A Note on Brazil from Theologian Leonardo Boff
There must be a way out of the present crisis
The political and economic crisis we are now experiencing provides an opportunity for truly profound changes, such as political, tributary and agrarian reform. To have the correct focus, is important to first consider some facts.
In the first place, we must see the crisis as part of the great crisis of humanity as a whole, rather than from within, and external to the present course of history. To think of the Brazilian crisis without considering the world crisis is not to think about the Brazilian crisis. We are part of a greater whole. In our case, we cannot escape the attention of the large countries and great corporations, as the Group of 7 considers where the principal assets for the ecological basis of the economy of the future are concentrated: the abundance of drinking water, the great humid jungles, immense biodiversity and 6 billion hectares of farmland. The Imperial strategy does not care that a continental nation in the South Atlantic, such as Brazil, is not aligned with the global interests and to the contrary, seeks an independent path for its own development.
Second, there is a historical background to the current Brazilian crisis that we must never forget. As our main historians confirm, there has never been a form of government that gave adequate attention to the great majorities, the descendants of slaves, indigenous peoples and impoverished populations. They were considered peons, and true nobodies. The State, appropriated from the beginning of our history by the propertied class, was not willing to meet their demands.
Third, we must recognize that, as a result of a painful and bloody history of struggles and of overcoming obstacles of every form, another social base arose as a political power, that now controls the State and all its structures. From an elitist and neoliberal State, it became a republican and social State that, amidst great difficulties and concessions to the dominant national and international forces, managed to give centrality to those who always had been on the margins. The fact that the Government of the Labor Party, PT, has raised 36 million Brazilians out of misery, and has given them access to the fundamental goods of life, is of undeniable historical magnitude. What do the humble of the Earth want? Guaranteed access to the basic goods that let them live. That end is served by the Bolsa Familia, My House My Life, Light for Everyone, and other social and cultural policies, without which the poor would never be able to be lawyers, physicians, engineers, teachers, etc.
Call these measures what you will, but they have been good for the immense majority of the Brazilian people. Is not the right of the State to guarantee the life of its citizens its first ethical mission? Why, for centuries, did not previous governments undertake these initiatives? Was a labor president necessary to accomplish all that? The Labor Party, PT, and its allies performed that historical feat, and not without strong opposition from those who have looked down on «those considered economic zeros», as was shown by Darcy Ribeiro, Capistrano de Abreu, Jose Honorio Rodrigues, Raymundo Faorom and lately, by Luiz Gonzaga de Souza Lima. And still now they continue to look down on them.
Some strata of the privileged upper classes are ashamed of and despise them. Besides the understandable indignation and rage provoked by the scandals of corruption taking place within the government, made hegemonic by the PT, yes, there still is class hatred in this country. These old elites with their means of communication, marked by their reactionary and right wing ideology, supported by the old oligarchy, different from the modern more open and nationalist one, that supports in part the projects of the PT, never accepted a government of popular making. They do their best to make impossible the PT government, and to that end, they use distortions, slander, and lies, with no sense of decency.
Two strategies were designed by the right wing that managed to coalesce, to regain the central power it lost by the ballot, but that have not yet taken shape.
The first is to maintain in society a situation of permanent political crisis to impede the ability of President Dilma to govern. To that end, they organize demonstrations in the streets, making something like a picnic, with casseroles, with full pots, because they never knew what an empty pot means, or, with a gross lack of education, to systematically boo the President at her public appearances.
The second consists of a process of picking at the PT government, slandering it as incompetent and inefficient, and demolishing the leadership of former President Lula with defamations, distortions and outright lies that, when they are unmasked, are not denied. They hope that way to undermine her 2018 candidacy and re-election.
That type of procedure only shows that we still have a very low intensity democracy. The recent acts, provocative and full of a spirit of revenge by the presidents of the two houses, both of the PMDB, confirm what UNB’s sociologist Pedro Demo, wrote in his Introduction to sociology, (Introducción a la sociología, 2002): «Our democracy is the national representation of refined hypocrisy, full of ”pretty” laws, but always, at bottom, made by the dominant elite to serve them from beginning to end. The politicians are people who are characterized by making lots of money, working little, making deals, employing their relatives and henchmen, getting rich at the expense of state funds and going into business starting from the top… If we were to equate democracy with social justice, our democracy would be its own negation» (p. 330-333).
We will neither surmount this crisis nor overcome the revanchists and those with a coup d’etat mentality without political, tributary and agrarian reform. Otherwise, our democracy will be powerless and blind.