The Golden Rule - a perspective from South Africa

In this series of blogs we ask people from around the world to reflect on what the Golden Rule means to them. In the first of the series we hear from Matsidiso in South Africa.

A colleague recently asked me what the Golden Rule means to me, and I did not respond with “treat others as you would want to be treated”. My culture does not use the term the Golden Rule, but we practice the spirit of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is what I think about when one mentions the Golden Rule. So, I responded that to me; the Golden Rule is one aspect of Ubuntu. At the core of Ubuntu is the phrase umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, which means a person is a person through other people.

I am at my happiest and most fulfilled when my community, family, and friends surround me. I am me through the community that lifts me and affirms me. I take pride and joy in providing the same level of care to my community because I want others to feel the way I feel. That is how I practice Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is what makes me an optimist at my core. I have seen it repeatedly practised in South Africa. We saw people organising food parcels for lesser privileged people during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen South Africans rally on Twitter to plan for and pay for a fantastic wedding of a couple after someone tried to shame the groom for proposing at KFC, which the bride loved.

Ubuntu is important to me, and it is what the Golden Rule means to me.

I practice Ubuntu in several ways, for example:

  • I have

mentored students throughout my working career to pass on my knowledge and aid them in their career decisions

  • I spent the last year

learning about climate change and actions I can take to minimise my footprint.

  • I decided to use the skills I learned during my Oxford University MBA to

work with Reboot the Future to help the foundation execute its vision.

At the core, I know that humans are inherently good and want to do the right thing. It is easy to point to crime or inequality as counterarguments to why we are not good. However, I would counter that there a lot more examples of people being kind, learning about climate change and helping others. Ubuntu is natural to us; we are social beings and thrive in supportive communities.

We still have a way to walk, and we cannot deny the considerable struggles we are facing as humanity. This year has been mentally and emotionally exhausting, and most of us are tired. We have had to adapt to crazy times and may not always have the mental bandwidth to tackle every large-scale problem facing us. And that is okay because you do not have to tackle everything; you are not the earth’s latest avenger. You are a good person, and that is where we all need to start.