By Sergio Ferrari *
"The earth suffers from the capitalist disease"
Q: What is your analysis of the "conjuncture" of planet Earth at the beginning of 2015?
Leonardo Boff: A complex situation product of the social crisis and of the mode of production based on the unlimited exploitation of nature. The project of modernity advocates unlimited progress. But the Earth, as a planet with limited resources, does not support this unlimited project. The Earth became unsustainable. We have touched its physical limits. She needs a year and a half to replace what we take from her for a year. On the other hand, we are facing a mental crisis, that is, our mind is contaminated by anthropocentrism. The human being is understood as the center of everything and other beings have value, only to the extent that they are suitable for use by human beings. This understanding is very damaging to the balance of the Earth, because it does not recognize the intrinsic value of each being, regardless of human use. Which leads to disrespect for the other.
Q: With worrying consequences ...
LB: If this paradigm cannot be modified, we can be condemned to repeat the already known fate of the dinosaurs, which after living 133 million years on Earth quickly disappeared due to an ecological catastrophe. We must produce to respond to human needs but respecting the rhythms of nature and taking into account the tolerance capacity of each ecosystem so that it is not irreversibly damaged. Consumption must be regulated by a shared sobriety: we can be more with less.
To return to the question about the consequences of this vision. As we explained in the introduction to the Earth Charter, we are facing a critical moment in planetary history, at a time when humanity has to choose its future ... The basic choice: a global alliance is promoted to care for the Earth - and to take care of each other as humans - or else we run the risk of double destruction. Ours and the diversity of life. This time there will be no Noah's Ark. Either we are all saved or we will all face the same tragic fate.
Proposals of hope
Q: Despite this difficult situation, a whole concert of political responses is perceived. Including progressive, democratic governments in Latin America that try to promote another type of wealth redistribution. Without forgetting that in Europe there is a new phenomenon of political forces, such as Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain, with critical views towards the dominant paradigms ...
LB: Two Latin American countries, Bolivia and Ecuador, are at the tip of the new paradigm that consists of giving centrality to life and understanding all beings, including humans, as interdependent and therefore in solidarity in the same destiny. They have inaugurated, for the first time in our history, ecological constitutionalism. That is, they have included in their Constitutions the articulation between the social contract and the natural contract. The Earth and nature are subjects of rights. That is why they must be respected. The central category of Andean culture, "good living", implies a relationship of inclusion of all, a balance with all the elements and a respectful relationship towards the Earth, called Pacha Mama or Mother Earth. Principles included, I insist, in their constitutions. Other countries have not developed a similar ecological awareness, although they have promoted a “social ecology” that places the poor and the imagined as the first recipients of the State's public policies. This is the case of Brazil, under the government of the Workers' Party (PT) of Lula and Dilma Rousseff, which has integrated more than 40 million people into the citizenry and lifted out of extreme poverty, almost the same number as all the inhabitants of Argentina.
The fundamental thing is to develop the awareness that the way things are no longer can be continued. You have to change. The inequalities are scandalous, especially in the United States of North America, where 1% of the population owns the same as the other 99%. Democracies are low intensity and few feel represented in Parliament and by governments. The emergence of the Occupies in the USA; of the Indignados in Spain - now transformed into the Podemos political movement - and the victory of Syriza in Greece are the first signs that another democracy is possible and another form of economic relations between the countries is urgent. So that the perverse and dominant vision of speculative capital does not prevail, whose cruel objective is to accumulate without measure at the cost of the misery of the great majority of the population of a country.
"Globalization, an exclusive and inhuman course"
Q: Many of these new Latin American and European political actors have roots in an anti-globalization / indignation vision very close to that promoted since 2001 by the World Social Forum ...
LB: The general dissatisfaction with the current system has its roots in the "victory" of capitalism over real "socialism" with the defeat of the USSR. As a consequence, under both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher the logic of capital and its culture of exalting the individual, private property, wealth, unbridled competition, and the minimal state gained an unprecedented momentum.
Politics was defamed as a den of corruption, and the state as inefficient. This defamation strategy sought to deliver everything to the large private corporations that were to organize the world at a global level. The values that socialism had developed, such as internationalism, solidarity between peoples, the centrality of the social over the individual, were demoralized and abandoned. The concept of "profit is good" prevailed. Globalization, hegemonized by this vision, promised times of peace, security for all and collective well-being. None of this happened because this is not on the agenda of capital whose logic is to grow in an unlimited way and to delegitimize everything that prevents this trend. As this highly exclusive and inhuman course prevailed, personal and collective frustration and depression began to dominate. Slowly people were realizing the perversity of the capitalist genius who does not care about the human being but only in his capacity for production and consumption. Nothing matters to him other than private accumulation even when it produces social poverty and devastation of nature.
Within this logic, the conditions for making the promises of peace, security and collective well-being were destroyed. On the contrary: society was harmed by the slow but deliberate destruction of the social state. The more or less collective frustration and disappointment have given rise to resignation or to protest and rebellion. That rebellion that is prevailing created a sounding board with the World Social Forums whose motto underlines: "Another world is possible, another world is necessary."
"The Forum, a place of hope"
Q: I go back to the previous question ... In this almost apocalyptic framework, what is the role of the World Social Forum?
LB: Represents the inverse of the globalized system. It is no longer a question of resignation, but of the opposite action and a sign of the dissatisfaction of a large part of humanity with the current course of the world. Thus it cannot continue. We have to project new dreams and utopias and articulate viable alternatives if we want to survive as a civilization and as a species. The system and culture of capital are murderous, “biocidal”, “ecocidal” and genocidal. Left to its own devices, this hegemonic system can lead the whole of humanity into the abyss. The World Social Forum interprets the current situation not as a foretold tragedy but as a generalized crisis in our way of living, treating the Earth, and relating to other humans. This crisis purifies and makes us mature. This is why the Forum is a place of hope that allows the feeling of belonging to grow. The alter-Mundialistas are not only dreaming, but they indicate that all over the world they are reacting and trying new ways of living, producing, distributing and consuming. Those who participate in the WSF do not go so much to listen to talks by world celebrities, but to exchange experiences and see how things can be done in a different way than the perverse way imposed by capitalism. No matter how difficult it may be, the forums have this high meaning of resistance, of proposing alternatives and of hope. At the edge of the abyss we are going to create wings and fly towards a different new world, in which it will be less difficult to live humanly and easier to love one another.
Q: Recreating the concept of human and international solidarity….
LB: Solidarity belongs to the essence of the human being. And I am convinced that only global solidarity accompanied by compassion and the perception that we all have a common destiny, as brothers and sisters that we are, can save us. Life is worth more than profit and love more than greed. Solidarity more than individualism.
* Sergio Ferrari, press collaboration of E-CHANGER / COMUNDO, Swiss organization for solidarity cooperation, which actively participates in the WSF since its creation in 2001 in Porto Alegre