Sociology of Ubuntu

Muib Shefiu

Muib Shefiu

August 2020 | Nigeria

The sociological concept of Ubuntu, also known as “I am because you are,” denotes humanity. There is no human without a body system.

Thus, adequate functionality of each organ that makes a human depends on the state of its "counterparts." For instance, the tiny part of the nails can victimize the whole body system. And just like the eyes are useless without the veins that link them to the brain so are the muscles and bones without the fluid that keep them agile. We can also go on to say that without the helping hand from the tongue in speech production, the mouth is nothing but a mere open space. There is no doubt whatsoever that the coalition of the tiny bits of the body makes a being. It is like a game of chess, a part keeps the other part alive. So, this inner interconnectedness is sufficient to showcase the nature of humans in the world that no human can live in isolation; hence, humans need one another to survive.

Historically speaking, the modus operandi of a typical African continent was never based on individualism but on a communal effort to develop its world, for it was a society that believed that "every human being is unique and every effort counts."  In fact,  it saw the need for people to work, reason and interact together for the success of human race with the slogan: “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

Mandela, in his time, was quoted to have explained a concept titled "the spirit of Ubuntu". It was based on the ideology of oneness, and he used an analogy of how a traveler who would stop in any village to eat and drink even without asking for it in those days.  He held the fact that the saying: “I am because you are” was popular to those living in the time, and deeds in line with the saying were evident. It is a pity that “I am because you are” has lost its virtue in the recent generation. A malady that is associated with emphasis on individualism over the society.

Apparently, the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic has jolted the world back to the long forgotten African ideology (I am because you are). Can we now say the outbreak is a blessing in disguise, or a pandemic that has turned to be a peacemaker? 

Presumably, most countries around the globe have seized to know violence since the outbreak of the pandemic as many terrorist groups are now out of the international radar and are replaced with philanthropists who are more ready to become pauper than to concede defeat to the virus. Indeed, the pandemic has reawaken the spirit of “I am living because you are living.”

On the other hand, in regards to the economy, the pandemic has shown that no country’s economy can sustain itself. The Chinese and the United States economies are considered to be the biggest in the world, and have been reference point for many struggling economies for decades. These giants' economies have tasted degradation over the months because of international boarder closure.  During the corona hit in China, many developing countries placed a traveling ban—the first of its kind—on the country which led to a decrement of their gross domestic profit. In the same way unemployment and economic recession are threatening the United Sates economy that many prominent economists, such as Jason Furman, refer to it as medically induced coma and Joseph Stiglitz, A Nobel Prize winning Economist, refers to it as  a technical recession and a downturn of economy. 

No doubt, the above has shown a strong interdependent synergy that exists between the developed countries and the developing countries. Indeed, this has brought about  the notion of they are because we are.

Recently, the United Nations has persuaded the countries with logger heads to cease their fires and allow peace to reign in order to uniformly tackle the deadly virus. The rage of the virus has resulted in the rise of peace as eleven countries who are into decades of vendetta have agreed to cease fire. It has indeed become "you must stay alive for me to be alive"—a reasonable act of seeking peace in order not to perish.

Amazingly, with the intensity of the spread of the outbreak and blows on the world economy, countries around the globe are occupied with one motive; to create a vaccine and save human race. Consequently, different countries have been spending jaw-dropping amounts of money to save the world. 

Looking at the effort of Madagascar from humanity perspective, one would see the concept of Ubuntu well printed on her face. Just recently, a league of scientists from Oxford university has also come together with a vaccine which has been distributed to Brazil and South Africa for use. The ideology of Ubuntu (oneness) is evident in the reason for sending  the vaccine to the aforementioned countries. 

To this end, the pandemic has shown that the collective effort of humanity is the solution to any problem in the world. We should not wait for a pandemic to instill the spirit of Ubuntu in us. But the question is: must we learn the hard way?

The world could be the most peaceful and best place to be if each man exemplified the doctrines of shared values that will ensure the continuity of human race, just like the way this pandemic has brought us very close even when we are far apart. The way countries and individuals are receiving relief funds from different international organizations across the globe; the way people are donating freely on social media; the way governments have shouldered the need to protect their citizens with all their might; each are typical examples of Ubuntu. Every man has become a keeper for his brother simply because he must live for him to live. 

The fact is that, eventually, the pandemic will go, but the questions are: Will humans continue to live harmoniously war-free? Will humanity and oneness remain our philosophy? Will the act of giving to the vulnerable (people or countries) continue? Will we still remember living with I-am-because-you-are philosophy? 


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Sociology of Ubuntu