The niche of words: Ubuntu

“A  person  is  a  person  through  other  people’  strikes  an  affirmation  of  ones  humanity  through  recognition  of  an  other  in  his  or  her  uniqueness  and  difference.  It  is  a  demand  for  a  creative  intersubjective  formation  in  which  the other͛  becomes  a  mirror  (but  only  a  mirror)  for  my  subjectivity.  This  idealism  suggests  to  us  that  humanity  is  not  embedded  in  my  person  solely  as  an  individual;  my  humanity  is  co-substantively  bestowed  upon  the  other  and  me.  Humanity  is  a  quality  we  owe  to  each  other.  We  create  each  other  and  need  to  sustain  this  otherness  creation.  And  if  we  belong  to  each  other,  we  participate  in  our  creations:  we  are  because  you  are,  and  since  you  are,  definitely  I  am.  The I  am  is  not  a  rigid  subject,  but  a  dynamic  self-constitution  dependent  on  this  otherness  creation  of  relation  and  distance”.

This is what  Michael  Onyebuchi Eze wrote, discussing the meaning  of  Ubuntu.  The word, composed of –  standing  for human being and  ubu-  prefix for abstract nouns, comes  from  Zulu  and Xhola languages and  its  literal rough translation is  I  am  because we are.  It  had  its  moment  of  maximum  diffusion  during  the  post-apartheid  in  South  Africa  mainly  thanks  to  Nelson  Mandela,  as  an  ideology  aimed  at  guaranteeing  cooperation  and  harmony  among  the  variety  of  ethnic  groups,  because  people  with  Ubuntu  are  supposed  to  be  able  to  interact  peacefully  with  others,  knowing  their  place  in  the  universe  and  respecting  the  values  of  their  society.  This is possible because the societal identity replaces the individual one and each person is defined only in terms of their relationship with others in the group and of its various roles inside  it. Thus, the  inner concept of humanity  towards  others, embodying  the  virtues  of  unity,  helpfulness  and  sharing  among the member of  a  community, is at the  basis of an ethic or humanist philosophy  centered on the idea  of  reciprocity.  As  a  consequence,  in  addition  to  the  appreciation  and  respect  of  traditional  customs  and  rules,  in  the  belief  that  today  actions  are  a  reflection  of  the  past  and  will  have  a  far-reaching  consequence  in  the  future,  its  practical  applications  are  shown  in  the  everyday  life  in  a  shared  and  gift  economy,  a  socialist  redistribution  of  wealth,  a  spontaneous  generosity  and  hospitality  towards  everyone,  a  high  social  degree  of  interdependence  and  cooperation.

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“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” 

This is probably the only part where I am going to use the “I”, because I strongly believe that the ideas and messages I try to convey should be independent and more important than the person behind them. I would love to be able to offer some food for thought, a different perspective or simply a pause for reflection while waiting for the bus. However, what I would appreciate most is to start a debate or a conversation in order to share opinions, thus do not hesitate to comment the blog or contact me privately.

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