The conflict being raged everywhere is a conflict of values and ideals. But we don’t have to despair. Every day we can make a choice – to look inside ourselves and to decide what truly matters.
Conflict. It’s normal for us to see this as a state of play that exists between two opposing forces: corrupt governments and the people, warmongerers and peace-seekers, workers and bosses. But what we have to recognise is that this external conflict stems from one that is even more fundamental and rages in all of us. It’s a conflict about who we want to be. About what humanity wants to be. About the world we want to live in.
South Africa is at the frontline of this conflict. We wrestled ourselves out of apartheid only to be clawed back into a state of division and inequity.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “South Africans in a rage – can we work together and overcome the trauma within us?”
Ongoing corruption, power-cuts, complicity in the war being exacted by Russia on Ukraine: this is not the image of South Africa that I dreamed of and fought for.
Which is why, in 2014, I left party politics. I realised then that to create the external conditions for equity, justice and peace, we had to nurture, grow and champion those ideals amongst our own citizens. ReimagineSA was created to help South Africans choose a future for their nation that reflected their ideals, needs, hopes, and aspirations.
But such work is not relevant only to South Africa.
We are not alone in our suffering. Inequality is increasing for 70% of the world’s population. The percentage of people living in poverty grew between 2019 and 2020. Meanwhile, one in three women are still being subjected to domestic abuse. The human race stands on the brink of multiple planetary disasters.
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Humanity everywhere faces a choice – a choice about how we live together. Exploitation starts when we see a fellow human being as a competitor or resource. Inequality grows when we value our own rights above and beyond those of our neighbour. The climate crisis deepens when we see our health and wellbeing as divorced from nature. We can end poverty, prevent injustice and stop climate breakdown, but only when we shift mindsets, cultures and beliefs.
This is why I have joined the Board of the newly formed Global Compassion Coalition. This movement is working to spread and embed compassionate thinking, feeling and action to every corner of the world. It may sound ambitious but we have this on our side: the mindset we are trying to generate is present in all of us.
Decades of scientific research has shown that human beings are wired for compassion. Without compassion we couldn’t have survived for so long as a species or thrived in ever-more complex communities. It’s given rise to life-saving medicines and movements for social and climate justice. And, just as crucially, it’s something most of us try to practise everyday: when we seek or offer care, help a neighbour, support a friend, or look after a child or sibling.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Where’s your compassion?’ It may just save your life”
Of course, none of this will surprise anyone familiar with the philosophy of ubuntu, handed down to us by our common ancient ancestors, which has long emphasised our shared fates, common humanity and oneness. The challenge for the Global Compassion Coalition, and all those who believe its goals, is to understand how we can rekindle our connections to one another and return to our compassion – to return to ubuntu.
Three-step ubuntu process
Our approach is built on a three-step process: connect, cultivate, and change.
That means we will be providing a space for all those – including individuals in South Africa – who research, practise, or believe in compassionate values to come together to connect, plan and organise. We will be offering training, hosting debates, and organising workshops on compassion and justice, and giving people the opportunity to engage in global conversations about the creation of a world that’s based on compassionate values and promotes compassionate living. And ultimately we will establish community groups for the championing of compassion in the places where they live and work.
Finally, we are working to engage national and international leaders, challenging them to support systems-change and to promote governance of the commons that would usher in global equity for a healthy planet.
The conflict that is being raged everywhere is a conflict of values and ideals. But we don’t have to despair. Every day we can make a choice – to look inside ourselves and decide what truly matters. Every one of our daily actions has repercussions: they are like the droplets which converge together to form an ocean. Let’s choose to swim in a sea of compassion and justice. Let’s choose humanity. DM/MC
Mamphela Ramphele is Co-Founder of ReimagineSA, Co-President of the Club of Rome, and Board member of the newly formed Global Compassion Coalition.
Rebuild your compassion. Attend the annual Constitution Hill Human Rights Festival 2023 in Johannesburg from March 24 to 26. It’s free and will set you free.