I’m from Africa, you will know about what the Big Society is all about if you come from that neck of the woods.. We called it Ubuntu.
The following is a short description – it’s very hard to describe it in a shorter fashion – I am not religious and am a committed “deist” – this is slightly different to an atheist as, although we disbelieve all notions of religion, we do believe there is some sort of superior force, in my case, nature is that superior force. I have added this as I am quoting a Bishop who, incidentally, I believe to be one of the most sincerest of all the people in South Africa.
Bishop Tutu gives his interpretation of ubuntu which is the best I have seen to date.
“Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home. Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We can’t be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. Indeed, my humanity is caught up in your humanity, and when your humanity is enhanced mine is enhanced as well. Likewise, when you are dehumanized, inexorably, I am dehumanized as well. As an individual, when you have Ubuntu, you embrace others. You are generous, compassionate. If the world had more Ubuntu, we would not have war. We would not have this huge gap between the rich and the poor. You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others. You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children.”
All this has been lost in the West though our affluence. Perhaps, when times become harder, we will learn how to inter-relate and help each other. In a way, the hard times ahead may bring rewards.
Finally, here is an example of ubuntu at work.