over to the basket. The first to arrive would win all the sweet treats.
When he said “Go!” something unexpected happened – they all unexpectedly held each other’s hands and ran off towards the tree as a group. Once there, they simply and happily shared the treats with each other.
The anthropologist was pretty surprised and asked them why they had all gone together, especially if the first one to reach the tree could have kept everything in the basket.
One young girl simply said, “How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”
This is Ubuntu.
What a wonderful world it would be if we all lived through ubuntu.
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