THE TUTU CONNECTION - by
South africaís archbishop Desmond Tutu has earned every major humanitarian award, including the Nobel peace Prize: just the kind of man a younger
activist (and sometime movie star) such as Brad Pitt should consult about ubuntu, among other ideas.
Brad Pitt: Itís a real pleasure for me to get to speak with you.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu: You donít know Ė I mean, my stock has gone up. When people knew that I was going to be talking to you..
BP: Let me say, Iíve seen all your movies, and Iím a big fan.
DT: Thank you. God Bless.
BP: What is this concept of ubuntu I keep reading about?
DT: Ubuntu is the essence of being human. And in our language a person is ubuntu, and ubuntu is a noun to speak about what it means to be human. In
essence, it is something that you find especially in the Old Testament, where youíre not quite sure sometimes Ė when you are reading, say, the Psalms
Ė whether the Psalm is speaking, where it says ĎL,í only of an individual, or is it speaking in a corporate sense? We say a person is a person through
other persons. You canít be human in isolation. You are human only in relationships.
BP: So that speaks to our interconnectedness.
DT: We are interconnected. Iím sure you know the movie The Defiant Ones. Itís a movie in which there were two convicts. One was white, one was black.
They escaped, but there are still manacled in one another. They fall down a ditch, and the one tries to slither up out of the ditch and almost makes
it. But when he gets to the top, he realizes he actually canít get out, because heís still manacled to his mate down there, and he slithers back down
to the bottom and realizes that the only way they can make it is together. Up, up, up and out together. So we say that ĎI need you to be all of who you
are in order for me to be all that I am.í Because no human being is totally self-sufficient. In fact, a self-sufficient human being is subhuman.
BP: I donít think we have single word in English that describes just that.
DT: No, I donít think so.
BP: What is it about the great religions? Why canít the great religions play well with each other? What are they defending? Iíll tell you my
interpretation: it signifies a lack of faith to always be threatened and always to have to prove your way is the best. It seems again to be
antithetical to the teachings of the individual religion.
DT: Yes, I think you are quite right, that what you are actually saying is itís not the religions that have a problem. Because the religion actually
does produce wonderful people.. Letís take Buddhism. It has produced the Dalai Lama. Hinduism Ė it has produced Mahatma Gandhi. Christianity, say, a
Mother Teresa, a Martin Luther King Jr. So you see. But how can a thing produce good in the one case, and then it produces bad? Because look at the Ku
Klux Klan. The Ku Klux Klan claimed to be Christian. And look at the ghastly things that they do in the name of religion. You look at what they are
doing, say, in Northern Ireland. Then you have to say, no, it isnít in any way a faith, a religion. Because no religion has ever sanctioned murder. No
religion has sanctioned the oppression of another.
BP: Does it get misrepresented as religion when the real argument is again about human dignity and equality? What would you tell ó
DT: Kofi Annan, when he was receiving a report from something called the Alliance of Civilizations, a high-level group, said, ĎIt is not faith that is
the problem. It is the faithful.í
BP: So certainly discrimination has no place in Christianity. Thereís a big argument going on in America right now, on gay rights and equality.
DT: For me, I couldnít ever keep quiet. I come from a situation where for a very long time people were discriminated against, made to suffer for
something about which they could do nothing Ė their ethnicity. We were made to suffer because we were not white. Then, for a very long time in our
church, we didnít ordain women, and we were penalizing a huge section of humanity for something about which they could do nothing Ė their gender. And
Iím glad that now the church has changed all that. Iím glad that apartheid had ended. I could not for any part of me be able to keep quiet, because
people were being penalized, ostracized, treated as if they were less than human, because of something could do nothing to change Ė their sexual
orientation. For me, I canít imagine the Lord that I worship, this Jesus Christ, actually concurring with the persecution of a minority that is already
being persecuted. The Jesus who I worship is a Jesus who was forever on the side of those who were being clobbered, and he got into trouble precisely
because of that. Our church, the Anglican Church, is experiencing a very, very serious crisis. It is all to do with human sexuality. I think God is
weeping. He is weeping that we should be spending so much energy, time, resources on this subject at a time when the world is aching.
BP: I couldnít agree with you more. Thank you for saying that. You have talked about nelson Mandela and how he had every right, as well as South Africa
itself, to come out of the apartheid machine embittered and wanting revenge and retribution. You guys came up with this radical idea Ė the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission. Quickly, you had two known routes. You could go for justice, as in Nuremberg. Or you could get blanket amnesty. But you came
up with this idea for healing the country and a new definition of justice called Ďrestorative justice.í
DT: In a way, because itís an example again of ubuntu. The greatest good in the concept of ubuntu is communal harmony. Anger, revenge are subversive of
this great good.
But let me just say, donít go away with the idea that this is something peculiarly African.
I was telling students recently about a young American woman, Amy Biehl, who went to South Africa as a Fulbright scholar. One day she gave some black
friends a lift in her car to take them home in one of the townships. When got to the township, she was met by a horde of youngsters who belonged to
one of the political groupings that had a slogan ĎOne settler, one bullet.í Meaning that they wanted to get rid of white people, more or less. They
saw Amy Biehl. They got her out of her car. She ran, fell, and they started stabbing, and they killed her quite gruesomely. These young people, the
ringleaders, were arrested and ultimately sentenced to long terms in prison.
