Pointers for April 24, 2012

Today I will highlight good news and valuable recent commentary.

Here’s one on gift economies in Africa which I liked so much that I sent it out to members of our local Gift Circle.

• truthout.org: The Link to Humanity – Gift Economies

That this article focuses on Africa reminds me of the concept of “ubuntu,” which wikipedia describes like this:

Ubuntu: “I am what I am because of who we all are.” (From a translation offered by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee.)

Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered a definition in a 1999 book:[3]

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, 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.

Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008:[4]

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

Nelson Mandela explained Ubuntu as follows:[5]

A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?

Tim Jackson refers to Ubuntu as a philosophy that supports the changes he says are necessary to create a future that is economically and environmentally sustainable.[6]

Judge Colin Lamont expanded on the definition during his ruling on the hate speech trial of Julius Malema [7]:

Ubuntu is recognised as being an important source of law within the context of strained or broken relationships amongst individuals or communities and as an aid for providing remedies which contribute towards more mutually acceptable remedies for the parties in such cases. Ubuntu is a concept which:

  1. is to be contrasted with vengeance;
  2. dictates that a high value be placed on the life of a human being;
  3. is inextricably linked to the values of and which places a high premium on dignity, compassion, humaneness and respect for humanity of another;
  4. dictates a shift from confrontation to mediation and conciliation;
  5. dictates good attitudes and shared concern;
  6. favours the re-establishment of harmony in the relationship between parties and that such harmony should restore the dignity of the plaintiff without ruining the defendant;
  7. favours restorative rather than retributive justice;
  8. operates in a direction favouring reconciliation rather than estrangement of disputants;
  9. works towards sensitising a disputant or a defendant in litigation to the hurtful impact of his actions to the other party and towards changing such conduct rather than merely punishing the disputant;
  10. promotes mutual understanding rather than punishment;
  11. favours face-to-face encounters of disputants with a view to facilitating differences being resolved rather than conflict and victory for the most powerful;
  12. favours civility and civilised dialogue premised on mutual tolerance.


I spent much of this morning talking with my dear friend Claudia, who runs a beautiful little store, Cronos, on the island of Vashon, off Seattle. She and I connect in rare ways, and so when she tells me she just saw a movie that I must see, I listen. It’s called “Pina,” and, from the trailers, I can tell that she’s right, it has to do with “a primal depiction of how humans move through the process of emotional dramas on planet Earth. Not always comfortable. But always real.” It’s inspired by a choreographer whose last words were, “Dance, dance, or we are lost.”

Here’s one of the official trailers:

Here’s some recent commentary that I found valuable.

• readersupportednews.org: Frank Rich, Sugar Daddies.

Frank Rich is always worth reading. This essay is about how a few billionaire republicans will steal the election. And see nytimes.com: ALEC — a tax exempt group mixes legislators and lobbyists.

tomdispatch.com: Lewis Lapham, Machine-made News.

I used to get Harpers Magazine mostly for Lapham’s lapidary (jewel-like) essays as Editor. He’s an extraordinary wordsmith. But then I got rudely discouraged, when Lapham wrote an essay defending his smoking habit! And since I’m an ex-smoker myself, and though I do try not to be righteous about it . . . that he would bend his pristine use of language in that direction really bugged me. In any case, reading something by him feels like going back in time to when people thought long and hard about what they wanted to say, and then thought equally long and hard about how to say it in the most cogent, skillful, and beautiful way possible. No longer the case! Who has time for this kind of pondering? I still admire him for it.

Finally, two posts by two remarkable women on New Economies.

• First, a TEDx talk by Ellen Brown, on Abundance.

• Next, a TED talk by Helene Norberg Hodge, on the Economics of Happiness.

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