Humanity dictates your duties
It’s tempting to view the concept of citizenship from a Western perspective. This would lead naturally to such ideas as obeying laws, voting, defending one’s country, and so on. Implicit in this perspective is the sense of an individual, and of “us” and “them”. For many, these are not satisfactory, and leave a lingering sense of something missing. Perhaps it is the implied “should”, “must” or “have to” that causes a ripple of rebellion in the soul against these ideals.
There are other perspectives, many of which embrace a far more holistic and positive outlook on what it means to be a part of a community or a wider social group. One of them is the African concept of ubuntu.
The word ubuntu comes from the southern African Bantu languages. Roughly translated, it means “I am what I am because of who we all are”. Ubuntu is the essence of being human. At the heart of the ubuntu philosophy is the idea that a person cannot be human in isolation. We are all connected, and a part of a greater whole. Therefore, we all benefit and grow when one person grows, and we are all diminished when one person is oppressed, humiliated or diminished in any way.
So what then are my duties as a citizen within this philosophy? Put simply, it is my responsibility to be open, generous of spirit and affirming. Just as importantly, I never need to feel threatened by someone else’s success or happiness, because I belong to the greater whole, and so I am benefiting from everyone else’s happiness. Following rules or obeying laws is a natural consequence of this belief, and not something anybody should be doing. The shift is from a negative to a positive point of view. So while the results may in many cases be the same, the motivation, sense of belonging and level of happiness can be dramatically different.