Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ubuntu: We Are Who We Are Because Of The People In Our Lives

The post is part of Michelle's Ubuntu blog hop, to celebrate her blog's third anniversary. Happy bloganniversary, Michelle!

Anyhoo, one of the lessons I learnt growing up was that Motho ke motho ka batho ba bangwe [A human is human because of other people]

This meant that I was part of a community and that I would do better in the world when supported by my family and my community. Without them, I was nothing, even if on the surface I seem succesful.
But what does it mean to be human?

When you are kind, helpful, generous, humble, we Batswana best express this by saying, "Mr X ke motho."  Mr X is human.

So if you're new on the job and you ask what's the new boss like, someone might say,"He's human," meaning, "He's a good guy. Fair. Shows you how to do the job without making you feel stupid. Pays on time. Will give you time to attend to family emergencies without HR having to intervene."

Basically, we believe that positive qualities are the essence of being human. By the same token, if  I'm habitually rude and cruel or maybe even greedy, people will say, "Damaria is not human."

How does it apply to day to day living?

I struggle quite a lot with the concept of ubuntu as a life philosophy because for me "being human" is supposed to be our default setting, and therefore, not something that I contemplated too much. You exist, therefore, you are human. (The realist in me knows that not everyone adheres to this principle.)

According to ubuntu, supporting your fellowman is not a kindness. It's what every human would do. You help.. contribute because that is how each community member can stand  tall... by being supported by others.

However, I also live in a world that has been influenced by other cultures, including the belief that we are all in competition for resources and every man for himself. So, as an Motswana woman, I walk a tightrope of being competitive enough to succeed in business and in life and living according to the values I was raised with ( some of which I still believe in).

I've found though, that walking the ubuntu tightrope is not very hard. Maybe it's the nature of my business, but many of the bloggers and writers I met online are human.  The way they help and support each other, celebrate each other's success, commiserate the failures, teach newbies so they can also succeed... that is ubuntu.

Even when they don't know what ubuntu is or what it means, they unknowingly live it. So I just wanted to say this  blog hop embodies the spirit of ubuntu. We are who we are because of the people in our lives.

 Join the hop

1.Denise Covey 2.Empty Nest Insider
3.Elise Fallson4.Alex J. Cavanaugh
5.Hilary Melton-Butcher6.Trisha @ WORD STUFF
7.Jen Chandler8.Michael @ In time ...
9.Susan Says10.Writing Off the Edge
11.Elizabeth Seckman, Author12.WriterlySam
13.J.L. Campbell14.Shah Wharton
15.Tyrean's Writing Spot16.Life by Chocolate
17.Stephanie Faris18.Everyday Gyaan
19.Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles20.Storypot

20 comments: said...

Your thoughts are thought-provoking for me and that's what it's all about. Thank you.


Stephanie Faris said...

So true. I see such support online among bloggers, both in their blogs and on the social media sites they frequent. It's a special group!

Student Mommy said...

That's quite amazing. As a Wit-O, when I say "He's Human" what I mean is he's an ass! Quite striking how different the idea's embodied in a word can be in different cultures.
Definitely prefer yours.

Damaria Senne said...

@Robyn - My pleasure.
@Stephanie - Hey!
@Student Mommy - What a twist! And us in the same country nogal, yet have opposite meanings for the same word.

po said...

I have always related strongly to that classical philosophical idea that we are human because we can perceive that we exist. My thoughts on ubuntu are in your mail!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Damaria .. having lived in South Africa - it's good to read about your roots and your values ..

Ubuntu is helping everyone and every living thing .. I think it's an amazing word ... a word that includes so much ..

Thanks for sharing your thoughts .. Hilary

Empty Nest Insider said...

You have an amazing outlook on life. I agree that the deep feeling of community among bloggers is a fine example of Ubuntu.


Damaria Senne said...

@po- thanks for the email.You raise some very good points about the practical challenges of living in line with the spirit of ubuntu and the potential for abuse by the recipient of ubuntu support, especially when that support is material.
@Hilary - Hey. *waves* Were you SA through work, or are you a native who immigrated elsewhere? I think I'll go check your blog to learn more:-)
@Empty Nest Insider - Hey! Thanks for coming back to check on this post. Enjoy the rest of your hop.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Damaria .. I came over to visit and to work - so a mix of both from the late 70s to early 90s .. now I'm back home! Cheers Hilary

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I hope and pray that I never lose my humanity to the desire for things. Things are not eternal. The love of people is. But boy, especially when the economy is tight, I feel the draw of the earthly things.

Motho ke motho ka batho ba bangwe. I'm writing that down and keeping it. Thanks!

Damaria Senne said...

@Elizabeth Seckman-I think that battle of humanity vs the desire for things has been fought since the beginning of time I'd say you're winning because I believe the ones who win are the ones who are even aware taht sometimes there's a conflict of interests.

Michelle Wallace said...

Hi Damaria!
Thank you for the enlightening post, especially the in-depth explanation of Motho ke motho ka batho ba bangwe.
I've learned so much more about the Ubuntu philosophy.
And yes, it is very difficult to walk the Ubuntu tight rope... a delicate balancing act...

Here are two quotes that reinforce what you've said about Ubuntu.
They are taken from a TED video featuring award-winning Nigerian author, Chris Abani:

"What I've come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion--everyday acts of compassion. In South Africa they have a phrase called ubuntu. Ubuntu comes out of a philosophy that says, the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me." - Chris Abani

"You know, you can steel your heart against any kind of trouble, any kind of horror. But the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you." - Chris Abani when talking about his mother.

Thank you for reaching out and participating in the blog hop!
Writer In Transit

Trisha said...

I'm sort of of the same belief as you described up above - that you exist, therefore you're human. But I think in the sense of ubuntu, 'human' has more meaning than just a physical person like any other. It's to do with the spirit of community, I guess.

I'm sure I don't completely understand it, since it's a new concept to me.

Damaria Senne said...

@Michelle Wallace - I enjoyed celebrating your blog's anniversary with you. Thanks for the invite and the quotes.
@Trisha F - I'm glad Michelle introduced you to the concept and that I was able to share a little bit of my culture with you. Thank you for coming by.

Damaria Senne said...

@Michelle Wallace - I enjoyed celebrating your blog's anniversary with you. Thanks for the invite and the quotes.
@Trisha F - I'm glad Michelle introduced you to the concept and that I was able to share a little bit of my culture with you. Thank you for coming by.

Jemi Fraser said...

Lovely. I love that although we all live in different places, experience different cultures and live different lives, we all aspire to be just that - human.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Damaria,

Nice to meet you. Yes, you are so right. We in our blogosphere DO live the Ubuntu life. When I first started writing, I had so many issues with grammar, punctuation, formatting, etc. It had be YEARS AND YEARS since i had left school and even then grammar was never my best subject.

But through the kindness of others I improved so much and still learn from my fellow writers. IT's quite an amazing thing.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Reading your post is thought provoking. I guess I usually put a description in when I'm describing someone as fair, nice, kind, or decent. Human works, but I think we all mess up, so I think that's where I start adding adjectives for kind humans. :)

Unknown said...

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Unknown said...

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