Do you have ubuntu?

Since COVID-19 has reached the Netherlands we are becoming more and more ubuntu. The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to rethink the way we treat each other.  Ubuntu is a principle coming from Africa. 

It means: I am because We are.

It refers to behaving well towards others or acting in ways that benefit the community. Such acts could be as simple as helping a stranger in need or showing humanity towards others. A person who behaves in these ways has ubuntu. He or she is a full person.

This is a normal thing in African countries such as Burkina Faso and Kenya where I worked and lived for more than 6 years. When I came in the office or met someone, everyone’s first question was ‘how is your family and how is your health?’ There was time invested to really connect. 

In the Netherlands we like to ask first to others what do you do for living and we always have full agendas. We have slogans such as ‘I Amsterdam’ and not ‘We Amsterdam’. 

COVID-19 brought up different slogans in the Netherlands, for instance: ‘Let us care for each other a little more.’ COVID-19 also brought up different discussion topics. Now we ask people first: how is your health; how is your family; how is it really going? People are reaching out a helping hand through messages on LinkedIn to help contacts in work. And there is time to meet up for real connection as there are no full agendas anymore.

Have Dutch citizens become fully ubuntu already? People do like to cheer on LinkedIn ‘I am vaccinated against Corona’. Thanks for your message We (Africa) are not. Some of us have interesting manners to treat firefighters, call center staff or ambulance personnel. Or peculiar ways of behaving towards fellow citizens.   

What about Dutch politicians? Do they have ubuntu? Some politicians use harsh words when they relate to other politicians or citizens who are not ‘normal’ in their views. These citizens have for instance surnames which refer to different ethnicity. Nevertheless, there are politicians with ubuntu that do stand up and strive for human acts. 

When something bad happened in a Dutch city through acts of citizens, a mayor said about those citizens they are not part of his ‘network of acquaintances’. Ubuntu also refers to the need for forgiveness and reconciliation. Is making referral to ‘us’ and ’them’ the way to go? Is this the way to solve problems?

Politicians shouldn’t we start to lead by giving the right example on how to treat each other. Politicians isn’t it time to take a different path and to learn from the ubuntu philosophy from Africa? Politicians shouldn’t we start to simply say words such as Bill Clinton once did: “You and me, we’re the same, really.”?

Would more humanity, trust, and the inclusion of different groups (young, old, black, white, rich, poor) lead to more ubuntu. Would it help to talk to the citizens instead of talking about them? And ask the citizens where they worry about; what is behind the problems; what are the ideas they have. Would it make a difference if citizens would be better involved?

In my view community engagement is at the heart of finding solutions. It will help to benefit all citizens in the best possible way. Therefore, I am so happy that this is my job. After one year of running my own business Social Side Up, I can enthusiastically say I am looking forward to more years to come!