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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

no ubuntu for me in vancouver

Am wondering the last few days if there is a ‘natural’ time limit on living alone in another country. Must see if there is a rule about settling in. After a few months you have to get closer to the people around you, or move on, I feel.

And then I came across the newspaper article that moved me most, the last year. It’s a speech by the South African writer Antjie Krog in which she compares our western individualism with the African feeling of Ubuntu, “reciprocal humanness.” Ubuntu serves as a framework for African society. Its core can be explained using the Zulu expression “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” (seriously, I found it on the net)—meaning, in essence, “a person is a person through other persons.” The practice of ubuntu is fundamentally inclusive, involving respect and concern for one's family and one's neighbors. It also implies respect for one's ancestors, in a deeper spiritual sense. Our western notion of individuality is mostly about excluding others and ‘doing our own thing’. We seem not to need others; still, Kroger notices, the more we claim not to need others, the more lost and alienated we look. Ubuntu might just be a philosophy we will see more of, the coming years. And then I do NOT mean the computer program that used the name..

To bring it back to the level of banality (hey, it’s a log, not a thesis!) I immediately related it to my own situation here. I came to have ‘aloneness’. Isn’t that the upmost in individuality? And it works for me, probably being one of the more individualized westerners. Still, after four months, I feel the need to relate to others to stay myself. Here in Vancouver, though, I am not a person through other persons. I took the conscious decision to remain a stranger. I love that feeling. But after four months there is an African spirit awakening within... Back to the people that define me, in Holland.


Aadiahh said...

Hey Tom, je bestaat,
ik lees je blog met regelmaat

waarheen vertrek je nu?



Tom Kniesmeijer said...

Ha, die dia. Ik ga eerst even ijsbergen kijken in Alaska, daarna drie dagen Seattle doen en dan kom ik zomaar even terug naar Amsterdam om verder te schrijven.. Zoals jij weet, duurt het best lang voordat je een boek bij elkaar hebt!