CAPE TOWN – How do we build a better society? Yeah, I know, I guess I’m a little crazy for even venturing into such a monumental and bewildering topic.
But it’s something I felt was worth a few paragraphs of scrutiny, especially after recognising the significance of the fantastic work being done by local National First Division (NFD) team Ubuntu Cape Town.
The rookie club has rocketed to prominence after a glorious run to the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup, defeating two PSL clubs, Polokwane City and AmaZulu, on the way.
But it’s not so much that, rather it’s the exposure they’ve been able to garner for their off-field vision that is far more important.
Because, essentially, it’s about changing lives - and this is exactly what Ubuntu is all about: changing lives.
In fact, the origin of the name of the club has its ideals in the African philosophy of “Ubuntu”, in that it focuses on our interconnectedness as human beings.
As the club itself reveals: “Ubuntu is an African expression of togetherness, describing that what I am is intrinsically linked to what we are.”
So back to that opening question about building a better society: for Ubuntu, it’s not about looking for answers on the outside, it’s not about waiting for politicians, administrators or officials to point the way, it’s about taking the initiative.
They haven’t sat back, twiddled their thumbs and complained about everything, instead they’ve realised the need for action. Most importantly, it’s about starting with the community within which you find yourself.
Start right there, change lives right there, and the ripples it engenders will, in the future, have an effect.
Change one life, and that life changes a few more, and those few will change that much more. And, then, imagine where it can all end up?
I’m a big fan of a book called “Tuesdays with Morrie”, a poignant memoir by American writer Mitch Albom, in which he narrates the time spent with his dying 78-year-old former sociology professor.
It unfolds in chapters as Morrie (the professor) regales the writer on his deepest thoughts of life, death and various other subjects.
In one extract, Morrie says: “We’ve got a sort of brainwashing going on in our country. Do you know how they brainwash people?
“They repeat something over and over. And that’s what we do in this country. Owning things is good. More money is good. More property is good. More commercialism is good.
“More is good. More is good. We repeat it - and have it repeated to us - over and over until nobody bothers to even think otherwise. The average person is so fogged up by all of this, he has no perspective on what’s really important anymore.”
The message, ultimately, that the dying man wants to communicate is, as Ubuntu are doing, to devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning: for example, changing the circumstances of your community.
In short, to build that society we so desperately want, and often just pay lip-service to, is to invest in people rather than crass materialism.
This is the Ubuntu vision. It may be dreamy, but we all know that the world has always been moved by dreamers.
Ubuntu run a football academy. They have their own football school, inspiring kids from Masiphumelele, Retreat and Fish Hoek and the surrounds, focusing not just on football, but with the ultimate aim of changing the lives of children from such disadvantaged communities.
Graduates of the programme are sent to universities in the United States and, with their NFD status, the club now has a vehicle to drive talented footballers to bigger and better things.
They believe in education, mentorship and in transforming kids from tough, difficult backgrounds into the leaders of tomorrow.
It’s not just about developing footballers, it’s about shaping character and moulding an all-round, smart-thinking and compassionate adult.
In short, Ubuntu believe they can make a difference.
What they do is but a drop in the ocean of what is required in a country that has been battered and bruised by all manner of rogues and scoundrels for many, many decades.
But this inspirational club believes that the positive spin-offs in changing even just one life is the best way to start to drag us away from the edge of insanity - and, perhaps, just perhaps, lay a foundation to build that better society we all aspire to.