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The community does not constitute a human person

I APPRECIATE the fact that most Basotho are living the “botho” ideology. They believe that motho ke motho ka batho, which is translated as I am because we are, because we are therefore I am. This is a shared reciprocal of humanness. For most Basotho, community takes precedence over the individual. An individual is defined in relation to the community.

Hence, an individual is an individual in the community.

This line of reasoning is crucial to our communities but is prone to be misused. There are some members of our communities who are so concerned about what others do to the point of forgetting to live their own lives. They justify their irritating behaviour by naively arguing that nobody is an isolated individual.

Community to such people defines a person and judges whether he or she has attained the desired standard of humanity stipulated by such people. 

They reduce the human being to a mere communitarian being which is doomed to live in accordance with the opinions of other people.

I find this line of thinking very disturbing! Yes, a human person by nature is a social being, but we are not condemned to social relationships.

The human person is also by nature other things as well. There are essential attributes of the person as rationality, having capacity for virtue and for evaluating and making moral judgments.

Bear in mind that in as much as you think you are your brother or sister’s keeper, they too are their own keepers.

Autonomy of others should be respected. But in our communities we are making people conformists; they have to conform to our beliefs as well as opinions.

There is no room for individual assertiveness.

You find people busy gossiping about others for one thing or the other. Others are gossiped because of their achievement in breaking free from the community’s burdensome constraints.

One wonders if such community members have nothing important to do than spending the whole day gossiping or is it an indication of intellectual deformity?

It is said that “people with weak minds the best they could do is to talk about other people (gossip). Those with average minds talk about events, as for those with strong and critical minds talk about theories”.

To some extent this assertion makes sense. It is very depressing when you find bright ladies or gentlemen taking pleasure in gossiping about others.

We have crucial things happening in the world or even in Lesotho in particular which need attention and people to engage in discussions to resolve such issues.

We can’t be wasting time discussing other people when the Aids pandemic is killing so many people.

We can’t be wasting time in gossip when Lesotho is in urgent need of transformation. There are so many vulnerable people needing our help, but we keep idling and whiling away the day through discussing other people.

This is pathetic!   

The fact that botho promotes the spirit that one should live for others, does not totally eradicate autonomy of an individual.

And it does not mean an individual should stop living his or her life and start putting his or her nose into matters which does not concern him or her.

Botho if misinterpreted diminishes the moral autonomy of a person and whittles it down. It diminishes freedom of an individual and capability to choose, question or evaluate the shared values of the community. 

The spirit of collectiveness is so much in-built in the minds of people. But instead of helping us, it seems to be inflicting pain on other members of the community.

People are sick and tired of hearing ill-says about them in their community. These people who are incapable of minding their own business are indirectly promoting the spirit of individualism in our society.

Then how would we live botho if our society turns into an individualistic society? We will definitely be like Western societies where a person strictly minds his or her own business. We will become a society where you are related only to your immediate family members.

Botho or the shared reciprocal of humanness is a very rich ideology, but our community members abuse it too much.

When we talk of motho ke motho ka batho one hasten to think that it suggests a human person is naturally oriented toward other persons and must have relationship with them, or social relationships are not contingent but necessary.

This is a wrong conception of botho.

A person is not constituted by social relationships in which he or she finds himself or herself. We are not condemned to relate with others.

The community does not solely constitute a human person, but discovers and nurtures attributes we already have by virtue of being human persons.

The person cannot be absorbed by the communal or cultural apparatus, but can to some extent wriggle him or herself out of it, distance him or herself from it, and thus be in a position to take another look at it.

My standpoint as a human person is not constituted by the community in which I find myself. As a matter of fact, there is no need to solely live for the community which is built-up by people’s different opinions.

Such opinions are so diverse that you cannot cope accommodating them all.

Assert yourself, be autonomous and do what you think is best for you without inflicting pain on other community members. Motho ke motho ka batho should not be abused, it is a rich African ideology and we should live by it without exaggerating it.

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