Dumi Magadlela
Dumi Magadlela

2010: The year of Ubuntelligence

Anyone can come up with a new word, a new term or new concept, right? Here’s one for you for today: Ubuntelligence©. This is the ability and courage to seek out and connect to other, seemingly different, fellow human beings. It is about establishing meaningful connections with others within given timelines and without due regard for individual or personal gain. It focuses on collective value in the medium and long term. It combines Ubuntu attributes and common-sense intelligence of putting others before our unnatural selfish interests. Ubuntelligence© is inherently about selflessness and service to all humanity.

A good example of Ubuntelligence© is the capacity to make meaningful connections with others, especially total strangers. One of the tests for one achieving Ubuntelligence© is in the ability of a new connection to recognise you when you meet again after a relatively lengthy period, like a year. It is the essence of building meaningful relationships among humans. If your said connection cannot recognise you after a year or you cannot remember them clearly enough to link name and face, then there is something amiss with your capacity to make a meaningful connection, you need Ubuntelligence© training.

I must confess that it’s happened to me when I did not find or foresee clear value or potential value-add in making an acquaintance or connecting to a person. I’ve been told that we are all inextricably interconnected and that all differences that we claim are just mere constructs. Physical differences are just about environmental adaptation, nothing more.

Okay, I am no zoologist but I gather that though cats and dogs, horses, whales and even birds can sniff or sense each other easily for recognition after many years, human beings easily forget and cannot clearly recognise faces of those they met after a relatively short time. I have seen dogs sniff each other back and front and others then jump on each other in fierce fights. It’s not recommended for humans to greet this way, but I’ve seen it happen on the road and labelled road rage! No time for sniffing either and boom, someone’s dead. Human beings? Why did you kill him? He cut me off. Come on now, is that it? Well, I’ve got other anger issues … the bloody taxis never observe road rules. Not always true. I know taxi drivers that are among the best drivers on our roads.

Surely we will have to change these stereotypes and judgments before the Fifa World Cup visitors who drive on the right-hand side of the road hit our shores.

As the Fifa Soccer World Cup approaches in a few months’ time, I challenge you to make real connections with total strangers and give them the gift of connectedness. This is the one thing missing from among all of us today, globally. It’s the source of wars and exploitation. Yes we connect through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. It’s too detached and impersonal most of the time.

I must share that I have been having fun with this connecting thing. It has been an absolute blast meeting strangers and connecting and sharing a part of me and of us southern Africans, with them. Many of them seem surprised at how humane we are in this part of the world from the stories they have heard out there.

Back to the concept of Ubuntelligence©. It speaks to the isiZulu greeting “sawubona”, which literally means “I see you”. The internet cannot address that most human of needs, to connect to others in a real way. More than ever, we need to see each other as connected human beings today. Mother Theresa, the famed humanitarian, once said:

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

All over the world tradition says that you must listen to your mother. We haven’t listened to Mother Theresa now, have we?

Often we are too eager to see, and heighten our differences when we meet. We generally tend to emphasise our similarities or connectedness when we want something from the other.

With the Fifa World Cup around the corner, it is our duty as South Africans and Africans (of all backgrounds) to give a lasting gift to everyone that will visit our shores in 2010: how to connect. We must seek to make connections that will last … give the gift of Ubuntelligence©. This means that we must start by examining ourselves and our ability to live out Ubuntelligence© through our behaviours and our interactions with others, especially with those that we are not that familiar with. This would include, for example, the neighbours across the electric fence for starters.

The anticipated value of the concept of Ubuntelligence© during this looming massive year of 2010 for all Africans, especially for South Africans, will be great.

The idea is to develop a simple toolkit to help measure each person’s capacity for Ubuntelligence©. This will be useful for recruiting appropriate civil servants, client-relation experts, and other human-contact services personnel around the country. No more rude cashiers, unreceptive receptionists, insecure security personnel, uncivil civil servants and unrepresentative politicians. It will test everyone’s aptitude and attitude to adapt to serving others first and not themselves. It must be doable. Surely!

Next, a test for your Ubuntelligence©.