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Extra Virgin -  April 2010

Literally, ubuntu means "humanity to others". It comes from a Bantu saying which translates as "I am who I am because of others". It's a nice thought, isn't it? But sometimes it feels like we are about as familiar with the concept as Steve Hofmeyr is with good music. We wouldn't know ubuntu if it slapped us in the face. It's not going to, but still, the point stands.

There are several possible explanations for this. One is that it's very hard to feel that warm, fuzzy feeling of togetherness with your fellow man when that fellow man happens to be in the car next to you picking his nose and listening to Lady Gaga. "We are not the same thing," you think, and search for the classical music channel to drive the point home.

When you see him peeling off a yellow ticket and sticking it to your car window just as you walk out of the shop you don't think, "Ah, there he is, my fellow man!". You think things that we wouldn't dare publish here. When he is cornering you at a party and telling you how much money he's earning in the asbestos business you might even feel tempted to stop him and say, "My fellow man, I dislike you very much."

Of course, we're all very different. And there are always going to be bad people, people who jump queues and tell lies and take the wine they brought to the party back home with them.

Perhaps we are nice to each other because we want people to be nice to us. If so, fine. It doesn't contradict the principle of ubuntu; if anything, it confirms it. We know we can't get anywhere alone - not really - unless we have help. An entrepreneur needs customers, a soccer star needs a team, a man with no social skills at a bar needs a very patient girl. We need each other, whether we like it or not. So here's to our fellow man, that occasionally infuriating but absolutely necessary person in our lives. Without him, how would we work out who we are?

No community online is bigger than Facebook's, so this month we take a swipe at the five most annoying trends in status updates. We look at how when one economy sneezes the others catch a cold; take advice from groups of cyclists on how to deal with global warming; review the latest album from Arno Carstens and find out how to get everything in a room to work together. All for you, our fellow man.

Matthew Freemantle