Ubuntu, a South African term, is translated as “I am because we are” or “humanity towards others“.

While there are various definitions of what Ubuntu is, the core philosophy rests on the idealism suggesting that humanity is not embedded in one person (or an individual), but rather a quality of humanity that we owe one other.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes ubuntu as a person who is open and available to others, affirming of others, and does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from 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.

Ubuntu speaks of an upright and moral individual who does not think or act because of gain for one’s self. He does not use others in order to boast of his achievements or qualities.  Low-keyed and quiet in his work, the person leads by example rather than trumpeting personal wants or dislikes particularly when there is an agenda.

At the memorial of Nelson Mandela, U.S. President Barack Obama is quoted:

There is a word in South Africa – Ubuntu – a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye.  That there is oneness in humanity.  That we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.

We can never know how much of this sense was innate in him, or how much was shaped in a dark and solitary cell.  But we remember the gestures, large and small – introducing his jailers as honoured guests at his inauguration; taking a pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into call to confront HIV/AIDS – that revealed the depth of his empathy and his understanding.  He not only embodied Ubuntu.  He taught millions to find that truth within themselves.

At a time when political divide and senseless philosophies rule governance and logic, it is a good time to step back and think about Ubuntu.

As Filipinos, we need to dig within ourselves and reflect on the kind of country we want our children to inherit in the next decade.  Existence is not simply about the wants and needs during a political rule. I am sure we all know what is wrong and what is right.  Regardless of who the political divide benefits, we need to refocus on building a future for each and every Filipino.  We need to remember, that the more we perpetuate what is wrong, the more difficult it is to rebuild what has been destroyed.  It will take a whole generation to restore decency and nationalism among Filipinos all over the world after so much divisiveness being peddled.

Where has our compassion and kindness gone?

2 thoughts on “Ubuntu

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