Ubuntu is a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity”. It is often translated, “I am because we are,” or “humanity towards others”. In the philosophical arena, it is often used to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”. From Zimbabwe to South Africa, this Ubuntu African Philosophy continues to transcend border boundaries and permeate diverse cultures.
John Mbiti, in keeping with this priceless Ubuntu spirit once philosophized, “I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am.” John Mbiti was not alone in this. The great philosopher, J. P. Sartre in his existential philosophy, also maintained, “Man is a being in the world and a being with others.” We are thus, undeniably, social animals, as stressed by the Ubuntu African Philosophy.
The famed Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa explained Ubuntu thus: “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”.
Brought to the Christian Biblical sphere, the Ubuntu African Philosophy appears thus: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
In the face of the onslaught of this ravaging novel coronavirus pandemic, we see different manifestations of the Ubuntu African philosophy. A problem in Wuhan in faraway China becomes, in no time, a problem in Walewale in the northern part of Ghana. That is to say, a national virus becomes an international pandemic, a sub-national headache becomes a worldwide tragedy, in a matter of days. That is Ubuntu; we are all invariably inter-connected, inter-related and intertwined.
If that is the nature of the virus, and rightly so, then that should be the nature of its cure – Ubuntu (humanity, interconnectedness). This article calls especially for collaboration, and not a competition, between the powers that be, to put the virus to an untimely and sudden death, just as it does its bewildered, helpless victims. Scientists, medical practitioners and researchers should come together and reason together, for, there is mostly, always, strength in numbers; more wisdom in many heads.
We need to re-echo the call for unity. If we team up against the virus, I daresay it can never boggle us down. We need concerted efforts, open dialogues between the haves and the have-nots, the bourgeois and the proletariat, the educated and the unlettered, the Christian and the Buddhist, the White and the Black. All hands must be on deck. The virus is real. It spares no one. It is unbiased. It does not distinguish religions, races, cultures, complexions, mental prowess, wealth and what not. No!!!
It is rather unfortunate that many are circulating articles that purport all kinds of conspiracy theories, pitching one nation and continent against the other. This dastardly act should be nipped in the bud. If not, left to fester, it will kill faster than the virus itself. The undiscriminating and all-embracing nature of the virus should teach us that if for nothing at all, what could kill the White-Chinese could kill the Black-American as well. Therefore, we need to also be undiscriminating and all-embracing if we want to put the matter of the virus to a perpetual rest.
Ubuntu: I am because we are. Ubuntu: Humanity towards others. God bless our interconnectedness. Peace and Joy.
By James Kwame Dunyo (A Social Commentator & Prolific writer)