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Adopt the philosophy of Ubuntu to combat the bitter divisions in society

By: stagedoorscribbler - July 29, 2019

Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photograph by Hattie Miles

Sadly we live in a society divided by inequality and poverty. No matter what the figures say about record rates of employment, more and more people are living on less and less and with little hope of improving their situation.

With an alarming number of working people unable to pay the rent or mortgage there are reports of office workers reduced to sleeping in their cars, nurses and teachers forced to use food-banks, schoolchildren going hungry in the holidays because they have no access to vital free school meals. Just imagine how difficult it is for those unable to find work.

Unfortunately a significant proportion of the haves either ignore, dismiss or simply don’t believe the plight of he have-nots. You don’t have to look far to see the poison that contaminates the views of the trolls who spread their hatred on social media and the comments sections of online and print news sites.

In their heads the tragic symptoms of inequality - crime, drugs and violence - are invariably deemed to be the fault of scroungers, wasters and immigrants. And there we have the problem. Just to be clear. There may be a few scroungers and wasters but they are tiny in number.  

More importantly the ills of our society are absolutely NOT the fault of immigrants. Immigrants have done much to enrich this country. Indeed half the immigrants targeted by the trolls aren’t immigrants at all. But in their bigoted xenophobic heads people who look a little different or have a strangely spelt name provide an outlet for those harbouring frustration, fear and stupidity.

It seems like a hopeless situation with knife crime at unprecedented levels and constant evidence of terrible intolerance but organisations like the Tutu Foundation UK are working hard, often behind the scenes, to broker better relationships and understanding between inner city gang members and the police.

Some remarkable progress has been made with some inspirational youth leaders, helping the abandoned, the lost and the disenfranchised to engage in some truly meaningful dialogue with people that once they could never have imagined sitting down with.

At their core these projects focus on the South African philosophy of Ubuntu - the recognition that everyone is important, that our greatest gift is our shared humanity. Ubuntu was and is much championed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and was central to his extraordinary work finding a route to peace and forgiveness in post Apartheid South Africa. 

The Nobel Peace Prize winning social justice campaigner used to describe himself as being “a prisoner of hope” - a good position to adopt when you are fighting for freedom.

So let’s encourage everyone to embrace the spirit of their fellow men and women, rich and poor, whatever their colour, creed or sexuality. With understanding comes  tolerance, generosity and a better world. It might take a while but give it a go.