Ubuntu is an ethical principle, an existential value that drives interconnection, coexistence, and respect. It is a term of African origin, specifically in the Zulu and Xhosa languages.
Among the natives of southern Africa, there is a beautiful famous saying that reads “umuntu, ngumuntu, ngabantu” which can be translated as “a person is a person because of others.”
It is always interesting to get in touch with the linguistic heritage of other cultures. After all, each language contains a different way of understanding and representing the world. In the case of the word “ubuntu,” it evokes the concept of humanity and represents a symbol of the revolution that Nelson Mandela started in 1990
Even the pastor and politician Desmond Tutu made this word his own to integrate it into the moral compass that he tried to bring to the African country all his life. Humility, empathy, respect, cohesion… An evocative and philosophical term that is worth exploring.
Ubuntu, the common good is. Your good
Many of us tend to reflect on the meaning of life when we reach an age. However, it would be more enriching and practical to start doing this early.
Hence the role of philosophy is to concepts that contain within them a whole compendium of values, approaches, and noble meanings on which to think and make one’s own as soon as possible.
Ubuntu means “I am because we are,” and few ideas summarize so well what humanity is. As Desmond Tutu said, this term reminds us that the essence of the human being is linked to community and respectful connection with others.
We all count; every life is essential and deserves dignity, respect, and consideration. Together we form a meaningful and respectful unity, so if the individual harms someone, every member of this unity is dehumanized.
If we remember the apartheid era and the system of racial segregation experienced in the late 1980s and early 1990s in South Africa, it is easy to understand such a concept.
Kindness unites us and gives an authentic meaning to life
Kindness is the emotional glue that connects us and offers a real sense of life. The person with Ubuntu not only practices kindness but also feels it and understands that without it, nothing is possible. Intentional harm harms everyone, and the horror of all forms of aggression has lived within us for generations.