Since yesterday, 7th November, 2012, the Greek budget and plans for 2013-2016 have been successfully voted by the Greek government. If you feel brave enough to go through the 230 pages (in Greek) you will see the ugly future. Disappointed, I run back to my academic bubble and the utmost paradigm of sustainability, i.e., the open-source communities.

Having followed a number of pages in the order of open source software, Linux, Ubuntu, definition of "Ubuntu", and African philosophy; I stumbled upon Botswana's Vision 2016. A huge question mark popped up! What is that vision that will drive into the future a country that

  • is sparsely populated with just over 2 million people,
  • was one of the poorest countries in the world when it became independent in 1966,
  • suffers from drought and desertification while 70% of its land is already covered by Kalahari Desert, however,
  • is the least corrupt country in Africa and ranks close to Portugal and South Korea,
  • according to IMF, its economic growth has averaged over 9% per year from 1966 to 1999, and
  • Botswana has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world and a negligible level of foreign debt! (source: Wikipedia)

One would say, I don't know what these guys have done but keep doing it! Their government though suggests a better plan for the future!

Botswana’s Economic and Social Development Agenda is based upon five national principles, namely, Democracy, Development, Self-Reliance, Unity, and Botho. Bo..what?

According to University of Botswana, "Botho or Ubuntu (in the Zulu language) is a philosophy that promotes the common good of society and includes humanness as an essential element of human growth. In African culture the community always comes first. The individual is born out of and into the community, therefore, will always be part of the community. Interdependence, communalism, sensitivity towards others and caring for others are all aspects of ubuntu as a philosophy of life."

Another more concise definition for Ubuntu is "I am what I am because of who we all are." ( From a definition offered by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee). Nelson Mandela explained Ubuntu as follows: "A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?" (source: Wikipedia)


And here comes the connection with Greece...

I was amazed to see how clear, transparent, and effective have been these these five national principles and I strongly believe there is some beauty in them. First of all, it does not require 230 pages to explain them. They are direct, and touch every one from the non-educated person to the most prominent professor. Avoiding the hassle of "separating the sea", or "walking on the water", or "promising a paradise after death", still they suggest Unity and Botho.

Unity and Botho, two values that have always been inherent in Greek culture. They were evident when the whole village was supporting the "good student" to travel abroad and study; when kids were being fed by other families who had more to offer; when friends of friends of friends were helping each other; when giving your bed to visitors was an honour. Greeks used to have "filótimo" (definition in Greek). Do not be bothered to translate it, it will only give you "pride" or "sportsmanlike".

Filótimo is dignity, respect, and pride at the same time. It is a set of untold, unwritten behaviours we acquire through our societal development to act consistently towards our ethical obligations, be happy to perform not only our duties but even more, be ready to alleviate the pain from others, celebrate their successes, and NOT allow any of the above to be doubted from the public because of our misconduct. Its significance was above money or fame. Between being poor with filótimo or rich without, we would choose to be poor. Therefore, satisfaction and self-fulfilment was "cheap" and spread everywhere on every level.

Unfortunately, filótimo has been severely abused, heavily exploited, and lost its meaning, resulting in a direct degrade of our society and its inner dynamics, and that is worrying. From my point of view, Democracy is only an archetype designed to serve us. Greek democracy may be undergoing a rough era, however, it is the people's actions that can recover it back to its healthy state.

Development will come through well-educated individuals/groups/collaborations with filótimo, supported by the government while securing the rights of labour in a free, competitive, stable, safe, and non-toxic entrepreneurial environment. In Ubuntu wealth is not bad, as long as you facilitate the change and enable the community around you to be able to improve. Indeed, Greek entrepreneurs, industrialists, manufacturers had developed healthy local economies in the past and we enjoyed win-win situations by enabling societies stand on their feet. Another nice example from Guatemala is the world class rum Zacapa with Ralph + Russo Couture that decided to fund and promote local artisan women showcasing their craftswomanship on each bottle and clothes across the world.  Somehow, that environment changed and wealth transformed to a punishable disease for labour, which led to a sluggish economy and society. Do not expect me to elaborate on the "somehow". Now, going from an IMF-Reliant country to Self-Reliance requires some brave steps and hard work. As long as we fight corruption and individually invest and shield our inner values, that will reflect back to our society. Inevitably, we will find the power to stand on our feet and make this country a gem again.


In conclusion, if you were asking me now what would be my Greece's Vision 2016, I would say DemocracyDevelopmentSelf-Reliance, and Filótimo!

Back to my bubble now...

Georgios Pierris