An essay inspired by UBUNTU, the Southern Africa philosophy on the principle of interdependence of the Human Family, especially auspicious now in the era of covid-19, which has ruptured the fabric of our collective and common humanity.
‘Stay safe’ are words I’ve learned to say for the first time in 2020. They crawled onto my lips and typing thumbs and stayed, ferocious in their meaningfulness, as if they’ve always been there. They’re the new words dripping from everyone’s lip, almost natural in their determination. In the fewness of the words, they carry in them heavy sentiments of love and concern, and above all they are pointers of our individual helplessness. But in most cases they’re products of an underlying fear. We repeat it to each other—to family, to friends, to the people we see on the street, to everybody. The sudden emergence of Covid-19 as a global pandemic has been an important reminder of how our individual wellbeing depends on the efforts of all others around us. It shows that the destiny of humanity is dependent on what our collective yearning for betterment seeks to reflect in our societies. Our individual safety has come to face an overwhelmingly uncomfortable reality, a powerful dependence on other people’s.
But this reality doesn’t only manifest in the pandemic alone. It has always been there but humans tend to ignore the burdens and warnings it embodies. The spirit of care for each other can be sighted on the basis of ”whatever affects the nose, affects the mouth too.” Human existence doesn’t seem to be configured to thrive in irrational self-isolationism. Without doubt, the human specie are social animals designed to progress and tackle their challenges effectively only through sincere cooperation, and when we fully realize the urgent need to transform our natural self-love into empathy for others.
We need to start seeing ourselves as part of a larger system that’s superficially outside of us but deeply connected to us.
We’ve an urgent need to come to terms with the apparent reality that love and care for each other is a wonderful way of protecting our future and humanity from drowning. No matter what, we cannot think of ourselves as separate from all the other people in the world. What we do affects others, and what others do will eventually affect us. As rightly put by Martin Luther King, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” A proverb also supports this spirit thus: “For a hand to be properly washed, the other hand needs to get involved”.
We need to start seeing ourselves as part of a larger system that’s superficially outside of us but deeply connected to us. To do this we should use realities that terrify us in general such as death, as absolute symbols of our oneness. Separating from people we know or love has a way of returning us back to ourselves like a snail sliding back to its shell. We begin to interrogate the meaning of life and our essential fragility. We notice a heightening and deepening of our emotions because of our instinctive fear of death. That’s the type of feelings we need to harness in our survival—the realisation that we share an unexplainable destiny none of us has the power to escape.
It is our lack of care for each other that leads to the increase in immorality within our societies. In the past, a child in a typical African community is trained and brought up morally not only by the child’s parents but by the community. Now one sees a child behaving wayward and then ignores. This is why there is an increment in armed robbery, banditry, corruption, and many immoral acts all over the country. In present day Nigeria, our systems are institutionalized based on the indigene/settler dichotomy, thereby irredeemably leading to many inexperienced people piloting the country to dire predicament state. This brings to mind Obafemi Awolowo’s warning that, ”The children of the poor you failed to train today, will not let your own children have peace”.
At a time when humans were waging war against one another on the bases of religion, ethnicity, power, etc. another anomaly popularly known as the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a halt to religious, socioeconomic and political activities. Nations, hitherto on sour relationships have heeded to work with one another to find solutions. They have dropped their weapons collaborating together to bring an end to the disastrous enemy against humanity. There are a lot of marvelous things mankind can achieve if only it can realise that our lives are dependent on each other, which leads to a domino effect where everybody gets to benefit from.
When one leg moves forward, it needs the other leg, also, to move forward so that progress can be achieved. So to reach the Promised Land we so desperately aspire for, we need to develop this spirit of caring for one another in order to forge unity. When the world helps one, the help should transmit to others. That is when change comes in terms of progress in our economy, unity, peace and progress, equality and respect for human rights and human lives.
Mujahid Ameen Lilo is a Nigerian teen author. He studies English and Literature at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. His works have appeared in The Nigeria Review, The Lagos Review, Daily Trust, Blueprint, Praxis, Libretto, Tuck and others. He was Artist of the Month with Yasmin Elrufai Foundation, September 2019. Lilo was the Arts Editor of Daily Chronicle. He participated in the Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange Program and UI Poetry Masterclass 2019. He was shortlisted for The Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors, won The Wole Soyinka Essay Competition and the BUK Creative Writers’ Poetry Contest. A member of the Hill-Top Creative Art Foundation, he loves butterflies and bananas. Currently working on a novel.