On the weekend when President Obama, claiming he’s not threatened by China’s head start, dangles a 7 billion dollar “investment” to create electrical infrastructure in Subsaharan Africa —
(Oh yeah. No doubt via gargantuan loans, with crippling interest, impossible to repay — the usual neo-liberal approach to creating “profit centers” in the developing world: see Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism for a primer on how it’s done: the earth raped, villagers displaced, and governments bought by the corporatocracy that funnels profits to the .0001%. Whether he’s aware of it or not, Obama in Africa is on a p.r. mission for big business. And remember Calvin Coolidge: “The business of America is business.” )
— we also see this, unfortunately, unsurprising report by our very favorite economist, the clear-thinking, straight-talking, down-to-earth practical Ellen Brown, well-known for her advocacy of public banks.
As long we’re we’re focused on Africa, let’s see what two of its revered elders have to say about Ubuntu as an antidote to both myopic thinking and selfish greed. Hopefully, at some point we silly humans will to learn to see “money” of any kind as an artificial web that blankets Mother Earth and suffocates the natural currency of Her ever-regenerating abundance.
The South African Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes Ubuntu as:
“It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion.”A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole. They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are. The quality of Ubuntu gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.”
Nelson Mandela, the first president of post-apartheid South Africa, narrates his profound conviction rooted in Ubuntu approach:
I have always known that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite. Even at the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished (Mandela, 1994: 542).
This narration from Mandela is profoundly rooted in the Ubuntu perception of life. The fact that he could still keep find human’s goodness in spite of all the grievances, it enlightens how capable human beings can cultivate a culture of peace that goes beyond vengeance and hatred. He still goes on giving further understanding of how being human is the key meaning of life for any human being:
It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred; he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not truly free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity […] When I walked out of prison, that was my mission to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both […] For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others (Mandela, 1994: 544).