Discourse on Umona #1: Notes for Climbing the Top

Ukuncoma omunye umuntu, nokufisela omunye umuntu inhlanhla does not take anything away from you. It does not mean uzokuhlula. It does not mean they will have more money than you. You can stay on your lane. Do you.

Ukuncoma omunye umuntu does not mean uyazincengela. Yebo impela une-pride, but ukuncoma omunye umuntu is to be human. It is to be conscious of your interdependency, that your blessing is in someone else’s hands, that when your friends grow, you also grow. You become better when others become better.

Ultimately, when the pieces of the pie are all done, there is another one in the fridge.

Ukuncoma omunye umuntu builds your character, because it makes you the good loser in the tennis match. The loser who can shake hands with his opponent after the match. In this gesture your heart is also put at ease as you remember that it is only a game after all and not life itself. As you do that you defeat the enemy in your heart, that of umona.

Umona is bound to grow in an environment where it is promoted, that is in a competitive context, in an adversarial climate yokuqhudelana, nokuqophisana. An environment where abundance is promoted over scarcity starves umona of its influence: high flying individuals are allowed to excel in their visions and those with no such inclination are given meaningful roles to play in the achievement of those visions.

Our world is need of big visions to be led by vibrant individuals and the people who believe in them. Each of us has a role to play in the fulfilment of visions of a better world. Some are gifted in strategy, others are good in implementing, some have a skill for functional roles of help as advisers, teachers and mentors. We cannot be everything.

It is up to us to seek our own mission. Indeed as Frantz Fanon has written, “Each generation should discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it in relative capacity.”

We need each other. We therefore cannot afford to hold each other back in games of umona and containment. We do not have to oppress one another for us to reach our desired destination.

We do not have to sacrifice our children on the altar of our own ambition.

Presidents who insist on staying in power even after their legal term has ended, rulers who are willing to watch their countries run out of water and without electricity just so long as they can stay in power, do precisely that. They sacrifice the lives of generations for the sake of their personal ambition.

Let us not kid ourselves, that is umona. We cannot see it in others, until we get rid of it in ourselves.

An Example of Umona

There is a fascinating biblical account of two brothers, one whose name is Cain and the other Abel. The two boys had different agricultural interests: Abel had an interest in livestock, while Cain had an  interest in growing plants. At some point these boys are appraised by their God, based on the gifts that each one brings. Abel’s gift receives approval, while Cain’s gift is found lacking. We are not told why.

The brothers are then left to reckon with their different scorecards. But we are told, Cain “ubuso bakhe banyukumala,” his face grimaced; a reaction we can take to be of someone who is upset. In what appears as a moment of great defeat, Cain ought to have rejoiced because, although his gift had been found lacking, his own brother had won. Their intimacy would bring opportunity for him to study closely the correct procedure of giving. He would have the added benefit of having someone who he really knows (and probably trusts) as a helper. But instead of reaching out for help, Cain became a sore loser, he chose to eliminate his brother. The prospect of losing a brother and friend seemed more bearable to him, than the shame of disapproval.

But surely he must have contemplated the consequences of such an action!

He would live the rest of his life wandering alone. Than face the possibility of appearing less than someone else, Cain’s solution was to kill that which he loved. This seemed more satisfying to him than the short moment of looking like a fool.

Many even today opt for the removal of a brother, or the poverty of a sister, if that will guarantee their ascent to the top.

After annihilating everything in their world, they too will be alone—their power clenched in their fist, owning everything, signifying nothing. §