The “society of tiredness” is being discussed all over the world. It was primarily formulated by Byung-Chul Han, a Korean who teaches philosophy in Berlin. His book of the same title has just been published in Brazil (Vozes 2015). The analysis is not always clear and, at times, it is debatable, as when he affirms that “fundamental tiredness” is endowed with a special capacity to “inspire and make the spirit surge” (cf. Byung-Chul Han, p. 73). Independent of theories, we do live in a society of tiredness. In Brazil, besides tiredness we suffer from an atrocious despondency and dejection.
Let us consider, in the first place, the society of tiredness. Certainly, the acceleration of the historical processes and the proliferation of sounds, messages, the explosion of stimuli and communications, especially from commercial marketing, mobile telephones, with all their applications, the non-stop information we receive through the social media, cause in us, these authors say, neuronal illnesses: they cause depression, attention difficulties and the hyper activity syndrome.
In effect, we reach the end of the day stressed and listless. We do not sleep well, we are exhausted.
To this we must add the neoliberal rhythm of productivity that is being imposed on workers all over the world, the North American style in particular demands the greatest possible production from everyone. That is also the general rule among us. Such demands emotionally unbalances people, causing irritability and permanent anxiety. The number of suicides is scary. As I have mentioned before, the line of the 1968 revolution, now radicalized, has been resurrected. It was said then: “bus, work, bed”. Now it is said: “bus, work, grave”. That is to say, fatal illnesses, loss of the meaning of life, and true psychic attacks.
Let’s stay with Brazil. A generalized discouragement has been growing among us in recent months. The electoral campaign, carried out with great verbal virulence, accusations, and misrepresentation, and the fact that the victory of the Labor Party, PT, had not been accepted, stirred up the desire for revenge in the opposition. Sacred principles of the PT were betrayed to the highest degree by corruption, generating profound disillusionment. This fact was contrary to good customs. The language was cannibalized. Prejudice against those from the North and the discrediting of the Black population emerged from the closet. We are also cordial in the negative sense used by Sergio Buarque de Holanda: we can act from a heart filled with rage, with hatred and prejudice. The situation became graver with the threat of impeachment against President Dilma Rousseff for unclear and questionable reasons.
We have seen the reality, not the theory, that among us there exists a true class struggle. The interest of the comfortable classes are contrary to the interests of the impoverished classes. The wealthy classes, historically hegemonic, fear the inclusion of the poor and the rise of other sectors of society that have come to occupy a space previously reserved only for the wealthy. We must recognize that Brazil is one of the most unequal countries in the world. That is, in Brazil there are more social injustices, violence is rampant, and there are numerous murders, equivalent in number to the deaths during the Iraq war. And we still have countless workers living in conditions that are equivalent to slavery.
A great part of these criminals claim to be Christians: Christians who martyr other Christians, who turn Christianity into a cultural belief, and not a faith; into something ridiculous and a true blasphemy.
How can we get out of this human hell? Our democracy is one just of votes. It does not represent the people but the interests of those who finance the political campaigns. That is why our democracy is only a facade or, at best, one of a very low intensity. From the top echelons, we have nothing to hope for, because among us a savage and world-wide capitalism has been consolidated, one that destroys any correlation of forces among the classes.
I see a possible way out, coming from a different social place, from those who come from below, from the organized society and the social movements that posses a different ethos and dream for Brazil and the world. But the people need to study, and organize themselves. They need to pressure the dominant classes and the patriarchal State, and be prepared to eventually propose an alternative society not yet tried, but whose roots are in the past, when they struggled for a different Brazil, with her own path. From there, we must formulate a new social pact, through an ecological-social Constitution, one that results from an inclusive Constitutional Assembly, a radical political reform, a consistent agrarian and urban reform, and the creation of a new model of education and social health services. An ignorant and infirm people will never create a new and possible bio-civilization in the tropics.
That dream can take us out of social tiredness and abandonment, and return to us the energy necessary to confront the bonds of the conservatives and to elicit the well founded hope that everything is not totally lost, that we have a historical job to fulfill for ourselves, for our descendants and for humanity itself. Utopia? Yes. As Oscar Wilde used to say: «if utopia does not appear on our map, do not look for it because it hides from us what is most important». From the present chaos must emerge something good and hope filled, because this is the lesson the cosmic process gave us in the past and is giving us in the present. Instead of the culture of tiredness and dejection, we will have a culture of hope and happiness.
Leonardo Boff Theologian-Philosopher Earthcharter Commission
Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.