I AM BECAUSE WE ARE
Ubuntu is an African philosophy that places emphasis on ‘being human through other people’. This is an introspection into this philosophy, that epitomizes the principle of shared values, an in-depth exploration into a shared collectiveness, the interconnection of a singular identity, on a communal and extensive level.
The idiom “No man is an island” reiterates interdependence, which is in direct contrast with codependence, since it involves considering others and discarding only personal gain.
The year 2020 has been an unpredictable set of events, mostly anyways, resulting in multiple perturbations and accentuating the need of an intense sense of community, the advocation for a non-racial, non-sexist and non-exploitative society.
I AM is self-identity, because YOU ARE; therefore, one’s identity comes from perception through other people? Yes, I infer. How we are perceived is subjective on human characteristics of generosity, consideration and humaneness towards others in the community. One does not become a good person by merely self-conviction but rather self-awareness. In South African culture, Ubuntu has come to be used as a contested term for a kind of humanist philosophy, ethnicity or ideology.
At the apex of unpredictable events is the global pandemic resulting from the virus COVID-19, where a number of infected persons asymptomatic or not, have facilitated the spread of the virus, causing the inevitable shut down of almost all physically present inclusive activities. We see the economic and social consequences that continue to increase, where plans to flatten the curve are obturated by people who disregard set social distancing measures or slowly propagated by care of already infected patients.
COVID-19 is proving to be a virus of uncertainty, constantly mutating and with only so many established facts. It is much deadlier to an older populace, and equally deadly to persons with pre-existing health conditions. To have consideration and be humane towards others, is to protect the elderly, prioritize the chronically ill and discontinue acts of irresponsibility by properly social distancing and observing amped up hygiene measures.
Governments are investing in economic stimulus packages and healthcare. While the magnitude of the challenge and policy responses vary across borders, the focus needed at the household and community level highlight the pivotal role local governments must play in response to a crisis. It is the most consequential set of public policy and mass behavioral change actions in the last 3 decades.
In some countries like Nigeria; devoid of the humility and inclusivity the people need, and given to narcissism under leaders who unapologetically prioritize serving themselves over the people they are elected to serve, there have been fragmented responses. Despite this global pandemic and the claims of insufficiency of funds, the Nigerian government have refused budget cuts in luxuries, expenses and salaries of political office holders. Its disbelief, realizing health workers on the frontlines are being compensated with $12 as hazard allowance, below even the acceptable minimum wage, and have been refuted negotiations to increase this despite their sacrifices. The entire health sector after years of constant neglect requires a gargantuan revamp to accommodate needs.
Private individuals have since then taken up initiatives for disbursement of relief funds to the poor and needy, and also towards purchase of imperative medical equipment like ventilators through public accessible sites like Angelsamong.us and wearetogether.ng, to be human is to affirm one´s humanity by recognizing the humanity of others.
For a time, it was supposedly the entire world focused and against one goal: the global pandemic. We have slowly egressed to multiple goals, since attention was brought to the vicious killings of unarmed black people as a racial hate crime by the police, in a disturbing video showing George Floyd, a 46-year old black man in Minneapolis being killed during arrest despite his obeisance. The irony, when the supposedly delegated body granted legal authority to maintaining public order and protection of lives would be the perpetrators of such social injustice.
In the Shona language of Zimbabwe and related dialects, the word unhu connotes being human or humaneness. It focuses so much on acceptable human behavior. The black lives matter campaign is a movement dedicated to non-violent civil disobedience in protest to police brutality, and advocate for the fairness and rights of black people as a race. Police brutality is inhumane and disheartening, often characterized by senseless killings because of irrational stereotyping or view of another race as inferior. Hapana nezvemunhu (there is no person in you) in Shona does not mean there is no physical human being, it means that this physical human being is only available in flesh but their behavior does not make them a human being.
Society pretends to uphold equality and equity, a facade. We can’t afford to dismiss inequalities when such things are literally deadly. So perhaps we can dispense with the ridiculous optimism. Sometimes reality is miserable, and the sentiment that everything will just be fine in the end is particularly infuriating coming from the people who stand to lose the least—and in some cases, to gain the most.
Challenges act as a convener of people, bringing people together from across regions and sectors to work together on issues of common interest, the principle of caring for each other’s well-being and fostering the spirit of mutual support, Sisonke (in Ndebele language) express collectivity, being together.
The quality of ubuntu gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them (Tutu, 2000).