Here comes one of those long ones again. This post I guess is a special one. One I put up just before I leave the shores of South Africa, to begin another sub-chapter in this big chapter named "Life 3.0". Ohh, this is also not a post about Linux but about Ubuntu the Philosophy.
This last Sunday(July 26 2009) I had the opportunity to have lunch with the VC of the University of the Witwatersrand, Prof. Loyiso Nongxa, His Deputy Prof. Rob Moore(DVC Advancement and Partnerships) and the Director of Alumni Affairs (Who I also think is a good friend), Peter Maher. The conversations around the lunch table at the beautiful Vice Chancellors' residence in Parktown were interesting and intreguing. I hope I am not putting this up too early before the official comunique will be out. Anyway my chats that day inspired me to write this. Later on in the day I was also reading RW Johnsons book: South Africa's Brave New World: The Beloved Country Since the End of Apartheid. The book has been sitting on my desk for a while. Its a great read, hope to finish it soon. Now lets get into this.
Ubuntu is a philosophy defined (latest definition) by Desmond Tutu:
"One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu 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.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity."
This I think is a correct definition but has been butchered and buried within our country. We all held hands in 1994 when we saw the passing of Apartheid and the promise of a better life for all. What we didnt expect or think about is how we were going to reach our goals. Right now we sit with a lot of service delivery protests. These protests are interesting as they show what has really happened in the last few years. The middle class of the country (especially the "Black" middle class) has largely benefited from the new government (some argue that some of the middle class not all, the "elites" as is commonly known). The less fortunate in this country in some areas have had worse service to no services. What services are they talking about. Basic services such as clean water, electricity, education are still poor in rural areas. In some areas the situations have become worse than before the new government. The concept of service in South Africa is completely lost. There are those who try to do good but are hampered by different processes that reward other things other than merit. So we have had cases of Bakers building our roads and familys dominating local government tenders.
Ubuntu has turned into a "what can you do for me philosophy", mixed in with a get me in there philosophy. I understand the injustices of the past, but in areas where the best is to get those who can do the job, and get them to teach the next generation lets do it. Why can't we? Is it because those who benefited from the past do not want to see the previously disadvantaged prosper or is this a perception we create in our own minds. Are we so hesitant to change that we make up what we can so as to make our challenges much easier to explain? What about the young ones who grow up in non-discrimation Primary schools and then get to the high schools that are demacated by all those hateful lines.
We are failing the future generation of South Africa. I appreciate all opportunities that I have been given but I feel more can be done to make the youth's lives better. We send our children to ill equiped schools, with ill equiped teachers to learn a supposedly "Great" curriculum that fails due to its implimentation problems. Then after that we watch the newly graduated high school learners walk into the waiting Universities/Universities of Technology/Comprehensive Universities like lambs to the slaughter. They cannot cope with what awaits them and the system that is supposed to teach/lecture our future also is resistant to understanding that their background is not the same and thus teaching a student who has never used a computer how to program is definately a different game.
Its not that our new learners are not intelligent it is that they are not supported. Worse still is the lack of Academics and Higher Degree students who can serve as inspiration to these young ones. To give that assurance, that yes its hard, but you will make it. We instead bombard them with the lure of the way of Ubuntu. Ubuntu so tied to out concept of "Affirmative action" or the BBBEE that has only resulted in a middle class that still is struggling to come up with its own unique "character". We have little culture of service in the countries civil service. Those who give themselves to the country and servng it feel unappreciated and find it hard after a while to go on. There are those who are doing beautiful work with NGO's and by themselves. They inspire me and others. But why do we have ask the question what am I getting out of doing charitable work, its charitable work. Why then do you still have to buy the home affairs official a coke so that they can process your application and not go on extended lunch. Its their job for goodness sake, they get paid for it, we pay them as tax payers. I will not say this is all through the civil service. I have met and worked with wonderful officials and the ones who spoil the broth are these rotten ones who we should never ever submit too.
It extends to even the general public. I went shopping for a table earlier in the year, the assistant who helped with the table I wanted offered to give me a "discount" and we can arrange where I can pick up the table. I refused flatly and asked his manager over to see if he could give me a real discount and bought the table. So why does even the public do this. Its not a norm in our communities but its becoming one as people say we are all helping each other out. Yes something might be a bit expensive but if thats the market price you work with it. You dont cheat the system and literally steal. We are always tempted by these offers and I one will not say I never took one up in terms of getting an extra, but sometimes you have to take back the money if you got R100 extra change, because it simply not your money. There is not silver bullet to fix the injustices of the past. Not everyone will get jobs, not everyone will get their houses. We have to believe that we will work together (even without returns) to make our lives better.
I conclude then that "Ubuntu is dead". Its form has been changed to lets help each other out in ways that would be said to be criminal. I wait for its ressurection, which I believe will happen as I believe in the people of our country. Our future is still bright, but we have to make the hard choices, they will not be made for us by the ones sitting on the thrones or those handling our politics. The question is what are you doing to bring Ubuntu back?
I know this might have a lot of ideas crammed into a 1000+ words but I encourage some discussion if anyone is interested.