Ubuntu, according to Archbishop Desmond Tutu (right),is a philosophy that “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.”
Nelson Mandela has been characterized as the personification of Ubuntu. He has said that Ubuntu “does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is – are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”
Ubuntu came up repeatedly in our readings this week and I found it fascinating. This philosophy is intended to underpin society with respect, caring, sharing, community and trust. Several bloggers wondered aloud whether Ubuntu was dead because of continued crime in South Africa. Several however, spoke about the situation with hope. One freelance journalist working for the Mail & Guardian online, Kristin Palitza, blogged just last week about an incident in her neighborhood that she said exemplified that Ubuntu still exists. Her post focused on two thieves in her neighborhood who vandalized her car but were seen and chased down by her elderly neighbor, who then tracked them down and soon, they were back putting the hubcaps on her car. Even though they returned to vandalize a friend’s car just a few days later, Palitza wrote that her neighbors’ actions had restored her faith in “all the great people living in this country.”
Another man, Bernard Erasmus, (left) was hailed last month as a hero when he saved a 13-year old girl from being raped in Somerset West. He said that “it’s what any ordinary person would do,” but police suggested that citizens who want to intervene “to prevent a crime should be certain that they could do so without risking their own lives and without braking the law.”
In fact, in 2007, crime in Johannesburg reportedly fell by 63% – the same year that a new initiative involving texting tips to an anonymous tip or Crime Line was launched. Within one hour of the site going live, the first criminal was caught as a result of one of the texted tips. There was criticism because the program isn’t free but there were also positive comments that the program is working and may have played a role in the dip in Johanneburg’s crime rate.
I think this kind of initiative exemplifies Ubuntu 2.0, taking that “interconnectedness” that Archbishop Tutu referred to and the “community” that Nelson Mandela underscored the importance of improving. Social media has provided a new way for Ubuntu to be rebranded for a new generation. SMS technology is just one example of social networking connecting South Africans, saving lives and fighting crime – all at the same time but now online.