Then they came to our Truth and Reconciliation Commission to apply for amnesty. Amy Biehlís parents, white Americans, Peter and Linda Biehl, came all
the way from California. They went all the way to Cape Town, where the amnesty application was being heard. They had the right to oppose the granting
of amnesty. Do you know what they did? They got there and they said, ĎWe support these young peopleís application for amnesty.í Now, that is
mind-boggling. But that was not the end. After these young people were granted amnesty, then Amy Biehlís parents founded the Amy Biehl Foundation, in
Cape Town. Part of its purpose was to rescue black kids who would be victims of the violence of the townships. And they employed the two guys who were
the chief murderers of their daughter.
BP: So restorative justice can end the cycle?
DT: Yes, it is in fact a universal characteristic, this human longing not for revenge but to seek reconciliation.
BP: Then is it worth asking what is the outcome for societies who have rushed toward retributive justice, like the Shia in Iraq? It goes directly to
that judgment. What is their future? Because you speak of retributive justice as something that comes back to haunt you.
DT: I donít want to sound, as it were, deeply morbid. But just look at what is happening in the Middle East, where you see something happen and then
there is a reprisal. You pay back for what has happened. And sure, then we know, I mean, that there is going to be a counter-reprisal. But there is a
spiral that is going to go on and on and on. Countries, too, have no hope of survival if they say Ďan eye for an eye.í As Gandhi said, when that law is
applied, in the end all the people end up being blind.. I wish I was a pacifist. I am not a pacifist. Iím a peace-lover.
BP: History certainly shows us that wherever there is injustice or inequity, disruption ensues. But I believe you defined it as Ďpeace becomes a
casualty.í Given todayís global insecurity, there has been much focus on these immense and obscene defense budgets. The repercussions is that aid
usually gets sacrificed. You talk about aid not as altruism. In fact, that is a misconception. But aid, investment in Africa, investment in areas where
thereís great disruption and inequality, is actually in our self-interest. Can you elaborate on this?
DT: Just simply that if a community is a poor community, itís going to be a seedbed for instability. If that community is helped up and becomes
profitable, then it becomes a very good market. I mean, then you are going to have more customers for your goods. We are doing a nice act of PR: itís
wonderful. But in fact we are doing ourselves a huge favor because we are now saying there is a potential prosperous market which we can exploit.
I for myself canít understand how we can spend the obscene amount that we do on defense. But weíre spending a heck of a lot of money! I am hoping that
people like yourselves, especially, but then ordinary people like ourselves too, would become increasingly vocal and say, ĎLetís stop this nonsense. It
doesnít make sense. It makes the world more insecure.í The United States has one of the most sophisticated defense systems, the most expensive. But it
is made obsolete by a wire cutter. Thereís no way in which you can have a foolproof system. Itís really far better to create friends, rather than to
imagine that everybody is an enemy until they are proven otherwise.. I keep trying to say, You want to fight a war against terrorism? Let me tell you
one thing for sure. You are not going to win it, period. You wonít win that war until you work so that conditions that make people desperate are
eradicated. Then you will realize you wonít have to worry about guys being upset with you.
BP: Weíve got the G8 summit coming up, and weíve made some very big promises to Africa. Letís be frank Ė how are we doing? How are we doing in meeting
DT: The positive is that they are beginning to be more aware that we inhabit one planet. Aid, yes, is OK. Cancellation of debt is OK. But it makes no
sense when you have the skewed trade rules. You look at the things that they do with the subsidies. They give subsidies to European farmers so that
they can sell their goods at lower prices in our markets. Then they say to us, ĎGrow your own food, and sell, but donít have any tariff. Donít put up
tariffs to prevent our goods coming your way. We will put up tariffs so that your goods donít easily come into our market.í It doesnít make sense. If
we are going to have to begin to talk about a more equitable economic order.
BP: Right, certainly an order based on fairness instead of th guys that got to the table first, cutting up the debt. You said this about apartheid,
that it was operated on the principles of exclusion. I canít help but think that the same thing is going on with our trade rules.
DT: You have got an A, man, in my class. You are doing very, very well in this. Weíre having a lovely seminar.
BP: I stumble gracefully.
DT: We have the capacity to feed everybody on our planet. We have the capacity to ensure that everybody has clean water. We have the capacity to ensure
that everybody has affordable health care. We have the capacity the ensure that every child gets the inoculations that they ought to have as children.
We can prevent many of the diseases to which our children in the poorer parts of the world succumb. For goodnessí sake. Why donít we wake up to the
fact that you canít have an apartheid security. You canít have an apartheid prosperity. If you are going to have prosperity, it is going to be
prosperity for all. If you want to be free, you canít have a quarantine freedom. Itís going to be a freedom for all. And if you want to be human, we
are not going to be able to be human in isolation. It will be that we are human together.