Ubuntu and animals

We can extend Ubuntu to other species.

How can we be happy if we make other species unhappy?

How can we be happy if we make other species unhappy?

Danny Williams commented on my recent blog post about Ubuntu that this philosophy is extendable to other species.  Ubuntu – “I am because we are” – means I am happy if you are happy.  Danny Williams encountered a spider web whilst picking berries, he avoided the spider web rather than destroy the spider’s work.  How can Danny be happy if he made a spider unhappy by destroying its web?

Whilst camping I competed with other animals as I foraged for fruit and berries in the wild.  Nature freely gives, and I have equal liberties as other animals to the natural food abundance.  I also take advantage of discounts at food retail stores, where today I purchased strawberries at a tenth of their price.  Whilst eating my strawberries a fly landed on a strawberry and began feeding, so I gave the fly the strawberry, Ubuntu, just as we share the forage so I share my strawberries with other living things.

A friend related to me today about a shed belonging to a neighbor which attracted hedgehogs that liked to live and hibernate there.  Sadly the neighbor removed the shed depriving the hedgehogs of their home, and so they vanished from the local gardens.  Through Ubuntu the neighbor could have worked in harmony with the hedgehogs so that they retained their home and the community retained the joy of visits from hedgehogs.  Can we extend Ubuntu to other species too?


32 responses to “Ubuntu and animals

  1. Thanks for a wonderful question Alex! And of course good to see you back as well 🙂

    I guess a person who wants to extend the philosophy of Ubuntu to animals must first be very aware of what is dangerous and harmless to human existence. Otherwise, he might end up being unhelpful. For instance, in India snakes are revered as being sacred because it adorns one of the god’s necks. One of the friend’s mother let them roam around free because of this sacredness factor and it so happened that she was bitten by a snake and died. Hence, if we choose to go the Ubuntu way with other species a carefully study of the species’ impact on human existence is necessary. Selfishness and ignorance then will hardly be an excuse to run them down.

    • You raise important points about treating nature with respect and care. Ignorance as you point out will lead to harm to both animal and human. Whilst camping I experienced my tent ropes being broken by muntjacs in the night three times, they are cute at a distance but if you pitch your tent in their areas of travel they will do damage, and they bark loudly in the night.

  2. Echo being good to see you back! Guess we could try extending Ubunto to humans? Sorry, silly idea! On a somewhat related note Guy Monbiot gave a recent TED Talk on the power of rewinding. I posted the talk on LfD yesterday and hope it’s OK to offer the link -http://learningfromdogs.com/2013/09/14/future-wild/

  3. We could, but basically the majority are too bloody selfish.


  4. To think differently is always a struggle in the face of the majority who wish nothing more than to be left alone as they try to compete against each other. The sad part is that they often lack a purpose that is meaningful to them, since their obvious goal is seldom achieved and the disappointment just leaves them bitter and alone.

    • Well said, living a life with no purpose leads to regret and emptiness. The answer is all around them, if they could wake up, use their senses they were born with, nature can show or guide them to a purpose, yet they are oblivious to it.

    • Derrick Jensen explains very well in his book A Language Older Than Words why this is. He suggests and I agree that competing and selfishness are products of enculturation within the colonized wordview.
      This culture us based in power-over, hierarchy and domination which is replicated from the macro (constant wars and violence for resources) to the micro (alchoholic family systems, child abuse and cutting in line at the grocery; -)
      So it’s not so much people as it is denizens if dominator culture.
      Imho ubuntu and similar frameworks of respect and interdependent functionality with all life are “human nature” but this has been purposefully corrupted by the bunch that “locked up the food” as Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael puts it.
      Horizontalism in Argentina (which later spawned Indignados, Occupy Wall Street and possibly a good bit if the Arab Spring as well) is a great example of what humans can be when they decolonize their minds:-)

  5. Most definiitely Ubuntu can be extended to other species, as well as to environments, the planet, other worlds (hey, let’s think big! 🙂 ). When we walk in the woods, we are careful where we step so as not to disturb a nest or chipmunk burrow or something of the like. We do not fight nature, we try to harmonize with it. This, I think, is the same kind of idea behind Ubuntu. The idea of no conflict, but harmony. This can be done, and I suppose current human and global trajectory seems to be upon this path, with the building of animal bridges over highways, bioarchitecture, sustainability, etc.

    • I am happy to see progress by decision makers to include animals, plants, the environment in their decisions. You made a great point, harmony is a key word in our relationship with nature.

  6. [ Smiles ] Where Ubunto is concerned, it can be done with wasps and wild bees; for example: a gardener can co-exist with those insects within his or her garden. But unfortunately, these modern insecticides are detrimental to those wasps and bees.

    Great article, Alex and it is a pleasure to have you back. I missed your posts!

  7. OK, I’m OK with Ubuntu for most species and situations, but I just don’t think I can do it with the rat family who has recently moved into the walls of our home. I keep hoping an owl, a rattlesnake, a coyote, or a fox will help with the situation, but I don’t think there’s any hope for a natural predator getting the rats as long as they are hunkered down (and reproducing) within the safety of our walls.

  8. If we could all live this way..oh what a world it would be! You have inspired me today and I thank you.

  9. Reblogged this on Spirit In Action and commented:
    Thank you, Alex! I love this post! I grew up thinking ubuntu like toward all living beings. I don’t kniw if this came from the threads of indigenous worldview woven thru my family’s perspective or if it is just an inborn aspect of me-ness but it has always been how I perceive the world. For most of my life I despaired of even explaining it effectively to others much less encountering others who felt the same. I feel like jumping for joy seeing so many who understand and share this. Animals know when you are respectful and it changes the interaction. Of course as one comment mentioned you do gave to be smart about it. I ask nicely and usually it works but some like rats and cockroaches (and oppossums my current issue!) refuse to care and so like with obnoxious humans you go to plan b.

  10. Yesterday, I had the most wonderful apple dumpling with vanilla ice cream. Several bees also thought it looked wonderful, and after spinning to and fro a number of times, I finally gave in and let them sip the sticky sweetness from the edge while I ate the main attraction. I checked every bite all the way to my mouth to make sure one had not decided to ride my spoon. But in the end we shared politely.

  11. I dislike the idea of a spider being sad because of its web being destroyed. Ubuntu to all!

  12. AnElephant is a strong believer in Ubuntu.
    He practices it towards humans.
    Cool blog.

  13. Its a nice one. We can feel the joy of witnessing natural beauty anywhere we are.

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