Updated: Mar 2, 2022
Diversity generates Universality and belonging to the Ubuntu community makes this assumption true. The Program promotes empathy, resilience, and a sense of leadership: the singularity of the bond that unites us is based on the recognition of common values despite geographical and cultural heterogeneity.
From now on, to me, « Service » gets a new meaning. Thanks to my participation in the seminar I have enhanced some skills and detected others. I have strengthened my active listening ability; developed a new expression of patience and expanded my creativity: I can provide a distinct approach to Human Rights, one that overcomes classical obstacles.
More broadly, being an Ubuntu delegate has challenged my conceptions of life in three ways I will explore in this article: partnership, leadership, humanity.
The late Desmond Tutu brought a new vision of human relations. Far from classifications in terms of economic and/or humanitarian development, this great man succeeded in promoting an African concept by extracting its universal dimension.
During the seminar, the great Desmond shared with us his benevolence and hope for the future we could build. He considered that “I am because you are: my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together” (Ubuntu, 2019) and established the minimum requirements to achieve a fair and democratic society which included equal civil rights for all, a common education system and an end to deportations.
The seminar highlighted the importance of doing. Action is a demonstration of consistency with what is said. A human leader is a leader who knows how to combine words and actions.
The methodology followed during the seminar juggled between listening to the speakers, using interactive elements that gave us a basement for thought, and practical application through discussion sessions.
Dialogue has been promoted, stimulated, and respected, which led us to enter into a dynamic of exemplarity and inclusive tolerance, in order to limit the description given by Godelier, for whom “we are actually in a society whose own functioning separates individuals from each other, isolates them even within their families, and gives them hope only when in opposition to each other. It is a society which releases, like no other, all the forces, the potentialities that are dormant in the individual, but which also obliges each individual to isolate himself from others, using them” (Godelier, 2000).
The Ubuntu concept emerges as a necessity to solve the shortcomings of our system. It is by allowing a collective awareness that humans belong to a larger whole that global solidarity can emerge and become the basis of our future actions.
To become a better partner
Marcel Mauss discovered that social links were founded on the dialectic gift/counter-gift in some traditional Melanesian societies (Mauss, 2001). This is a service that mutually obliges the giver and the receiver and that, in fact, unites them through a form of the social contract. Indeed, "giving is not first of all giving something, it is giving your own self in what one gives [...]" (Godbout, 1997).
The partnership would therefore be based on an exchange of humanity where the protagonists are in a situation of equilibrium avoiding relations of domination. It makes me remember that in Bahasa, the language spoken in Malaysia and Indonesia« Thank you » is said Terima-Kasih (literally Receive-Give). It is by practicing this dialectic in our daily life that we can pretend to become better partners.
To become a better leader
The Nobel Prize for Peace Maria Ressa said that “you cannot succeed if at some points you have not failed”. Resilience is indeed a cardinal element of leadership. Leadership today means Vision and Service, not Ordering or Coercing. The leader is the one who, through his pragmatism and experience, will be able to serve Humanity and work for its progress, guiding it towards the vision he shares with the world.
It is clear from the Ubuntu seminar that the great people who have marked history by their humanity are people who have experienced in their flesh the beauty of service and the difficulties of defending innovative visions that expend non-racial and non-gendered approaches.
Actually, John Volmink drew attention, in his interpretation of this leadership model molded by the Ubuntu perspective, to the deep similarity between serving and leading (Ubuntu, 2019).
To become a better human
It is important to clarify the concept of “serving”. In our societies, there still remains a social devaluation of the status of those who serve. They still have inheritances as “servants,” “servants of the land,” “servants,” or “servants,” as a memory of inconsiderate social roles at the base of the pyramid, inheritors of the statute of slavery, dispossessed and deprived of full human dignity (Beck, 2015).
Serving is an act of love and respect that contributes to building humanity more inclined to work for the common good (Gandhi, 2012). Service is beyond the concept of domination: it participates in a visionary and humanistic approach of sharing, which makes us better humans.
Conclusions / Further Work
Nelson Mandela wrote in his book The Long Walk to Freedom: “I always knew that at the bottom of every human heart there is mercy and generosity (…). Love comes more naturally to our heart than the opposite” (Ubuntu, 2019).
This has been such a mantra during the seminar. Far from individualism and unbridled competition, this seminar highlighted the power of the fraternal link between young people from different cultures and nationalities. We all came together to understand the importance of a community based on doing and not only on saying.
I have learned a lot during this seminar: learned to develop empathy in order to better understand the suffering of others; learned to be resilient in times of difficulty in order to nurture hope; learned to share experiences to flesh out a new type of leadership. This is how the Ubuntu Vision reinforced my personality.