by Leonardo Boff
Eco-Theologian-Philosopher, Earthcharter Commission
Besides being a religious leader, Pope Francis also emerges as one of the main geopolitical leaders of today. He is influential. Pope Francis does not just adopt a discourse of equality, as past pontiffs have done. Rather, being clearly on one side, the side of the poor, of the victims, the side of the threatened life, Francis announces and denounces. He denounces a system that worships money, murders the poor and is a predator of nature. This is known as the capitalist system and culture. We must hear his words because they are the words of one who is aware of the dangers that threaten all of humanity and nature.
Pope Francis does not limit himself to denouncing. He also announces, as was seen on July 9, 2015, during his visit to Bolivia. The II World Encounter of Social Movements in Santa Cruz de la Sierra took place there. Pope Francis called on the representatives of the movements, who personally suffer the wounds of exploitation, to discuss the causes of their pain. No previous Pope had the audacity to do that.
Many Brazilian representatives attended that Encounter. Pope Francis’ speech is a true guide to the struggle for a new type of civilization, because ours is constantly eroding and lacks the internal means to solve the growing problems that it has created for itself and our future. The Pope’s speech has two parts. In the first, he establishes the fundamental goals that must include us all. They are the famous “Three Ts”: Tierra, land to live on and to work; Trabajo, work to guarantee people’s sustenance; Techo, housing, to shelter people, who are not animals to be left outside in the evening dew.
The second part of the speech is programmatic and implies a challenge. It speaks to the representatives of the social movements. In short, he says: do not wait for anything from above, from the managers of the current system, because they always bring more of the same, perpetuating and deepening misery. You, yourselves, must be the protagonists of a new kind of society, with a new form of organic production, in tune with nature; a just distribution of goods, and sober consumption. Be the prophets of the new, founded on social justice and solidarity. And the Pope offers three words of advice: make the economy the servant of life and not of the market; promote social justice, the foundation of a lasting peace; and care for Mother Earth, without whom nothing is possible.
These suggestions of Pope Francis illuminate us. now in the height of the storm of our present complex multi-crisis. The legacy of this crisis will certainly be a different kind of Brazilian society, where the dozens of social movements of men and women will have had a determinant leading role.
A new type of citizenry will regenerate Brazil. Only active citizens can create a democratic, participatory, socio-ecological society; an open system that is always capable of being improved. For that reason, its principal virtues must be dialogue, participation, the vital experience of ethical correction, and the search for transparency.
Fundamentally we can say: there are two antagonistic proposals for Brazil that vie for hegemony. One is that of both the old and newly wealthy, in line with the transnational corporations, who want a Brazil with a lesser population than what really exists. That Brazil, so they think, could be run for their benefit without major issues. The rest of the millions of Brazilians would have to endure it, just as they have always had to get used to living and surviving in need.
The other seeks to build a democratic, powerful, sovereign and active Brazil, with the courage to face the pressures of the internal and external powers who want to recolonize Brazil and turn her into a mere exporter of commodities.
The two coups we have known in the republican phase, those of 1964 and 2016, were planned and executed as a function of the greed of the wealthy who do not have plans for the nation, but only for themselves, as a way of guaranteeing their privileges.
Those who carried out the 2016 coup did so at the expense of the Brazilian people. In fact they have nothing to offer the millions of Brazilians at the margins of human development, except for deeper impoverishment and greater discrimination.
This oligarchy of the wealthy, however, does not include hope, and therefore is condemned to live under the permanent fear that, one day, the situation will be reversed and they will lose their privileges.
Our hope is that the future eventually will belong to the humiliated and oppressed of our history who, one day –and that day will come– will inherit the goods and generosity that our Mother Earth has reserved for everyone. They will happily sit together around the table, at the great dinner of free men and women, enjoying the fruits of their resistance, their indignation, and their courage to struggle for change. Then a new history of Brazil will begin, in which men and women will have been the principal protagonists; a history of which we can be proud.