When we first started Living Ubuntu, there were a few that questioned our judgment in selecting the word Ubuntu as part of the organization’s name. The well-intentioned said things such as, “No one knows what Ubuntu means. You need a name that will help people identify who you are and what you are trying to do. It won’t mean anything to people who don’t know who you are.”
While I appreciated these concerns, and attempted to give this feedback the weight it deserved, ultimately it did not seem that there was a name better suited to who we are and what we are trying to do than Ubuntu. Furthermore, I felt strongly that it is a word and concept that people needed to get acquainted with. Yes, it would be nice to have people get familiar with our organization, but beyond that, it felt important to me that people got familiar with Ubuntu.
Sometimes I wonder what the world would look like if Ubuntu actually became the norm. It is my perpetual hope that we will continue to find ways to value each other more, live within the awareness of the interconnectedness we share, and perceive the good of the (global) whole as necessity… what impacts you impacts me. Ultimately it is the humanity of every one of us that is at stake, whether we live nearby, or in a far off country.
As we enter a new decade, may it bring peace and well being to us all.
Happy New Year!
Ubuntu [ubuntu] n. South African: Humanity or fellow feeling; kindness.
Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, “Yu u nobuntu”; “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.”… We say, “A person is a person through other persons.”
A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed… To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. What dehumanizes you inexorably dehumanizes me. [Forgiveness] gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.
– Desmond Tutu