by Leonardo Boff
Eco-Theologian-Philosopher, Earthcharter Commission
Brazilians are used to “facing life” and to accomplishing everything “in the struggle and with great effort”, this is, they are used to overcoming difficulties, with much hard work. Why would the Brazilian people not also face the latest challenge of making the needed changes, in the midst of the present crisis, that would lead us to the right path of justice for all?
The Brazilian people are still being birthed. We inherited Brazil the Enterprise, with an enslaving elite and destitute masses. But from the core of the masses leaders and social movements with consciousness and organization were born. Their dream? To reinvent Brazil.
The process began from below and no longer can be stopped, either by the successive coups, such as the civic-military one of 1964 and the parliamentary-juridical-mass communications-media coup of 2016.
In spite of the poverty, exclusion and perverse social inequality, the poor wisely invented paths to survival. To overcome this anti-reality, the State and politicians must listen to and value all that the people already know and have invented. Only then will we have overcome the division between the elites and the people and rather than a divided, be a united, nation.
The Brazilian maintains a commitment to hope. Hope is the last to die. This is why the Brazilian people understand that God writes correctly in crooked lines. Hope is the secret of the optimism that allows them to make the dramas relative, to dance at their carnivals, struggle for the football team, and keep alive the utopia where life is beautiful and tomorrow will be better. Hope takes us to Ernst Bloch’s hope-principle that is more than a virtue; it is a vital pulse that enables us to form new dreams, utopias, and projects for a better world.
In the present moment, with the country all but shipwrecked, some fear exists. However, the opposite of fear is not courage. It is the faith that things can be different, that the people organized can move forward. Brazil proved that she not only is good at carnival and music but can be good at agriculture, architecture, the arts and in her never-ending joy of living.
One characteristic of Brazilian culture is joviality and a sense of humor. These help us endure the social contradictions. That joyful joviality is born of the conviction that life is worth more than anything else. This is why it must be celebrated with feasts and in the face of failures, maintaining the sense of humor that makes things relative and bearable. The result is the levity and vivaciousness that so many admire in us.
A marriage is occurring that never before existed in Brazil: the union of academic and popular knowledge. Popular knowledge is “knowledge born of experience,” that is, from the suffering and thousands of ways Brazilians have developed to survive on limited resources. Academic knowledge is born of study, drinking from many wells. When those two forms of knowledge are united, we will have created a new Brazil. And we will all be wiser.
Caring is part of the essence of the human being, and of all life. Without caring we fall ill and die. With caring, things are protected and last much longer. The challenge now is to understand politics as caring for Brazil, her people, especially the most vulnerable, such as the Native peoples and Blacks, caring for nature, education, health, and justice for all. That type of caring is proof that we love our country, and that we love everyone in our country.
A trademark of the Brazilian people, well analyzed by anthropologist Roberto da Matta, is its capacity to relate to the whole world, to add, join, bring together two different, often opposite, currents, and to synthesize. For that reason, in general, Brazilians are neither intolerant nor dogmatic. The Brazilian likes to welcome foreigners. These values are fundamental to globalization with a human face. We are showing that this is possible and we are building it. Unfortunately, in the last few years, contrary to our traditions, a wave of hatred, discrimination, fanaticism, homophobia, and contempt of the poor (the dark side of cordiality, according to Sergio Buarque de Holanda) has arisen, that shows us that we, as all human beings, are sapiens and demens, and now more demens. But that certainly will pass, and a more tolerant coexistence will prevail, one that will appreciate and respect differences.
Brazil is the main neo-Latin nation in the world. We have everything needed also to be the main tropical civilization, not imperial but solidarian with all nations since Brazil incorporates within herself representatives of the 60 different peoples who came here. Our challenge is to show that, in fact, Brazil can be a small symbolic precursor, showing that everything can be resolved: a single humanity, united and diverse, seated at the table in a fraternal gathering, enjoying the fruits of our beautiful, great and generous Mother Earth, our Common Home.
Is this a dream? Yes, it is. It is a good and necessary dream.