Eco-moral Tribalism for Progressive Sustainability

ubuntu african concept meaning I am because we are
Ubuntu is a traditional African concept, which means ‘I am because we are’. It’s a term for humaneness, for caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation

Progressive sustainability, as opposed to progressive unsustainability, is a challenging prospect. Perhaps the only thing more challenging is figuring out how to live in a compassionate empathic way with our fellow man. I mean there are people caught up in the progressive unsustainability paradigm who are downright lazy, ignorant, stubborn, and mean to contend with.

But can we all agree that we don’t want people to starve? Can we all agree that we don’t want people to go without fresh water? Can we all agree that we don’t want people to go without shelter, unnecessarily? If the majority of us can agree on this then the solution is simple, albeit deceivingly simple: provide basic food/water/shelter FOR ALL that meets with basic needs to keep people healthy enough to make more of themselves if they so choose. If they choose to remain lazy, or unskilled, that’s on them. At least they won’t starve, die of thirst, or die of exposure. And maybe with the right kind of help they actually can make something better out of themselves.

There’s no cure for laziness. Only the lazy person can cure themselves. However, there is a cure for poverty. But it takes those of us with enough, to actually help out. This is the tricky part. This is the proverbial fly in the ointment. This is where people puff up their chests and espouse culturally-prescribed platitudes such as: “I earned this. Why should I be expected to help people who are too dumb and lazy to help themselves?” The answer is: compassion, empathy, and love for your fellow man. The answer is: because otherwise people will die. But I realize that all this “Jesus-hippie-talk” doesn’t jive with most people, so here’s a little analogy for you…

Let’s shrink our entire society down to a single tribe of ten tents with a single family in each tent. Each tent has a hunter. One tent has a hunter of great prowess, skilled with all weapons. The ten hunters go on a Great Hunt to provide food for the people. The skilled hunter kills 5 buffalo! The next best hunter kills 2 buffalo. And only two other hunters get a single kill each, while the other six hunters get exactly zero.
Charles Darwin quote
Maybe these other six hunters were lazy. Maybe they were unskilled. Maybe their weapons weren’t adequate enough. Maybe it was a combination of all of these. It matters little the reason. What really matters is that they, and their innocent families, will most certainly starve. Unless?

…Unless the skilled hunter(s) share their meat (wealth) with the tribe so as to maintain a healthy tribe (eco-moral tribalism). The skilled hunter would get more of the meat, and the choicest cuts, of course, but at least the other people in the tribe wouldn’t starve. Easy right? No, not really.

This is a ridiculously simple concept to learn and to rationalize, and yet it is an excruciatingly complex concept to really understand and apply to everyday reality. The main cause of this is that most people are egotistical about what they’ve “earned.” It’s a cultural problem. We’ve been raised to believe in the false ideal of greed. Our culture has become ego-centric, as opposed to eco-centric. It whines, “Me! Me! Me!” instead of declaring: “We!”

Enoughness: Restoring Balance to the Economy

The problem is we imagine that our sense of worth is wrapped up in how skilled we are at something, because we were raised and conditioned in a culture that values competition over cooperation. This creates ego-centric specialists concerned only with narrow-minded one-upmanship. But we are social creatures first and foremost. We need each other.

Competition has always been secondary to cooperation; otherwise we wouldn’t have survived as species (Darwin). So when it comes down to it, our worth is actually wrapped up in how much we care for other people. The problem is that we’ve had the cart (competition) in front of the horse (compassion) for roughly 2,000+ years. It’s time we got the horse back in front of the cart. This will be an arduously Herculean task, considering our cultural conditioning. But it is very important, for the survival of our species, that we get it right.

The interesting thing is that when the skilled hunters distribute their wealth they become New-heroes with honor, power and prestige, as opposed to just typical heroes who only have power. We must go beyond being just a typical hero (hoarding hunter) and become a New-hero (wealth distributor).

‘I Am’ is a non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better?

Image Source:
Ubuntu: I am because we are


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