Author AM Scott
Artwork Robi Gramigna
Anyone who took the compulsory subscription to Episodes 5-1 of the global history making season of Covid & Co. Ep.2020 South African Version knows that the only way to survive the binge feed of notifications, conspiracy theories and power struggles is to think ‘we not me’.
Our hope is embodied in Ubuntu. Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.
I am because we are.
Like children in kindergarten, to stay safe we must stick together, hold hands (figuratively in 2020 of course), dig deep and soldier on. It’s not the time to fly solo, go off on your own bat or put your head in the sand, to quote any good English teacher.
It’s not about me, none of it. It’s all about we, all of it.
Through recent months, every person has been faced with relentless decisions to take, or has been impacted on by others’ decisions, that affect our lives, our living and our livelihoods in the short and long term.
“Hands-face-space”, is our COVID19 battle cry and the summary of our protection. “Hands-face-space”, is how I can love and respect you and keep you safe. It’s how you can love and respect me and keep me safe. It’s our mantra if we chose to care; if we think we not me.
Left and right, we are urged to be living for the moment; to be living for others; to wonder about living, its purpose and its extent. “What is the whole point?” to sum up the contemplation of ancient Greek philosophers. How do we pivot from compulsive busyness and frantic pace, fondly called ‘pre-lockdown normal’, to the simplicity of me being me and you being you, and us being together? We have been forced to make lifestyle changes, and it’s not all bad. We are living at home, prioritising those in our lives that count, discarding the overkill of superficial mingling and frenetic obligations, extra murals and a million signups to various programmes. Maybe we are slowing down to a pace and space where I see you and you see me and we share.
Living involves caring so purely that a person’s name is safe in your mouth, that their tears can fall unrestrained on your shoulder, that their burden is shared and so is yours, that when you laugh together it’s a chorus.
Living involves being as kind to yourself as you are to others, forgiving all the things that you feel, doing what you can to survive the pandemic, and scoring it all as ‘okay’ on the perpetual measure of a self imposed wellness rating scale. There will be waves of emotion, conflict, depression, dissociation, hyper vigilance, gratitude, stillness, faith. It’s all okay. Emotion means you’re living.
Livelihoods call for difficult decisions.
Putting faith in the world’s economy may be higher risk than waltzing unmasked into a COVID19 designated hospital ward, or assuming you could eat the last chocolate in the variety box set gifted to the family, and that’s the truth. Livelihoods as we know it are irreversibly impacted. What can we build back? Where does your help come from? What can you or I contribute to a collaboration that chooses to build back better? What can we do differently? There is not one sector in our economy that has not confronted a radical need to reform or re-imagine itself. Surviving and enduring necessitate difficult decisions. There are many more ahead. Thriving, however, could see us finally embrace the transformation we need to enter the fifth industrial revolution and to ensure a free and fair society where everyone is valued. It may be our last chance to redress the environmental calamities we have brought on ourselves as citizens of Earth in this era.
If we are to revive an economy we need marginal me and a glut of we.
Ubuntu is the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. Sharing Behaviour, one of the primary tools we mediate in the cognitive programme at Bellavista School, is the expression of this. It is to work together (action), to care (choice), to be kind (do), to embrace difference (value), to have a sense of knowing who I am, my strengths and flaws, my purpose and passion (self awareness), in such a fashion that I can only live my life fully by knowing who you are and who we are together.
I’ll lend you my strength, you’ll lend me yours.
We are exiting the foulest of years. But perhaps we are changed to value lives, living and livelihoods. Let’s accept that 2021 will bring us more disruption, more challenges and more opportunities. If we move forward positioned as we not me, we are better equipped than we were just twelve months ago to face what we have just endured.
Expect to see the reminders on the walls of Bellavista School next year.
Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.